Bioinspired Chemistry


This module explores the way in which biology is increasingly inspiring the design of new chemical systems and materials. Apart from the inherent fascination of discovering how biological systems work, we can also learn about the circumstances under which things can go wrong, and—in the longer term—hope to improve on nature. This module provides an overview of how chemists attempt to model the high efficiency of nature’s catalysts (enzymes) – in particular focussing on ‘difficult’ reactions. The course also indicates how biology can be used as a source of inspiration in materials science, and how using biology as inspiration may also lead to ‘greener’ chemical products based on renewable, biologically compatible resources.

Learning objectives

  • to have an appreciation of the synthesis and characterisation of models of enzyme active sites
  • to gain an insight into applications of biomimetic systems in green chemical technology and materials science
  • to understand the basis of biomimicry


Bioinorganic Model Complexes I (5 lectures)

Principles of inorganic models; reasons for models. Models of haemoglobin and myoglobin. Other O2-transport proteins: haemocyanin, haemerthyrin.

Bioinorganic Model Complexes II (4 lectures)

Bioinorganic Organometallic Chemistry. Nickel: a long overlooked bioelement. Hydrogenases (how biology handles hydrogen). Models of nitrogenase.

Biological Inspiration in Materials Science (5 lectures)

Discovery of liquid crystals. Self-organisation into helical superstructures. Selected examples of everyday applications: thermometers, battery testers, active billboards etc.

Bioinspired Solutions for Sustainable Chemistry (4 lectures)

Challenges facing chemistry in respect of the depletion of petrochemicals (biological systems as a route to commodity chemicals from renewables). Biological processing of glycerol for value added chemicals. Ferulic acid as a source of industrial chemicals from microbiological synthesis. Biological routes to aromatic compounds from glucose (cellulose).


Chemistry Core Modules 1-7


A written paper (70%) plus continuous assessment (30%) – assessment of two additional workshops