Research

Our research focuses on understanding the physical-organic chemistry of supramolecular and macromolecular systems and their application to various challenges. Our work spans chemical synthesis, several analytical techniques, and computational studies.

Aromaticity

Aromatic molecules are cyclic and pi-conjugated, and exhibit some interesting effects. Most well-known nowadays is the behaviour of aromatic molecules in a magnetic field: in an NMR spectrometer, we see that the chemical shifts of protons inside and outside the ring are anamolously (de)shielded. This affect arises from the establishment of a persistent ring current of circulating pi-electrons, which itself generates a molecular magnetic field which opposes the applied field.

What can we learn about the fundamental nature of aromaticity and antiaromaticity? Despite nearly a hundred years of study, aromaticity remains poorly defined. In addition to answers to this fundamental question, we are looking for materials applications of (anti)aromatic materials.

A circular road (roundabout) surrounded by trees.

Faraday rotation

All matter exhibits a Faraday effect: the polarisation of light as it passes through a material changes proportional to the strength of an external magnetic field. This effect is well-known and underpins the operation of several optical components, including Faraday isolators, which are essentially optical diodes (they only let light pass in one direction). Most commercial Faraday rotating materials are based on inorganic chemistry, and comprise ferrimagnetic crystals.

It was recently shown that a common polymer – poly(3-hexylthiophene) – exhibits a Faraday rotation competitive with that of the extant ferrimagnetic materials. However, the reason isn't clear. We seek to explore the structure-property relationships which underpin the Faraday rotation in organic materials, and thus perhaps develop excellent new Faraday rotating materials which could have applications as medical magnetosensors or in photonic devices.

A spiral, evoking the rotation of polarized light in the Faraday effect

Self-assembly fundamentals

Nature is an expert at self-assembly. Your body, as a whole, is a complex compartmentalised system of molecules, reactions, and replicators, all underpinned by self-assembly and supramolecular chemistry.

We explore self-assembly processes and their use towards making new materials and exploring structure-property relationships. In a chemical space traditionally dominated by extended pi-conjugated systems, we explore how through-space energy transfer and excitonic effects can deliver excellent materials properties.

A collection of toy building blocks, which although they can assemble, lack the ability to self-assemble!
Photos gratefully sourced from unsplash.com