Supramolecular Chemistry & Catalysis

Inspired by enzymes we develop synthetic analogues with high selectivity and activity, that function in concert with natural biocatalysts. 

Towards synthetic enzymes

At the Supramolecular Chemistry and Catalysis group, we work towards the integration of biological and chemical processes to generate non-natural conversions in complex media. We explore the exciting opportunities that arise from the integration of polymer chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and stereochemistry with the novel field of bio-orthogonal chemistry, that studies chemical reactions to augment biochemical processes. Using this integrated approach, we focus on the design and synthesis of (supramolecular) copolymers that form nanometer-sized structures with the aim to achieve efficient and selective catalysis in water and in complex cellular media. Developing such complex molecular systems based on non-covalent, reversible interactions, and understanding the mechanisms underlying their formation, will provide a solid foundation to progress towards in vivo applications.

Development of single-chain polymeric nanoparticles for catalysis in water and complex media

By combining polymer chemistry, catalysis and self-assembly, we construct amphiphilic polymers that fold, via directional interactions, into nano-compartmentalised structures that facilitate selective and efficient chemical conversions. We investigate a range of organocatalytic and transition-metal-based reactions in water as a green solvent. In addition, we select catalysts capable of bio-orthogonal chemistry. Our ultimate goal is to use non-natural catalytic reactions to activate prodrugs in the vicinity of diseased tissues.

Understanding supramolecular copolymerisations

In the field of synthetic polymer chemistry, the synthesis of covalent copolymers is well established and monomer reactivities can be carefully tuned to obtain many desired microstructures. As a next step, we would like to translate this understanding of monomer design versus monomer reactivity to the realm of supramolecular copolymerisation. To achieve this, we use an integrated approach. On the one hand, we combine monomer synthesis with studies on the microstructure of the formed copolymers. On the other hand, we use mathematical models that permit the extraction of thermodynamic parameters of the systems. In addition, we study how the monomer structure relates to the dynamic behaviour of the polymer system.

Meet some of our Researchers