Research Activities

Our research activities are funded by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering & Technology (IRCSET), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Trinity College Dublin. Current reseach activities include:

  • Synthesis and characterisation of metal-organic frameworks for gas storage and catalysis applications
  • Synthesis of hybrid polyoxometalates and other coordination clusters.
  • Fixation and activation of carbon dioxide using supramolecular coordination complexes.
  • Biomimetic approaches to material sciences
  • Design and characterisation of hybrid spintronic devices
  • Synthesis and characterisation of complex molecular magnetic materials
  • Spin-crossover metal-organic frameworks for gas storage and catalysis

Supramolecular Approaches to MaterialScience - MOFs, Clusters & Cages and Biomaterials

We are developing methodologies for engineering hybrid organic-inorganic coordination compounds. The concept of hybrid organic-inorganic materials presents a means for customizing physical and chemical properties by reducing the dimensionality and by influencing the devolution pattern of classical inorganic materials within organic matrices. This approach allows a combination of the superior properties of inorganic and organic materials. Our investigations include the synthesis, self-assembly and physicochemical characterization of coordination polymers, cluster compounds, biominerals and bioinorganic enzyme models. Key research areas under this purview include gas storage materials (e.g. for hydrogen), catalysis, separation science and magnetic materials.

Coordination Chemistry Approaches to Nanomaterials

Supramolecular aggregates with vast separated areas of different polarity provide templates to produce nanostructured materials by thermolysis of the organic components resulting in hybrid organic-inorganic or resistant porous oxide nanostructures. Since the architecture of the hybrid precursors determines the stoichiometry and structure of the resulting thermolysis products, it is possible to obtain nanosized oxides displaying unusual catalytic and electronic/magnetic properties; materials which cannot be obtained by direct synthesis. Thermolysis of the assemblies enables the preparation of micro- and nanorporous materials by total oxidation of the organic components. Pores and channels in coordination networks also provide potential reaction vessels for the organic components. Alternatively, organic components can be initiated to form carbon-based polymerization products whilst the inorganic shell readily washes away after the intra-crystal reaction. This allows the production of uniform nano-polymers or carbon nanotubes under reducing conditions, e.g. fibres whose diameters resolve from the molecular structure whilst their length is determined by the dimension of the crystal used.

Supramolecular Systems & Self-Assembly

Furthermore we investigate how the molecular structure of metal complexes and organic ligands influences their assembly, not just in crystalline solids but also in nanosized structures at lateral boundary conditions, on surfaces. The challenge is to tune these structure-directing parameters to synthesize monodisperse, hierarchical organic-inorganic structures from well-characterized building blocks with the overall objective to utilise the accuracy of self-organisation to implement functionalities of the materials in novel nanostructured devices.