Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Warwick
Dates: Jan 2014-Dec 2018
Summary: My research aims to develop highly functional materials by careful manipulation of their molecular structure, an approach that is called molecular engineering. By controlling the reactions that add molecules to each other to build a polymer, my team designs a wide range of new polymeric materials from initial concept to final product. In the majority of my work, I take inspiration from nature. I aim at reproducing nature’s ability to generate complex molecules in a very efficient, large-scale process. I also borrow from some of nature’s materials, for instance proteins, by modifying them and using them in the design of ‘nanomaterials’. These materials have a structure that is controlled at the molecular level and on the nanometer scale (1 nanometer is one millionth of a millimetre). This precise control provides materials with unique properties, which lead to a wealth of applications.
Nanotubes – tubular structures of a few hundreds of nanometer long with an internal channel a few nanometers wide - are examples of such materials. By combining peptides, the building blocks of proteins, to polymers by molecular engineering, my research team can construct these tiny tubes and manipulate them to design specialised devices. For instance, we utilise these nanotubes to build nanoporous membranes, which pores are so small that they permit the separation of molecules one at a time, or nanochannels, to control the passage of molecules into cells. These materials have applications as separation devices, for instance for the purification of water, for gas storage, for instance for the capture of CO2, as biosensors, for instance for glucose monitoring in diabetes patients or as drug delivery vectors, to transport the active agents of drugs to specific cells.