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Department of Chemistry

Collaborative Projects

Durham Chemistry research group leaders maintain a large number of active collaborative research links with colleagues around the world. Summarised below is a only small selection of current and recent major collaborative projects supported by international funding agencies.

  • NANOS3: Soft, Small, and Smart: Design, Assembly, and Dynamics of Novel Nanoparticles for Novel Industrial Applications is an FP7 funded Initial Training Network (ITN) in which Durham is represented by Professor Colin Bain.
  • FCC: Functional Coordination Chemistry project (2011-2016) is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator grant awarded to Professor David Parker.
  • FUNMOLS: Fundamentals of Molecular Electronic Assemblies, led by Professor Martin Bryce, is a European Commission funded Initial Training Network (ITN) research project to create innovative nano-scale electronic devices.


MICSED (2014-2017) is a European Industrial Doctorate ITN joint between Durham Chemistry and Procter & Gamble. In the frame of the programme, the early stage researchers are jointly supervised by supervisors from the academic and non-academic sector. Their time is split on a 50-50 basis between Durham University and P&G’s innovation centres in the UK, Germany or Belgium.

Five exciting research projects are currently carried out within the network. Their aim is to better understand how molecular-scale processes impact the performance, stability and sustainability of several different technologies.

More information about the network and the projects can be found at the MICSED website.


FLUOR21 ITN (2014-2017) is focused on the training of early stage researchers. in the area of organofluorine chemistry, which has played a significant role in the majority of the spectacular scientific and technological developments of the past century.

Fluoroorganic molecules are key components in an ever increasing number of high-value commercially important products particularly in the life science industries. The use of fluorinated systems in drug discovery programmes has continued to grow and, at present, approximately 30% of new pharmaceutical and agrochemical systems that enter the market bear fluorine atoms or fluorinated substituents, contributing enormously to the economic wellbeing of the EU as a whole and the health of its citizens.

All useful fluoroorganic systems are ‘man-made’ and the key step in developing new products and applications involving fluorinated derivatives is the synthesis of carbon-fluorine bonds. We will develop new selective fluorination processes by using both innovative chemoselective methodology and the emerging field of synthetic biology to provide new technology platforms beyond the current state-of-the-art. The desire to introduce a fluorine atom into an organic system is often driven by the fact that the C-F bond imparts unique and highly tuneable control of both geometric and stereoelectronic phenomena within a molecular structure. The Network’s expertise in handling and analysing fluorinated molecules will allow us to engineer the properties of organic and biological molecules through the strategic introduction of C-F bonds by molecular editing.


MOLESCO is an Innovative Training Network (2014-2017), which involves ten academic and industrial partners from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The scientific objective of the network is to develop a bottom-up approach to overcome the fundamental size limitations of silicon-based electronics technology. A transition to sub-10 nm electronics will require new materials and new devices, for which molecular-electronic materials have high promise. Attractive features of such materials include intrinsic functionalities integrated into their molecular structure and the availability of identical building blocks defined at the atomic scale.

More information is available at the MOLESCO ITN website.


Dr. Lian Hutchings participates in DYNACOP (Dynamics of Architecturally Complex Polymers), a European Commission funded Initial Training Network (ITN) led by Leeds University, which involves academic and industrial partners from the UK, Germany, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Italy.

The scientific objective of the project is to obtain a fundamental understanding of the flow behaviour and the dynamics of blends of topologically complex macromolecular fluids (polymer melts) and their role in processing and properties of nano-structured blends. These materials exhibit complex dynamics and rheology and, in many cases, show hierarchical relaxation over many different timescales. This in turn affects the processing and properties of the final materials. Such polymeric fluids include branched low density polyethylene, which is a fundamental material that appears in plastics of all forms. The processing of these materials, and understanding the relationship between processing and the properties of the final product has frustrated and encouraged industry for many years: a simple recurring problem is instability in extrusion that leads to imperfect plastic parts, and with costly results. The ability to predict and control this behaviour as a function of molecular chemistry has attracted a long history of collaboration between academia and industry, including the partners of DYNACOP.

In order to rationally design appropriate materials and processes for various technological applications, a rigorous, knowledge based approach is needed. This is especially urgent in the face of current opportunities offered by tailored molecular engineering of polymers at the industrial scale, and the proposed use of these materials in nano-structured composites for smart applications in devices, electronics, and high performance applications.

For more information about DYNACOP visit:


The PANOPTES (Peptide-based Nanoparticles as Ocular Drug Delivery Vehicles) project, funded under the FP7 Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials & New Production Technologies (NMP) Theme, is coordinated by Professor Neil Cameron.

This international collaborative project involves academic and industrial partners from the UK, Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Germany. The aim of the research is to develop methodology for the manufacture of novel peptide-based nanoparticles and nanocapsules to satisfy an unmet clinical need: sustained drug delivery to the posterior segment of the eye. Disorders affecting the posterior segment, which cause visual impairment and blindness, are occurring at an increasing rate as the European population ages. For example, there are currently about 6.5 million Europeans suffering from late stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disorder of the posterior segment.

Polyester micro- and nanoparticles that have been proposed for ocular drug delivery have several major drawbacks: acidic degradation products cause inflammation; drug release is difficult to control; and peptides and proteins are difficult to encapsulate. A platform of novel, peptide-based nanomaterials, formed through bio-inspired self-assembly processes, will be developed to overcome these problems. Peptide-based materials have a number of attractive features: biodegradation gives non-inflammatory products; self-assembly occurs under mild conditions; they possess a rich chemical diversity; they are defined at the sequence level. Polypeptides and peptide hybrid materials will be processed into nanoparticles, polymeric vesicles (polymersomes) and nanocapsules. These biodegradable and biocompatible materials will be used as containers for the loading, controlled release and cellular delivery of therapeutic molecules. The consortium therefore will enable the industrial manufacture of as-yet unobtainable, high value nanotechnology-based products utilising intrinisically low-energy demand nanobiotechnological phenomena. These will produce a step change improvement in the quality of products for sustained drug delivery to the posterior segment of the eye, enhancing the competitiveness of European industry.

For more information about PANOPTES, including links to published research papers, visit:


The FCC (Functional Coordination Chemistry) project (2011-2016) is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator grant awarded to Professor David Parker.

The aim of the project is to develop the chemistry of metal coordination complexes, harnessing the unique ground and excited state properties of the lanthanide (III) ions to impart the required function into the complexes and their conjugates.

One major objective is to measure changes in the concentration of essential bioactive species in particular compartments of plant and animal cells, including chiral species. This requires the creation of targeted luminescent probes that can relay an optical signal to the observer, signalling changes in the concentration of these species, with high spatial and temporal control. In parallel, circularly polarised emission microscopy will be pioneered. In addition, functional paramagnetic 19F-magnetic resonance probes with fast relaxation and enhanced chemical shift dispersion properties will be devised to enable 19F magnetic resonance studies to be undertaken much more widely.

The project will involve active collaborations with research groups in Germany, Italy, France and Scotland. For links to further details, see :



FUNMOLS (Fundamentals of Molecular Electronic Assemblies), led by Professor Martin Bryce, is a European Commission funded Initial Training Network (ITN) research project to create innovative nano-scale electronic devices. Ten internationally-leading European research groups from the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Denmark have joined forces, combining expertise in synthetic chemistry, nanoscale physics and device engineering, surface electrochemistry and high-level electronic structure calculations.

This research project is based on a highly-integrated approach to electron transport through single molecules, and the results will represent a major step towards the realisation of future scalable molecular electronics technologies and processes. In the longer term, the insights gained will contribute to the fabrication of novel functional nanoscale architectures and their integration into a higher hierarchical level. System parameters such as electric field, light, temperature and/or chemical reactivity are envisaged as possible drivers of future nano-electronic devices.

For more information about FUNMOLS, including links to published research papers, visit: