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Supramolecular chemistry and catalysis

Research project P5/03 (Research action P5)


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Supramolecular chemistry describes the chemistry beyond the molecule and studies chemical species held together by non-covalent intermolecular bonds. It is the aim of the project to develop novel systems, to understand driving forces that allow bi- and tridimensional organisation, to develop methods and tools to investigate, address, manipulate supramolecular structures and exploit their specific properties.

In the network it is aimed to continue the study of various aspects of supramolecular chemistry, encompassing its relation with organic and physical chemistry, catalysis, polymer and biomimetic chemistry. Important keywords for this project are molecularly resolved supramolecular systems, self-organisation, dimensionality, chirality and reactivity. In comparison with the previous project, certain timely new topics are emphasised, such as e.g. the bio-aspects, while other promising areas will be further explored. During the previous programme, strong links among the partners with complementary experimental and theoretical expertise were developed. As a result, each of the 4 specific research packages proposed and related to each of the mentioned disciplines, will now be tackled by several partners with complementary expertise and instrumental capabilities.

In the tasks related to organic and physical chemistry, emphasis will be on a bottom-up approach of controlled organic and hybrid structures with enhanced functionalities and theoretical and experimental methodologies. In particular dendritic structures, photonic materials including band gap materials and conjugated oligomeric structures will be developed. Interaction of these materials with polymer and bio-materials will be investigated as well.

In the tasks involving supramolecular catalysis, the research effort continues to be on supramolecular hyperselective catalysis, with new emphasis on specific aspects of bio-catalysis. The integrated approach covering the development of the supramolecular solids, their adsorption properties and the modeling of their kinetic behavior, will be generalised, extended to catalytic solids with increased porosity combined with reactants with enhanced size. The theoretical modelling of the active sites will be included. The rationale behind the activities consists in the implementation of concepts of supramolecular chemistry / biochemistry into heterogeneous catalysis and biocatalysis to develop and understand at the molecular level, new heterogeneous (supramolecular) catalysts designed for enhanced selectivity. Specifically, all expertise is present in the network to successfully modify enzymes via directed evolution.

The very first objective in the tasks related to polymer chemistry will be the continuous improvement of the control on the synthesis of better defined though more complex and/or more difficult to reach molecular structures. The second general topic is to exploit the knowledge in self-assembling of (co)polymers to fabricate nano-objects. Whenever required, chemical reactions will be conducted in the core and/or at the surface of these objects in order to impart them specific properties (magnetic, electrical, capacity of recognition, sensoring...). The specific function of these nano-objects will be tested as such or as part of 2D or 3D assemblies. The same general approach will be used with surfaces. Efforts will continue to functionalize bulk multiphase/multicomponent polymeric materials.

Finally, the network will focus on the surface modification of biomaterials, interactions with proteins and cells, surface patterning using micro/nanotechnology for cell guiding on biomaterial surfaces. Tailor made polymers as scaffolds for tissue engineering, biodegradable polymers, hydrogels, composites of polymers, bioceramics and bioactive molecules will be investigated. Cationic polymers as synthetic vectors for gene delivery, molecular assemblies via polyelectrolyte formation, study of specific DNA markers as well as membrane technology such as temperature induced phase separation (TIPS), composite membranes including "molecular docking" will be studied in strong interaction with the other tasks.


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