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Department of Chemistry

Portrait of jrn34

What we do...

We are designing hollow supramolecular capsules or ‘cages’, which can be used to transport cargoes of molecules where we need them. These cages could be used to safely deliver drug therapies, reduce the costs and environmental effects of petroleum refining, and in many other areas. 

Figuring out the rules

We are interested in discovering and developing new ways in which simple building blocks may be induced to self-assemble into complex, functional structures. Our investigations currently focus upon the self-assembly of imine bonds around metal-ion templates, bringing both covalent C=N and coordinative N→Metal bonds into being during the same overall self-assembly process. The structures thus created can rearrange in well-defined ways at both covalent and coordinative linkages. Ongoing projects include:


Container Molecules. The diamine and aldehyde shown above self-assemble with iron(II) in water to form a tetrahedral cage. This cage traps guest molecules within its cavity with high selectivity. The cage may be opened and the guest released using different triggers, one of which is a drop in pH. Applications in drug delivery are of interest, as are investigations of changes in the reactivity and behaviour of guest molecules upon encapsulation.


Functional Materials. We have recently developed means to create metal-containing conjugated polymers through self-assembly. DFT calculations carried out by Laura Gagliardi and Christopher Cramer suggest that these might conduct electricity. Studies are thus being undertaken to investigate their properties.

Selected Publications

Feature Article: “Metal-organic container molecules through subcomponent self-assembly”, T.K. Ronson, S. Zarra, S.P. Black, J.R. Nitschke, Chem. Commun. 2013, 49, 2476-2490.

“Enantiopure Water-Soluble Fe4L6 Cages: Host-Guest Chemistry and Catalytic Activity”, Jeanne L. Bolliger, Ana M. Belenguer, and Jonathan R. Nitschke, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 7958-7962.

“Aqueous Self-assembly of an Electroluminescent Double-helical Metallo-polymer”, X. de Hatten,  D. Asil, R.H. Friend, J.R. Nitschke,  J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 135, 19170-19178.

“Anion-induced Reconstitution of a Self-assembling System to Express a Chloride-binding Co10L15 Pentagonal Prism”, I.A. Riddell, M.M.J. Smulders, J.K. Clegg, Y.R. Hristova, B. Breiner, J.D. Thoburn, J.R. Nitschke, Nature Chem. 2012, 51, 751-756.

 “White phosphorus is air-stable within a self-assembled tetrahedral capsule” P. Mal, B. Breiner, K. Rissanen and J.R. Nitschke, Science 2009, 324, 1697-1699.

“Systems chemistry: Molecular networks come of age” J.R. Nitschke, Nature 2009, 462, 736-738.


Post-assembly Modification of Phosphine Cages Controls Host–Guest Behavior
CT McTernan, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
Fluorometric Recognition of Nucleotides within a Water-Soluble Tetrahedral Capsule.
AJ Plajer, EG Percástegui, M Santella, FJ Rizzuto, Q Gan, BW Laursen, JR Nitschke
– Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)
Hydrogen-Bond-Assisted Symmetry Breaking in a Network of Chiral Metal-Organic Assemblies.
FJ Rizzuto, P Pröhm, AJ Plajer, JL Greenfield, JR Nitschke
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
Waterproof architectures through subcomponent self-assembly.
EG Percástegui, J Mosquera, TK Ronson, AJ Plajer, M Kieffer, JR Nitschke
– Chemical science
Orthogonal Stimuli Trigger Self-Assembly and Phase Transfer of FeII4L4 Cages and Cargoes.
AJ McConnell, CJE Haynes, AB Grommet, CM Aitchison, J Guilleme, S Mikutis, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
Size‐Selective Hydroformylation by a Rhodium Catalyst Confined in a Supramolecular Cage
SS Nurttila, W Brenner, J Mosquera, KM van Vliet, JR Nitschke, JNH Reek
– Chemistry - A European Journal
Anion Exchange Drives Reversible Phase Transfer of Coordination Cages and Their Cargoes.
AB Grommet, JB Hoffman, EG Percástegui, J Mosquera, DJ Howe, JL Bolliger, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
Functional Capsules via Subcomponent Self-Assembly
D Zhang, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Accounts of Chemical Research
Multivalent Crown‐ether Receptors Enable Allosteric Regulation of Anion Exchange in an Fe₄L₆ Tetrahedron
LKS von Krbek, DA Roberts, BS Pilgrim, CA Schalley, JR Nitschke
– Angew Chem Int Ed Engl
Otherwise Unstable Structures Self-Assemble in the Cavities of Cuboctahedral Coordination Cages
FJ Rizzuto, WJ Ramsay, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
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01223 336324

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