Professor Sir Fraser Stoddart from Northwestern University has been awarded the Nobel Prize this year in Chemistry. Stoddart shared the prize with two other scientists for making key advances in developing molecular machines, for example the tiniest molecular shuttles that are able to jump forwards and backwards when stimulated.
Prof. Stoddart’s recent research explores organization of molecular switches interlocked within porous crystalline materials. Once arranged within the pores of the framework, the electronic state of the switches can be altered by the application of an electrochemical potential. This strategy is particularly useful when it comes to integrating dynamic, stimulus-responsive, mechanically interlocked molecules with the robustness of porous solids. In a number of fruitful collaborations with the Stoddart team, Dr. David Fairen-Jimenez and Dr. Peyman Z. Moghadam from the Adsorption and Advanced Materials Laboratory (AAML) in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology in Cambridge have employed a variety of molecular simulation techniques to help understand the arrangement of molecular switches inside the pores of metal-organic framework (MOF) materials. See for example: PNAS 2015 and JACS 2012.
Another focus of previous collaborations between AAML and the Stoddart group has been in the area of purification of valuable chemical feedstocks using efficient adsorption-based separation technologies (highlighted in Chemical & Engineering News) in a class of green, readily available MOFs – namely CD-MOFs (γ-cyclodextrin based MOFs) – that can be tailor-made on the kilogram scale and used as a separation medium for aromatic hydrocarbons. See for example: JACS 2015 and JACS 2016.