Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Synthetic supramolecular chemistry

With a focus on structures comprising several or many molecules, design and synthesis of chemical systems using molecular self-assembly and recognition.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

With a focus on structures comprising several or many molecules, design and synthesis of chemical systems using molecular self-assembly and molecular recognition. This research area includes the synthesis of host-guest complexes, supramolecular clusters and mechanically interlocked molecular architectures.

The strategy for this area will enable us to support and enable the continuing progress being made by synthetic supramolecular chemistry, which has now started to realise its transformative potential to contribute to applications ranging from nanomaterials in aviation to supramolecular sensors in medicine.

Changing approaches to synthetic supramolecular chemistry research are accelerating the pace at which disruptive approaches and outputs can be applied in related areas – for example nanotechnology, manufacturing and medicine.

The community should therefore continue to seek out new opportunities and areas where supramolecular chemistry can be truly transformative without eroding the novelty and creativity of the core discipline.

Synthetic supramolecular chemistry is an area where the UK exhibits real strength in its number of internationally recognised established career leaders. A small number of early career leaders are also emerging in areas where supramolecular chemistry interfaces with other research areas, such as Catalysis, Synthetic Coordination Chemistry, Functional Materials, and Chemical Biology and Biological Chemistry.

We will work with the community to address the balance of researchers across career stages by focusing on the development of early career researchers in synthetic supramolecular chemistry.

Why we're doing it

The UK has an outstanding pedigree in synthetic supramolecular chemistry, with a significant number of internationally leading figures generating high quality, impactful research.

The quality of research in supramolecular chemistry is a highlight of synthetic chemical research in the UK and builds on national strength in underpinning fundamental core areas. Activity in this area is diverse because of the scientific challenges opened up by the ability to control chemistry beyond the molecule.

Understanding and being able to control molecular and supramolecular bonding underpins and enables capability in many other areas, with research proposals containing elements from across the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) portfolio, including:

Synthetic supramolecular chemistry has begun to realise its potential to contribute to wider academic, industrial and societal fields. Early impacts – through people, knowledge and skills – have grown to include economic and societal impacts, as industrial partners become increasingly engaged.

Nevertheless, a wealth of potential remains to be realised due to the way synthetic supramolecular chemistry provides new routes for directed synthesis and self-assembly. New opportunities are anticipated in nanotechnology, life sciences and functional materials and devices.

This field of chemistry therefore has potential to contribute to capability across a number of challenges and has the power to be transformative in the long term, as highlighted by the 2016 Nobel Prize for chemistry.

This area has strong leadership in the UK, with the community supported by diverse funding sources. A number of individuals are regarded as world-leaders in this field. The community now needs to focus on developing the next generation of leaders, to ensure the UK maintains this in the long term.

Trained personnel in this area also provide capability for a number of other research areas in chemistry and the physical sciences more broadly.

The infrastructure needs of this research area include computational power for modelling molecular interactions, and the use of analytical equipment both on a local scale (for example nuclear magnetic resonance) and at national level (for example Diamond Light Source and the UK National Crystallography Service).

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Synthetic Supramolecular Chemistry.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 6 January 2023

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