Research Guides

Professor H.L. Anderson FRS

Current Research Projects — Molecular Engineering

We design and synthesise new molecular materials, and explore how their properties relate to their molecular structures. This is "molecular engineering" – engineering at the nano-scale. We use non-covalent self-assembly to control the behaviour of organic semiconductors and dyes, for diverse applications. Our core technique is synthesis, but we also do many other types of experiments, from biological testing to solid-state physics. We explore the conformational, electronic and recognition properties of our compounds using a wide range of spectroscopic and analytical techniques, and we collaborate closely with physicists, physical chemists and biologists.

Projects are being pursued in the following areas: (1) π-Conjugated porphyrin nanostructures; (2) Switchable dye for super-resolution microscopy; (3) Single-molecule electronic devices; (4) Polyyne rotaxanes, catenanes and cyclocarbons; (5) Understanding cooperatively and molecular recognition.

1. π-Conjugated Porphyrin Nanostructures - Synthesis, Light Harvesting and Charge Delocalisation 

We have developed the template-directed synthesis of nanorings consisting of up to 50 porphyrin units, as well as nanotubes and nanoballs. These are ideal systems for exploring quantum-coherent energy delocalisation and charge circulation (see: J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 7965; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 5352Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 7874).
Collaborators: Laura Herz and Robin Nicholas (Oxford Physics), Chris Timmel and Tim Claridge (Oxford Chemistry), Tony Parker (Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory).

2. Switchable Dyes for Super-Resolution Microscopy

We are developing switchable fluorescent dyes for tracking the movement of biomolecules in live cells (see: Chem. Sci. 2018, 9, 3029).
Collaborators: Christian Eggeling (Oxford Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine), Ilan Davis (Oxford Biochemistry), Tony Parker (Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory).
3. Single-Molecule Electronic Devices
Many new techniques have been developed recently for measuring the conductance of single molecules. We are exploring the design of molecular wires and transistors that can exploit the unique behaviour of single molecules, such as quantum interference.  Current work involves contacting molecules to electrodes made from gold and graphene (see: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58, 8378; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 12877Nanoscale 2015, 7, 13181).
Collaborators: Andrew Briggs, Lapo Bogani and Jan Mol (Oxford Materials),  Richard Nichols, Simon Higgins and Andrew Hodgson (Liverpool Chemistry), Colin Lambert (Lancaster Physics), Nicolás Agraït (Madrid).

4. Polyyne Rotaxanes, Catenanes and Cyclocarbons

Rotaxane formation can provide a way to stabilise long polyynes. We are pursing strategies for creating new molecular allotropes of sp1 carbon (see: Science 2019365, 1299Nature Chem. 2018, 10, 853 and J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2016, 138, 1366).
Collaborators: Rik Tykwinski (University of Alberta, Canada), Tony Parker (Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory), Amber Thompson (Oxford Chemistry), Leo Gross (IBM, Zurich).

5. Understanding Cooperativity and Self-Assembly

The factors controlling cooperativity in multi-valent molecular recognition are still not well understood. We are studying the thermodynamic stabilities of families of multivalent complexes, using UV-vis-NIR and NMR spectroscopy, and organic synthesis (see: J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 7965; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015137, 12713)
Collaborators: Chris Hunter (Cambridge), Tim Claridge (Oxford Chemistry).


(1) An sp-hybridized molecular carbon allotrope, cyclo[18]carbon​, K. Kaiser1, L. M. Scriven, F. Schulz, P. Gawel, L. Gross and H. L. Anderson, Science 2019, 365, 1299.

(2) Template-directed synthesis of molecular nanorings and cages, P. S. Bols and H. L. Anderson, Acc. Chem. Res. 2018, 51, 2083.

(3) Aromatic and antiaromatic ring currents in a molecular nanoringM. D. Peeks, T. D. W. Claridge and H. L. Anderson, Nature 2017, 541, 200. 

(4) Supramolecular nesting of cyclic polymersD. V. Kondratuk, L. M. A. Perdigão, A. M. S. Esmail, J. N. O'Shea, P. H. Beton and H. L. Anderson, Nature Chem. 2015, 7, 317.

(5) Vernier templating and synthesis of a 12-porphyrin nanoring, M. C. O'Sullivan, J. K. Sprafke, D. V. Kondratuk, C. Rinfray, T. D. W. Claridge, A. Saywell, M. O. Blunt, J. N. O'Shea, P. H. Beton, M. Malfois and H. L. Anderson, Nature 2011, 469, 72.

(6) What is cooperativity? C. A. Hunter and H. L. Anderson, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2009, 48, 7488.

♦ Click here for a full list of publications with graphical abstracts ♦



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