Molecular Robotics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Molecular robotics represents the ultimate in the miniaturisation of machinery. We shall design and make the smallest machines possible and use them to perform tasks. Applications of molecular robotics systems could help reduce demand for materials, accelerate and improve drug discovery, reduce power requirements, facilitate recycling, reduce life-cycle costs and increase miniaturisation. In doing so it will help address the needs of society and contribute to competitiveness and sustainable development objectives, public health, employment, energy, transport and security.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the technological potential of molecular robotics is to recognise that molecular machines lie at the heart of every significant biological process. Over billions of years of evolution Nature has not repeatedly chosen this solution for achieving complex task performance without good reason. When we learn how to build artificial structures that can control and exploit molecular level motion, and interface their effects directly with other molecular-level substructures and the outside world, it will potentially impact on every aspect of functional molecule and materials design. An improved understanding of physics and biology will surely follow.

Planned Impact

If we can achieve the goals set out in our research programme, the main route to impact will be through the changes in thinking in terms of supramolecularl design and construction that it will bring about over a 10-20 year timeframe. We shall seek to accelerate this impact by holding joint one day meetings with other Programme grant (and other) teams working in relevant areas and also by carrying out short pump-priming projects with industry. We believe that the research outcomes will be of great interest for researchers in many fields from supramolecular, organic, inorganic and physical chemistry to materials, nanotechnology and beyond.

Impacts Within and Beyond Chemistry: Programmable molecular machinery has the potential to greatly broaden the chemistry user base. We shall explore linkages with other programme grant teams working to change the way that chemistry is carried out (including the UK Catalysis Hub and the EPSRC Directed Assembly Network) to maximise these possibilities.

Public engagement: The concept of 'molecular machines' is known to the general public, in part because of the 'grey goo' fears of various public figures, and a great boost in public awareness was recently given with the award of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 'the design and synthesis of molecular machines'. Our work programme gives us a great opportunity to present the science facts rather than the science fiction in this field and promote the excitement and significance of creative chemistry to all. Public engagement will include regular public lectures by the PIs and involvement of the PDRAs and PhDs in a programme of outreach activities, including interactions with Schools and at local and national science festivals.

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
Carpenter J (2019) Anion Pairs Template a Trigonal Prism with Disilver Vertices in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
Rizzuto FJ (2020) Narcissistic, Integrative, and Kinetic Self-Sorting within a System of Coordination Cages. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
Ronson TK (2020) An S10-Symmetric 5-Fold Interlocked [2]Catenane. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
McConnell AJ (2018) Orthogonal Stimuli Trigger Self-Assembly and Phase Transfer of FeII4L4 Cages and Cargoes. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
Zhang D (2020) Transformation Network Culminating in a Heteroleptic Cd6L6L'2 Twisted Trigonal Prism. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
Yang D (2020) LaIII and ZnII Cooperatively Template a Metal-Organic Capsule. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
McTernan CT (2019) Post-assembly Modification of Phosphine Cages Controls Host-Guest Behavior. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

publication icon
Zhang L (2018) Molecular Trefoil Knot from a Trimeric Circular Helicate. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

 
Title 'Nanobot': a short video from A Capella Science to introduce the topic of molecular robotics. 
Description In 2018 our group commissioned a short video from A Capella Science to introduce the topic of molecular robotics to the general public. The result was 'Nanobot': https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=ObvxPSQNMGc The video has been viewed more than 300,000 times in the first 6 months of its existence, and has received overwhelmingly positive comments, for some highlights see http://catenane.net/pages/research.html. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The video has been viewed more than 300,000 times in the first 6 months of its existence. It has received overwhelmingly positive comments (for some highlights see http://catenane.net/pages/research.html) - which reflects the success of using this medium ((Youtube video + popular song incorporating scientific information) to explain the concept of molecular robotics and to make it accessible to everyone. 
URL https://youtu.be/ObvxPSQNMGc
 
Description (ArtMoMa) - Artificial Molecular Machines
Amount € 4,146,516 (EUR)
Funding ID 860434 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 03/2020 
End 02/2024
 
Description (BIOMOLMACS) - Molecular Machines Functioning in Cells
Amount € 4,107,786 (EUR)
Funding ID 859416 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2020 
End 12/2023
 
Description (MolMacIP) - Molecular Machines with Integrated Parts
Amount € 2,471,095 (EUR)
Funding ID 786630 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2019 
End 01/2024
 
Description (ProgNanoRobot) - Programmable NanoRobotics for Controlled Manipulation of Molecular Cargoes
Amount € 224,934 (EUR)
Funding ID 837339 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Description H2020 - Marie Sklodowska-Curie IF Fellowship: EU project 892035 - ReadingMachine
Amount € 227,040 (EUR)
Funding ID EU project 892035 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2020 
End 04/2022
 
Description Nanobot 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In 2018 we commissioned a short video from A Capella Science to introduce the topic of molecular robotics to the general public via a Youtube video. The result was "Nanobot".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=ObvxPSQNMGc&feature=emb_logo
 
Description Nanobots and Creativity - Prof. David Leigh in an interview with Tim Blais of A Capella Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Prof. D. Leigh in an interview with Tim Blais of A Capella Science (creator of the video 'Nanobot'), to accompany the Nanobot video.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=102&v=ymC5KkVy8zc&feature=emb_logo
 
Description School visit (Manchester) for British Science Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Describing to an audience of 30 Yr 3 students the role of a scientist and the work involved. Elements "show and tell" as well as discussing to concept of a compound.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description School visit (Scarisbrick Hall School, Southport, UK) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk given at Scarisbrick Hall School, Southport (to Year 12 & Year 13 students from Scarisbrick Hall School and neighbouring schools) about Chemistry, in general, and specifically, Molecular Robotics. Enthusiastic response from students interested in pursuing Chemistry and related science subjects at university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk given to PhilSoc society at Withington Girls' School, Manchester (Year 12 & Year 13 students). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 1/2/2019 - Visit to Withington Girls' School, Manchester, on the invitation of the PhilSoc society to give a talk to Year 12 & Year 13 students from Withington Girls' School, Manchester Grammar School and Manchester High School for Girls. The talk, entitled The Magic of Molecular Machines, was followed by a question-and-answer session that produced interesting discussions on scientific research and career options in the science sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019