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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

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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.

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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.


Cages meet gels: smart materials with dual porosity
I Jahović, Y-Q Zou, S Adorinni, J Nitschke, S Marchesan
– Cell
Electrically-induced mixed valence increases the conductivity of copper helical metallopolymers
J Nitschke, J Greenfield, D Di Nuzzo, E Evans, S Senanayak, S Schott, J Deacon, A Peugeot, WK Myers, H Sirringhaus, RH Friend
– Advanced Materials
Controlling the Shape and Chirality of an Eight-crossing Molecular Knot
JP Carpenter, C McTernan, JL Greenfield, R Lavendomme, TK Ronson, J Nitschke
– Chem
Controlling the shape and chirality of an eight-crossing molecular knot
JP Carpenter, CT McTernan, JL Greenfield, R Lavendomme, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Chem
Kinetics of Toehold-Mediated DNA Strand Displacement Depend on FeII4L4Tetrahedron Concentration
J Zhu, F Bošković, B-NT Nguyen, JR Nitschke, UF Keyser
– Nano Letters: a journal dedicated to nanoscience and nanotechnology
Metal–organic cages for molecular separations
D Zhang, TK Ronson, YQ Zou, JR Nitschke
– Nature Reviews Chemistry
Glucose Binding Drives Reconfiguration of a Dynamic Library of Urea‐Containing Metal–Organic Assemblies
D Yang, LKS Krbek, L Yu, TK Ronson, JD Thoburn, JP Carpenter, JL Greenfield, DJ Howe, B Wu, JR Nitschke
– Angewandte Chemie
Selective Anion Binding Drives the Formation of AgI8L6 and AgI12L6 Six-Stranded Helicates
CT McTernan, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
Glucose Binding Drives Reconfiguration of a Dynamic Library of Urea‐Containing Metal–Organic Assemblies
D Yang, LKS von Krbek, L Yu, TK Ronson, JD Thoburn, JP Carpenter, JL Greenfield, DJ Howe, B Wu, JR Nitschke
– Angewandte Chemie - International Edition
Design and Applications of Water-Soluble Coordination Cages
EG Percástegui, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
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01223 336324

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