Molecular self-assembly

Researchers at Nottingham University are attempting to develop methods that will allow material structures to self-assemble at a molecular level.


Researchers at Nottingham University are attempting to develop methods that will allow material structures to self-assemble at a molecular level.



A team of computer scientists, physicists, chemists and nanotechnology experts in Nottingham are applying evolutionary principles and insights gained from computational theory to develop algorithms that guide the creation of new chemical structures at a molecular level.


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has provided nearly £1m to fund the research programme, dubbed Evolutionary Optimisation of Self Assembling Nano-Designs (ExIStENcE).



The team will use advances in computer science and microscopy to monitor and encourage self-assembly. From this, the academics hope to understand, develop and control molecular self-assembly.



‘Self-Assembly is one of nature’s most powerful and pervasively used engineering mechanisms,’ said one of the project founders, Natalio Krasnogor, an interdisciplinary computer-science researcher at Nottingham.



‘In fact, life would not be possible without it. At the core of our approach lies the assumption that self-assembly can be understood as an information-driven process and hence be better exploited by directly linking it to computational phenomena.


‘A deeper understanding of the fundamentals of molecular self-assembly, all the way up to the self-organisation of biological entities, would profoundly affect the way our species builds and controls synthetic as well as natural systems.’


Krasnogor previously worked with biologists on bioinformatics, systems and synthetic biology. This latest collaboration will create a team of 10 researchers to develop novel evolutionary algorithms and protocols based on new principles for the optimisation, design and exploitation of molecular self-assembly.