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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.


Improved Acid Resistance of a Metal-Organic Cage Enables Cargo Release and Exchange between Hosts
L Xu, D Zhang, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Angewandte Chemie International Edition
Coordination cages as permanently porous ionic liquids.
L Ma, CJE Haynes, AB Grommet, A Walczak, CC Parkins, CM Doherty, L Longley, A Tron, AR Stefankiewicz, TD Bennett, JR Nitschke
– Nat Chem
Reversible reduction drives anion ejection and C 60 binding within an Fe II4 L 6 cage
Z Lu, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Chemical Science
Selective Separation of Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons by Phase Transfer of Coordination Cages.
D Zhang, TK Ronson, R Lavendomme, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
An antiaromatic-walled nanospace.
M Yamashina, Y Tanaka, R Lavendomme, TK Ronson, M Pittelkow, JR Nitschke
– Nature
Temperature Controls Guest Uptake and Release from Zn4L4 Tetrahedra.
D Zhang, TK Ronson, S Güryel, JD Thoburn, DJ Wales, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
Ion-Mobility Mass Spectrometry for the Rapid Determination of the Topology of Interlocked and Knotted Molecules.
A Kruve, K Caprice, R Lavendomme, JM Wollschläger, S Schoder, HV Schröder, JR Nitschke, FBL Cougnon, CA Schalley
– Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)
J Zhu, CJE Haynes, M Kieffer, JL Greenfield, RD Greenhalgh, JR Nitschke, UF Keyser
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
Anion Pairs Template a Trigonal Prism with Disilver Vertices.
JP Carpenter, CT McTernan, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
Metal and Organic Templates Together Control the Size of Covalent Macrocycles and Cages.
R Lavendomme, TK Ronson, JR Nitschke
– J Am Chem Soc
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01223 336324

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