"Sticky" Molecules Make for Exciting New Materials
New materials have always been critical to our technological progress, playing a central part in economic and industrial growth. Yet we have traditionally worked with materials found in nature, altering and adapting them to our use. It has been a haphazard, even accidental process. It's time for new approaches to the discovery of new materials.
James Wuest has succeeded in developing such approaches. He coined the term "molecular tectonics" to describe his technique for employing molecules to build very sturdy structures. In this way, he has demonstrated the ability to construct materials according to our own design, rather than simply working with what we find.
Wuest and his colleagues have been exploring the behaviour of a class of molecules they call "sticky." These molecules interact strongly and predictably with other molecules nearby, making them well-suited as building blocks for nanoscale construction. These frameworks have valuable properties of their own and can also be used to house other types of molecules, enabling us to create new materials with new properties.
Wuest is eager to begin analyzing these "supramolecular" materials in detail, since their properties should prove to be unique and surprising. They should find applications in many areas, including separation and catalysis, which are important industrial processes.
Wuest has been among the leading investigators studying design and construction of molecular materials. As the holder of a Canada Research Chair, he is looking forward to using a broad range of skills in making molecules and determining their structures and properties. By using these skills, he aims to ensure that Canadians possess a competitive advantage in the field of molecular materials which promises to help build the economy of tomorrow.