We are interested in conformational control: creating structures that fold or arrange themselves into persistent structures in solution. We use organic chemistry to create aromatic-rich molecules that can then be combined with metal ions to self-assemble into sequences that possess the information to adopt these conformations. These include foldamers and interlocked architectures. We use strategies to control the way ligands come together at metal ions and maintain fidelity of connectivity.

We hope to develop synthetic systems with the defined spatial positioning of components and switchability that allows biological molecules like proteins to carry out regulated tasks.

An example of this structural control can be seen below in our 2021 Angewandte paper, where complementarity ligand pairings control connectivity, and conformation in the generated sequences was driven through π-π interactions.

The ability of defined conformations to be altered in response to stimuli is a key facet in the progression to functional molecules with on-off functionality. In the example shown here, and recently published in Angewandte, we use junctions to form a trefoil entangled tetrahedron. This can be reversibly switched through heating to convert into a non-interlocked dual metallocycle. Importantly, the use of junctions means that we were able to circumvent dilution effects, which typically skew equilibrium position in self-assembled metallo-systems.

One of the end goals is the development of the capacity for these systems to interact with guests or substrates. We have previously shown that assemblies built from these types of components can interact with guests and carry out photocatalytic transformations on them.

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