The group is primarily focused on the development of supramolecular materials based on low molecular weight gelators (LMWGs). LMWGs are a class of small compounds that are capable of gelling every known liquid, have a large number of properties, have a significant number of potential applications and are industrially important. The group aims to develop rational design of these materials and their applications. This entails understanding molecular assembly, nano-assembly and macro-assembly of the different constitutents of the materials. An important aspect of the research focuses on the concept of post-assembly modification (PAM). This entails performing chemical modifications to the dynamic supramolecular asseblies to add function to the materials.
1. Benzene Triamide (BTA) gelators
The supramolecular hydrogen bonding motif known as the benzene triamide (BTA) motif has been utilised in many research fields. We have recently begun toexplore its use in LMWGs for formation of both metallogels and hydrogels. As well as understanding the structural characteristics of these materials, we areincreasingly interested in their possible applications. These materials have potential as energy research materials, as biological applicable materials for drugdelivery and cell growth, and as sensor materials.
2. Gel Design
Although LWMGs have been know for over a century, and utilised within industrial processes for just as long, there is still a lack of knowledge about how exactly they form such interesting materials. The group is actively developing characterisation techniques utilising new technologies as well as applying known techniques to determine the molecular structures at the different dimensions of the gel materials. This includes structural molecular models of the structures of the gel fibres, imaging of the gel network of nano-fibres and rheological characterisation of the physical properties.
3. Crystal Engineering and Crystallography
There is a very close link between gel formation by LMWGs and crystallisation. Both often occur through nucleation phenomena. This has naturally led the group to research crystal engineering and develop expertise in crystallography. Primary research has focused on porosity in crystalline materials, including host: guest chemistry, and organic crystalline materials, including cocrystals.