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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C528859/1
Title: Adventurous Research in Chemistry at the University of Bristol
Principal Investigator: Orr-Ewing, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Mann, Professor S Aggarwal, Professor VK
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 October 2005 Ends: 30 September 2007 Value (£): 60,000
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Structure
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The subject of Chemistry is conveniently divided into areas of Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry and Physical Chemistry. Organic Chemistry covers the chemistry of carbon-containing molecules and includes most of the important chemicals that occur in living organisms. Inorganic chemistry deals with the chemistry of all the other elements including all the many metals, and physical chemistry provides an important understanding of chemical processes, and the structures and properties of molecules, based on fundamental laws of physics. Much of the new and exciting work in chemistry, however, is now taking place at the overlap between these traditional divisions, or in subject areas where chemistry overlaps with other subjects such as biology, physics or the properties of materials. Working in these areas requires imagination and a sense of adventure, and is made easier if chemists from backgrounds in physical, inorganic and organic chemistry come together as teams to share ideas. The projects described in this proposal do exactly this, with the hope that new areas of scientific research will open up as a result.The first project is aimed at developing new solid compounds of mixtures of elements such as phosphorus, carbon, boron and oxygen. Some of these solid materials are anticipated to have useful properties: based on computer calculations of their structures and our chemical intuition, we expect some to be very hard (useful for engineering applications), some to be semiconductors (useful for applications in computing, electronics and sensor technology), and some to emit light when a voltage is applied to them (useful for display signs, telecommunications, computers based on optical signalling, and new types of lasers). The main problem is that these materials are very hard to make by traditional chemical methods and the project will thus start from small molecules that already contain bonds between elements such as C and P of the type expected in the materials. These small molecules are very unstable and hard to prepare, so require the considerable skills of synthetic chemists to make. Solid materials will then be grown layer by layer from these molecules, and their properties tested by physical chemists.The second project will be to grow diamond films in the laboratory and attach different molecules to the carbon atoms at the surface via chemical bonds. The diamond cystals can be varied in size from a few nanometres to a few microns, providing very different surface structures for chemistry. Large molecules such as polymers or biological molecules (proteins or DNA) can be attached to the surface and used to make new types of chemical sensors for detection of molecules in, for example, animal cells or fluids. The diamond surface is particularly useful for several reasons. Firstly it is very resistant to attack by other chemicals; secondly it is non-toxic to biological samples so can be inserted into cells or organisms directly; thirdly, it can be made to conduct electricity, so sensors based on measuring current or voltage can be developed.The third project involves designing ring-shaped molecules that can be looped around other molecules with long thread-like structures (such as nucleic acids). The ring-shaped looped molecule can then be pulled slowly along the larger thread-like molecule by attaching it to a very small solid tip (shaped like a needle but only a few atoms wide at the sharp end). How freely the looped molecule moves up and down the thread depends upon how much resistance it feels from the structure of the thread-like molecule: it may need to be pulled more or less firmly, and the force applied to move it can then be interpreted to deduce the structure of the bigger molecule. In this way, we hope we can develop a new method to work out the sequence of molecules in a nucleic acid strand, and thus eventually develop a method to work out genetic sequences in DNA.
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk