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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H034447/1
Title: Dial-a-Molecule. 100% efficient synthesis.
Principal Investigator: Whitby, Professor RJ
Other Investigators:
Marsden, Professor SP
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Network
Starts: 03 May 2010 Ends: 02 May 2012 Value (£): 152,475
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Synthetic Methodology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
27 Oct 2009 Grand Challenges Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Molecules are collections of atoms connected together in a specific way. Even constrained to those elements most used (C, N, H, O, P, S) the number of possible molecules, even using small numbers of atoms, is vast, and every molecule has different properties. It is unsurprising then that much of modern life (and life itself) is based on molecules with specific structures and properties (e.g. as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, plastics, liquid crystals). The task of making molecules is challenging - an organic molecule containing just a few dozen atoms can easily take many man-years of effort to complete. The result is that many of the molecules we use are compromises - the easiest to make that have acceptable function, rather than being the best for the job. One example of this is in pharmaceuticals when the need to use simple, easy to make compounds leads to cross-activity (interaction with other than the target biological system) as the compromise, and hence undesirable side effects.The aim of the 'Dial-a-Molecule. 100% efficient synthesis' Grand Challenge (GC) network is to make the synthesis of any desired molecule as easy as dialling a number thus removing a severe constraint to progress in many fields. A linked aim is to make synthesis 100% efficient. Currently in the production of a molecule many times the mass of the desired product (typically 1000's of times) is produced as waste with consequent disposal and cost implications. With 100% efficient synthesis there would be no waste to dispose of and the process would be much cheaper and consume less energy. This proposal is to establish a network covering a wide variety of disciplines to both identify how to tackle the Dial-a-Molecule GC by producing a 'Roadmap', and to establish groups of people to work on solving the problems identified. It also aims to promote the GC to secure funding for the work, and maximise commercial benefit from tackling the GC.The network will fund and support the formation of groups of scientists to work on 4 themes ( Synthetic route selection , Lab of the future , A step change in molecular synthesis and Catalytic paradigms for 100% efficient synthesis ) which have been identified as being the keys to the GC. The network will also fund a series of 'sandpits' in which experts from disparate disciplines pool their knowledge and imagination in an intensive meeting to produce potentially transformative ideas aimed at the Grand Challenge.The types of questions to be answered to tackle Dial-a-Molecule include:How can we reliably predict how to convert one molecule into another?How can we carry out a series of reactions sequentially?Can we invent modular reactions and/or reactors which can be linked in a myriad of ways to provide synthesis of a complexity to match the challenge of Dial-a-Molecule .It will take contributions from computing, mathematics, engineering (chemical, electrical/electronic, control, systems, microsystems), analytical and physical chemistry and other disciplines, as well as dramatic advances in synthesis to tackle the Grand Challenge. Although Dial-a-Molecule is expect to take 20-40 years to achieve, we expect there to be substantial advances, and consequent commercial benefits, in the initial stages.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk