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Molecular design for functional nanomaterials

Research Overview

Soft materials are defined by their molecular (carbon-based) chemical structure and their mesophasic character, spanning the range between liquid and solid-like properties.

We specialize in molecular design to create small-molecules that self-assemble in water to form targeted geometries with targeted functions. Small-molecule nanostructures show an astonishing degree of internal organization on extremely small (sub-nanometer) length scales. We employ a variety of specialized methods, from unique magnetic resonance techniques to high flux neutron and x-ray techniques. These methods allow us to probe internal structure, dynamics, and water motion with site specificity.

Dynamics in molecular materials

Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR), and related methods, can be used to measure conformational dynamics of molecular species in water. We design and synthesize spin labels that allow us to measure dynamics within supramolecular structures with site-specificity. Using EPR, we tune the dynamics profiles through supramolecular nanostructures to tune their structure for specific functions. EPR techniques allow us to optimize molecular recognition and surface water dynamics.

Functional supramolecular assemblies

We design supramolecular nanostructures to undergo stimuli-responsive morphological and chemical transformations. We are interested in nanostructures that are sensivite to irradiation, pH and temperature changes, and nanostructures that can participate in chemical events. We also design molecular nanostructures that bind, fold, and recognize biological signals including cell receptors, proteins, enzymes, and membranes. 

Soft matter for energy and the environment

Renewable energy technologies and environmental contaminant remediation are critical for tackling the cascade of problems that pollution and climate change have caused. We create and investigate new materials for environmental applications based on molecular self-assembly.

Our research is supported by the following organizations: