My research is in the broad areas of supramolecular chemistry and coordination chemistry, and in particular in areas where these fields overlap with biological chemistry, lipid bilayer membrane chemistry and molecular nanotechnology. Recent discoveries include synthetic coordination complexes for transducing and amplifying chemical signals across lipid bilayer membranes in order remote-control catalysis inside artificial cells; halogen bonding transmembrane anion transporters and photo-responsive supramolecular ion carriers for reversible regulation of transmembrane ion transport. By combining expertise and techniques from synthetic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and biophysical chemistry, the aim is to develop new responsive molecular devices to control chemistry in nanoscale bio-inspired systems.
Supramolecular chemistry is the field of chemistry that concerns intermolecular interactions: the study of these non-covalent interactions is crucial to understanding many biological processes, whilst controlling them in artificial systems enables new self-assembled systems, responsive molecular devices and nano-scale architectures to be engineered for a wide range of applications. In our group we seek in particular to design, synthesise and study functional supramolecular devices which can interface with biological systems.
Molecular devices for responsive lipid bilayer membranes
We are designing responsive supramolecular systems that operate in lipid bilayer membranes and can be “remote-controlled” by an external stimulus (chemical, light, pH etc.). These systems are embedded into the membrane of artificial cell-like compartments and used as chemical tools to control a range of different functions, including transduction and amplification of chemical signals, catalysis of reactions at the membrane interface and transport of molecular cargo across the membrane.
Molecular photo-switches are responsive molecules which can change their structural geometry and chemical properties upon irradiation with light. We are developing switches that respond to visible / near IR light for good biocompatibility and using them to control the properties and functions of luminescent and catalytic metal complexes and membrane-confined supramolecular systems.
We are also interested in designing synthetic molecular machines which act as switches, motors and sensors. Molecular machines are molecules, or discrete assemblies of molecules, in which nano-mechanical motion can be controlled and exploited to carry out a specific task. We are developing artificial molecular machines as new stimuli-responsive components for applications in synthetic biology.