EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L002957/1
Title: Protolife-inspired materials chemistry
Principal Investigator: Mann, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 23 June 2014 Ends: 22 June 2017 Value (£): 675,541
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Jul 2013 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials - July 2013 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Making new materials that have small-scale structures and multiple components is expected to be of great importance in a wide range of applications such as sensing, storage and release operations, and controlled catalysis. One new area where small-scale structures could make a significant breakthrough is in the formation of artificial cell-like materials (protocells). Much of the inspiration for this approach comes from mimicking key aspects of the living cell, albeit with a large degree of simplification. Our approach to addressing the necessary simplification is to draw inspiration from imaginative scenarios that are being considered as plausible mechanisms for prebiotic organization on the early Earth. We are therefore inspired by these protolife-based models of materials organization to develop new strategies in the laboratory that will result in the design and construction of chemical micro-compartments with novel properties and functions. In a sense, we aim to abstract ideas about the past in order to develop new technologies for the future.

Our work will advance new technologies for the preparation of novel types of organized microscale architectures that are spontaneously assembled from multiple components, and which when combined together exhibit special functions. The proposed work has three main themes that will help us develop guidelines for the rational design and construction of new classes of integrated materials based on artificial cell-like micro-compartments using biological and non-biological components. The themes are focused on the synthesis, properties and utilization of self-assembled protocells involving (a) protein-polymer building blocks, (b) inorganic nanoparticle membranes, and (c) membrane-free micro-droplets. In each case, we intend to discover new methods of chemical construction, including the building of supramolecular structures within and on the micro-compartments to produce soft hydrogels that are similar to the cytoskeletal matrix, building of external coronal layers to control the diffusion of ions and molecules through the membranes, and incorporation of diverse components inside the protocells for controlled reactivity. For example, we intend to prepare protocells with encapsulated nanoparticles that can be exploited in photo-activated processes such as the splitting of water molecules. By confining these processes within small-scale architectures, we expect to achieve new levels of control and activity, which will provide new breakthroughs in the emerging area of bioinspired materials chemistry.

Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk