Current Group Research

Our research interests encompass the supramolecular chemistry topics of host-guest recognition and self-assembly, along with lanthanide coordination chemistry. As might be inferred by the Venn diagram below, we are particularly interested in exploiting combinations of these areas of research.

Venn Diagram showing the overlap of Host-Guest Recognition, Self-Assembly and Lanthanide Coordination Complexes

Development and Exploitation of Novel Approaches to Ionic and Molecular Recognition

The study of ionic and molecular recognition, as carried out by supramolecular chemists, has largely focused on the binding and sensing of relatively simple targets, such as metal cations or inorganic anions. Our aim is to prepare novel receptor molecules capable of the recognition of more challenging targets, for example, ion pairs and chiral organic molecules.

It is anticipated that promising receptors will be incorporated into sensory devices for the guest species which they preferentially bind. This can be achieved by linking the receptor to a reporter group, which provides a “real-world” response (e. g. an optical or electrochemical signal) upon binding of the ionic or molecular guest. Illustrated schematically below, examples of this are to be found in my DPhil research. Alternatively, a receptor may be immobilized into a material that is then packaged with an electrode to produce a sensory device.

Sensing of ion or molecule
Sensing the binding of an ionic or molecular guest

While the primary research aim is guest recognition, the ability to selectively bind, and hence possibly gain control over, a chemical species has real significance in a number of scientific research areas. Projects looking to exploit ionic and molecular recognition in non-sensory applications are therefore also currently under development.

We are particularly interested in using the 3D structures of catenanes and rotaxanes to create new receptors. However, to maximize the opportunities interlocked molecules offer, synthetic routes to these species need to be rapid, scalable and allow for the incorporation of functionality to bind their target guests. Work on the rapid synthesis of catenane and rotaxane species carried out at Lancaster has already been reported, and application of these methodologies to prepare receptors is in progress. In addition, one of these published methods has also been used to synthesize a mechanically chiral rotaxane and a peptide-displaying [1]rotaxane.

An example of the synthesis of a hydrogen bond templated rotaxane prepared at Lancaster University.

Key references:
Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 2017, 15, 2797-2803
Chemical Communications2019, 55, 1576-1579
Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry202018, 5203-5209

Lanthanide Coordination Chemistry

With an array of interesting luminescence, magnetic and catalytic properties, we have been inspired to begin developing our own research projects on lanthanide coordination chemistry. Details to follow in the near future!

ChemPlusChem, 202085, 783-792


Many thanks to those who support our research. To date this includes:

EPSRC, Innovate UK, Leverhulme Trust, Royal Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, Amigo Chem, Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust and Lancaster University.