Molecular Chemistry and Supramolecular Chemistry

Molecular chemistry

Radboud University calls molecular chemistry a ‘creative science’ “where chemists synthesize molecules with new biological or physical properties to address scientific or societal challenges. Working with chemical structures, the possibilities are endless: in principle, every molecule can be made. The challenge is to adapt the 3D-structure to the desired properties and design an efficient synthesis method” (https://www.ru.nl/publish/pages/756119/masterflyer_molecular_chemistry.pdf). The Arizona State University specifically states that “he traditional disciplines of chemistry and biochemistry are evolving and maturing. In response, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University has reorganized into the new School of Molecular Sciences”, within which it studies nanoscience, molecular understanding of disease, diagnosis and therapeutics, molecular energy and catalysis, to mention a few (https://sms.asu.edu/). The University of Sorbonne says that “Molecular chemistry is at the crossroads of contemporary science marked by an increasing miniaturization. Its object of study is the molecule, which represents the common base of the sciences of the future, from medicine and pharmacology to nanotechnology and materials. All these fields have a growing need for fabricated molecules with specific properties” (http://www.upmc.fr/en/education/diplomas/sciences_and_technologies/masters/master_of_chemistry/molecular_chemistry_specialization_m2.html). Among the most interesting recent developments is the application of topological methods to molecular chemistry (http://www.springer.com/in/book/9783319290201)

The Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen is interested in the study of dispersion interactions in molecular chemistry. Talking of its DFG programme, it states that “Dispersion is the driving force for molecular aggregation that plays a key role in the thermodynamic stability, molecular recognition, chemical selectivity through transition-state stabilization, protein folding, enzyme catalysis etc.. While dispersion interactions help rationalize many common phenonema such as well-established π-π interactions, the related σ-π systems have been examined much less and the concept of σ-σ attraction is in its infancy. A primary goal of this program is the development of chemical design principles that utilizes dispersion interactions in the construction of novel molecular structures and chemical reactions” (http://www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb08/dispersion). The department of Chemistry of the Indiana University Bloomington has a “Molecular Structure Center’ which has a laboratory which “has a full complement of single crystal and powder diffraction equipment used to characterize crystalline materials using the techniques of X-ray crystallography. Researchers in the laboratory can determine the three-dimensional structure of nearly any material that can be crystallized” (https://www.chem.indiana.edu/facilities/research-facilities/molecular-structure-center/).

Supramolecular chemistry

Now researchers talk of ‘supramolecular chemistry’. Nature magazine defines it thus: “Supramolecular chemistry is the study of entities of greater complexity than individual molecules — assemblies of molecules that bond and organize through intermolecular interactions. The design and synthesis of supramolecular systems invokes interactions beyond the covalent bond, using, for example, hydrogen bonding, metal coordination and π interactions to bring discrete building blocks together” (https://www.nature.com/subjects/supramolecular-chemistry). The Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry said in 2009 that “important concepts that have been demonstrated by supramolecular chemistry include molecular self-assembly, self-sorting and recognition, templated synthesis or host-guest chemistry. These concepts have made supramolecular synthesis a powerful tool to construct large and complex chemical architecture from simple building blocks or to develop functional supramolecules. Among these are molecular switches, logic gates, molecular containers, elevators, valves and springs, supramolecular catalysts and many more” (https://www.beilstein-journals.org/bjoc/series/6). Texas A&M University’s research into supramolecular chemistry ranges from catalysis to rare earth metal compounds to polymers to energy-related research (http://www.chem.tamu.edu/faculty/supramolecular.php). The Pierre Research Group at The University of Minnesota looks at the environmental applications of supramolecular chemistry. It “conducts research to develop approaches to selectively remove phosphate from polluted lakes and rivers and later release it at will on farmlands in the form of fertilizers.  Specifically, we are developing novel metal-based supramolecular self-assemblies for the reversible and selective capture of phosphate from aqueous systems.  The approach employs the coordination chemistry of hard metal ions with open coordination sites together with other supramolecular principles such as complementarity in shape and hydrogen-bonding for selective sequestering of phosphate over other oxyanions.  The ultimate goal is to produce porous membranes that can selectively remove phosphate from polluted lakes and rivers and reuse them in the form of fertilizer.  This work advances the field of supramolecular chemistry by investigating the structural parameters of metal-based supramolecular assemblies that govern selectivity and reversibility in binding of oxyanions” (http://pierre.chem.umn.edu/research/environmental-applications-supramolecular-chemistry).

The European Commission’s Digital4Science links supramolecular chemistry with mesotechnology. According to them, “Our growing ability to design synthetic molecules and macromolecules opens new pathways for the generation of enhanced functional materials. The tailored design of (macro)molecules enables the precise control of chemical and physical properties and thus, molecular interactions. Besides classical macromolecular and colloidal materials, supramolecular structures which originate from solely physical interactions can be formed. These materials are built by precise self-assembly and display complex architectures with hierarchical structuration on multiple length scales leading to a wealth of novel structures and functions” (https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/content/supramolecular-chemistry-and-mesotechnology). The Yamakoshi Research Group at ETH researches ‘synthetic receptors and thermos sensors’ (http://www.yamakoshi.ethz.ch/Research_Dec2017/supramolecular-chemistry.html).

At the University of Lyon in France, The Institute for Molecular and Supramolecular Chemistry and Biochemistry conducts research in broad fields that are linked to both chemistry and biochemistry: Synthesis, methodology and catalysis; Biomolecules: synthesis, properties and assemblies; and Biological and biomimetic membranes, biocatalysis (https://www.univ-lyon1.fr/research/institute-for-molecular-and-supramolecular-chemistry-and-biochemistry-icbms–801104.kjsp). The Research Center for Functional Molecular Systems in Netherlands has been recognizing outstanding research in supramolecular chemistry (https://fmsresearch.nl/netherlands-award-for-supramolecular-chemistry/).

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