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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C520750/1
Title: Diverse Controllable Biocompatible Gels - New Nanonstructured Architectures
Principal Investigator: Smith, Professor DK
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr AR Hirst
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of York
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 March 2005 Ends: 30 September 2008 Value (£): 281,292
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Drug Formulation & Delivery Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Gels are an important part of modern life - with many varied applications, including in food stuffs (e.g. jelly) and cosmetic products (e.g. hair gel). Gelphase materials are intermediate in character between solids and liquids, and are often referred to as 'soft materials'. This is a consequence of the structure of a gel - which consists of a 'solid-like' rigid network of molecules which can immobilise a large volume of 'liquid-like' solvent. Almost all commercial gels are based on polymers, as these large molecules are capable of forming networks relatively simply. However, recently, there has been explosive interest in the development of gels based on the assembly of small molecules into networks. The idea is that well-designed molecules can interact with one another in such a way that thousands of them come together to form long (nanoscale) fibres, that can then bundle together and eventually form a network capable of immobilising a solvent. However, because these materials are built using weak (non-covalent) interactions which connect small molecules they are reversible and highly controllable. This is because it is easy to break and re-make weak non-covalent interactions - whereas this is not the case with the covalent bonds that make-up traditional polymers.We have been developing gel-phase materials for the past three years, with funding from the Leverhulme Trust, and have so far published eight papers describing our findings in this field. This proposal aims to continue our research into gels when our current funding runs out - and in particular to develop new controllable, switchable biocompatible materials and to apply the chemistry we are developing in the exciting new area of nanochemistry. We aim to develop and understand gels which are biocompatible and responsive to temperature, light or other chemicals. Such systems have applications in the controlled release of drugs and agrochemicals, as the active ingredient can be trapped within the gel, and then by applying the stimulus, the gel network breaks down and releases the active ingredient in a controlled way. We also intend to develop a deeper understanding of the way in which individual molecules assemble to from gels - this is important as it allows us to control the way in which small molecules can be made to interact and form nanostructures. This process is referred to as 'bottom-up fabrication' and is an important part of nanotechnology (controlling matter on the nanometre scale). It is widely believed that the next generation of smart materials will be synthesised using self-assembly type methods to control their nanostructures. To illustrate this type of nanosynthesis in action, we aim to use of assembled gels as frameworks for the synthesis of hollow nanosized architectures. Such structures are at the cutting-edge of nanochemistry and our self-assembly route should give us precise control over the dimensions of the structures we can make. In the longer term - these architectures could have all kinds of applications - for example their interiors could be used to bind and sense different chemical species.
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Organisation Website: http://www.york.ac.uk