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Nanoscale Supramolecular Materials

Miniaturization to the nanometer scale regime is a very prolific strategy for the development of new materials with novel and often enhanced properties compared to traditional materials, opening up avenues for technological applications in many areas, including drug-delivery, catalysis, diagnostics, solar cells, etc. To date, most of nanoscale materials are either purely organic or inorganic in composition. However, architectures created from the supramolecular assembly of organic and inorganic components are rapidly growing as a very attractive alternative class of nanoscale materials.

Traditional metal-organic polymers are a fascinating family of materials created from the supramolecular association of inorganic, such as metal ions, metal-organic clusters or small inorganic nanoparticles, and organic building blocks, including organic molecules, biomolecules and organic polymers. These bulk crystalline polymers, in which both type of building blocks are assembled through metal coordination, hydrogen bonding, electrostatic interactions or π-π stacking, have the potential to be tailored to show adjustable structures, compositions and properties. As a consequence, they show promise for an impressive number of applications in gas storage, drug-delivery, diagnostics, sensing, catalysis, ion exchange or separation, magnetism, optics, etc. However, metal-organic polymeric materials in the form of traditional bulk crystalline materials do not always fulfill all specific needs for these applications. Depending upon the intended application, these materials requires to be not only fabricated as bulk crystalline solids, but also miniaturized at the nanometer length scale or immobilized at specific locations on surfaces.

Nanoscale Supramolecular Materials

In this field, NANOUP Group’s main interest is the development of novel synthetic methodologies and using these methods to fabricate nanoscale supramolecular (mostly hybrid metal-organic) materials with controlled/designed forms (particles, tubes, rods, fibers, crystals, and thin-films), size, composition, and physical and biological properties (including luminescence, porosity, biocompatibility, recognition, magnetism, etc.) for applications in nanomedicine & biotechnology, catalysis, storage, encapsulation and sensing.

Recent NANOUP Group discoveries

In this context, unexplored “bottom-up” methodologies (such as microfluidics, nanoemulsions, nanospray drying, fast precipitation techniques, etc.) are currently being investigated in our laboratories, allowing the continuous synthesis of nanoscale supramolecular architectures with novel and exciting functionalities. Initial synthesized metal-organic materials in the form of nanospheres have shown interesting magnetic properties, such as magnetic bistability or single-molecule magnet behaviour. However, one of the most exciting discoveries of NANOUP Group has been to prove that metal-organic nanomaterials can be used as matrices for encapsulating of a large variety of substances. Interestingly, in a recent article published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., we showed that these nanomaterials can act as matrices able to encapsulate magnetic nanoparticles, quantum dots or organic dyes. Further results have also confirmed that these nanospheres can encapsulate drugs, opening up avenues for developing potential drug-delivery systems.

Nanoscale Supramolecular Materials

On the other hand, we are exploring a new class of molecular nanomaterials: the metal-bioorganic architectures. The NANOUP Group is actually developing a novel fascinating family of synthetic supramolecular nanobiomaterials, and introduces these materials to the scientific community and society. Structurating biomolecules towards metal ions has the potential to create novel platforms for drug delivery, new nanoscopic agents or templates, new matrices for encapsulating or therapeutic nanostructures with controlled biodegradation. Furthermore, for many biomolecules, their association with metal ions is the unique way to obtain nanostructured solid systems dispersible in water, principally because they are usually highly soluble in aqueous media. For instance, we have demonstrated that by using conventional coordination chemistry and bioorganic molecules, such as an amino acid, long chiral (verified by circular dichroism measurements) nanofibers can be grown. Controlling the reaction strategy, we can also control the fiber length or induce a metal-organic gelation process.

Nanoscale Supramolecular Materials

With all these expectations, NANOUP Group will use the high structural and compositional flexibility of supramolecular chemistry in order to continuously develop novel synthetic methodologies and nanoscale supramolecular functional (bio)materials.