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CB[n]-colloidal chemistry

We have utilised CB[n]s for the functionalisation and controlled assembly of organic and inorganic nanoparticulate components including gold and silver nanoparticles and a range of quantum dots. Interfacial self-assembly can been driven by electrostatic interactions between the CB[n] carbonyl rim and metallic nanoparticle surfaces, resulting in controlled aggregation of nanoparticles. Use of this interaction in nanoparticle formation, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), catalysis and nanowire formation have been explored. Indirect interaction between CB[n]s and nanoparticle surfaces through complexation with surface-bound ligands has also been explored. Use of stimuli-responsive guests results in controllable assembly and disassembly of the nanoparticlulate aggregates. The wide range of capabilities in both the formation and function of cucurbit[n]uril-based nanosystems is of huge interest for use in triggered assembly/disassembly processes, catalysis, real-time monitoring of chemical reactions, energy storage and conversion as well as drug delivery and sensing with many further areas yet to be investigated.



We have engineered a range of soft matter colloids based on the self-assembly of functional polymer chains driven by host-guest interactions. This approach allows for the creation of well-defined polymeric nanoparticles with precise control over their composition, size, and surface properties. These colloids have the ability to encapsulate, release, or transport molecules with high stability and loading capacities and can act as carriers for therapeutic agents, offering controlled release and targeted delivery to specific sites in the body. Moreover, stimuli responsivity can be incorporated within the colloids through either the polymer backbone or guest selection expanding the utility of the resultant structures and enabling applications in triggered release and other advanced materials, offering tailored solutions in fields like drug delivery, (bio)chemical monitoring, and nanotechnology.



Hybrid colloidal systems

Colloidally integrated hybrid nanostructures comprising semiconductor and metal components are of great interest in materials development and application in next-generation (photo)catalysis, optoelectronics and nanophotonics, as well as drug delivery, sensing and nanotheranostics. Previous strategies to assemble nanocrystals (NCs) have relied on the aggregation of constituent particles and are often time-consuming and/or require elevated temperatures and/or complex NC surface modification. We recently introduced a facile route to kinetic arrest and stabilisation of metastable plasmonic assemblies using CB[n] within photoactive NC arrays through interfacial self-limiting aggregation (ISLA). The resulting hybrid assembly is permeable and able to efficiently absorb small molecules such as electron mediators (EMs) on account of the rigid CB[n] junction motifs that act as both molecular-glue and subnanometre separators, providing readily accessible interstitial spaces. As the hybrids consist of both photocatalytic and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS)-active components, they yield attractive opportunities for the in situ tracking of light-driven electron transfer processes confined at NC interfaces.



Integration of traditional microfluidic techniques with interfacial host−guest chemistry has lead to the development of supramolecular microcapsules with low effective density, high specific surface area, and remarkable encapsulation capabilities. Using CB[n] host-guest chemistry as a interfacial engagement strategy imparts flexibility to control both assembly and disassembly of these microcapsules. Dynamic CB[n] binding results in highly organised mesostructures and microcapsules that demonstrate adaptive, dynamic, and self-repairing properties. As adapative and dynamic materials are crucial in biological systems and artificial biomimetic systems, such features enable the microcapsules to be exploited in numerous biomedical applications, including drug delivery, biomedical diagnostics, living-cell-integrated assays, construction of artificial organelles, and regenerative biomedicines.

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