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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V047817/1
Title: Shapeshifting Molecular Materials
Principal Investigator: McGonigal, Dr P R
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Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 July 2021 Ends: 30 June 2023 Value (£): 202,277
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R&D
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Summary on Grant Application Form
This research will investigate the properties of 'shapeshifting molecules' - single molecules that rapidly rearrange their structures. As an analogy, these molecular rearrangements can be likened to twisting a Rubik's cubes in different dimensions. After each 'twist' occurs, the next 'twist' can occur in any of three dimensions. As a result, the structure can very quickly 'scramble' between thousands of possibilities, each with subtly different shapes.

We hypothesise that the unusual shapeshifting rearrangements of these molecules will give rise to unique materials properties. To investigate this idea, we will synthesise liquid crystals, surfactants, and polymers containing shapeshifting units. By analysing these materials, we will determine if the shape changing at the molecular level leads to dynamic shapes at larger length scales.

By the end of the grant, we will have established whether shapeshifting units have potential to be exploited in soft materials. These fundamental, chemical advances will establish a new research area that will have broad impacts in materials physics and engineering.

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