TWO Scientists from a leading Scottish university have been awarded a prestigious research grant to help with their biological study looking into the properties of tiny objects.
Professor Douglas Philp and Dr Euan Kay, from the University of St Andrews received over £281,000 from the respected Leverhulme Trust.
The money will help fund their project titled: Hierarchical reaction networks: nanoscale amplification by molecular replication.
The research will look into the complex structures and functions including the fundamental features of all living systems: replication, self-sorting, feedback control and chemical evolution.
These phenomena result from programmed interactions in chemical mixtures, which translate information stored in molecules to control assembly, disassembly and repair of every organelle, cell, tissue, organ and organism in both space and time.
Many of these biological features arise from harnessing the unique properties of extremely small objects -nanometer- which have all recently been accessed through synthetic chemistry.
The newly funded research project will develop a new set of chemical building blocks that will expand systems chemistry into nanometer length scales for the first time.
By combining technologies developed in Dr Kay’s lab for making smart “nanoparticles” with molecules developed in Professor Philp’s lab that can replicate, creating multiple copies of themselves, the researchers aim to create a programmable toolkit of “self-replicating” nanoparticles.
These nanoparticles will be able to translate a specific molecular scale instruction into smart materials with bespoke large-scale structures, simply by mixing the appropriate components together.
Dr Kay said: “In the long-term this research could lead to new life-like materials behaviours that adapt in response to a pallet of chemical triggers, with future applications in areas as diverse as sensing, catalysis, medical implants and optical materials.”
The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education.
Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80m a year.