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Bioinspired Chemistry - CHE00016H

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  • Department: Chemistry
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Paul Walton
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2017-18

Module summary

This module examines the role of small molecules in understanding the larger molecules found in biology. In particular, small molecule mimics of metal-containing proteins will be described, and will be shown to have similar spectroscopic and catalytic properties to those of the proteins.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2018-19 to Summer Term 2018-19

Module aims

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.

This module is suitable for Biochemistry students.

Module learning outcomes

  • 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
  • to understand the basis of biomimicry

Module content


Bioinorganic Model Complexes I



Principles of inorganic models; reasons for models.

Models of haemoglobin and myoglobin.

Other O2-transport proteins: haemocyanin, haemerthyrin.

5 lectures


Bioinorganic Model Complexes II



Bioinorganic Organometallic Chemistry.

Nickel: a long overlooked bioelement.

Hydrogenases (how biology handles hydrogen)

Models of nitrogenase.

4 lectures


Biological models of molybdenum enzymes



Introduction to the contrasting roles of Mo in chemistry and biology.  Examples of mononuclear Mo/W enzymes, incl nitrate reductase, aldehyde oxidase, xanthine oxidase.

5 lectures


Bioinspired Solutions for Sustainable Chemistry



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).


4 lectures


Core Modules 1 – 7




One workshop (2 h): PHW




1.5 h written paper (70%) and assessed workshop (30%)







Task Length % of module mark
Continuous Assessment
N/A 30
University - closed examination
Bio-inspired Chemistry
1.5 hours 70

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Bio-inspired Chemistry
1.5 hours 70

Module feedback

The closed examinations are marked typically within 10 days with mark slips (with per-question break-down) being returned to students via supervisors. Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry web pages when the students receive their marks, so that they can assess their own detailed progress/achievement. The examiners reports for each question are made available to the students via the Chemistry web pages.

Indicative reading

Reading list will be provided by the module tutors.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.