School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Functional Molecules and Materials

Functional Molecules and Materials

Molecular model of DNA-duplex designed for binding “soft” metal ions [ChemBioChem, 2018, 19, 1115]

Our Research

Selective assembly of molecules and materials and controlled and predictable manipulation of their properties. This is at the heart of our research to address today’s global challenges.

Expert chemists

The combined expertise of inorganic, organic and physical/theoretical chemists enables collaborative exploration.

We have specialists in synthesis, spectroscopy, microscopy, electrochemistry and theory/computation.

The academic team work across the following themes:

  • Molecular & Materials Design
  • Nanoscience
  • Bio-based Materials
  • Health, Energy & Environment

Our work

Our work addresses:

  • fundamental scientific questions
  • societal challenges
  • advance technologies of economic importance
One of our researchers using Atomic Force Microscopy to study DNA-based nanowires.
One of our researchers using Atomic Force Microscopy to study DNA-based nanowires.

Our teaching

Research-inspired teaching is a core principle in our education programmes. Teaching activities are making use of the expertise in the group.

We offer modules in catalyst application and design and structural methods.

Excellent analytical facilities provide state-of-the-art learning environments for our students, supporting laboratory work.

Projects in the group range from BSc dissertations to MChem and MSc projects.



We work across the themes of molecular and materials design, nanoscience, bio-based materials and health, energy and environment.


Our academics within the Functional Molecules and Materials group have strong links with both industry and academia.

Extant and previous collaborations include:

MChem Projects

Our projects and the primary investigators are listed here.

  • Carbene Decorated Polymer Immobilised Ionic Liquid Stabilized Ruthenium Nanoparticles: Synthesis and Applications in Catalysis - Doherty
  • Phosphine-Decorated Polymer Immobilised Ionic Liquid Stabilised Gold Nanoparticles - Doherty
  • N-Heterocyclic Carbene Modified Polymer Immobilised Ionic Liquid Stabilised Palladium Nanoparticle Catalysts - Doherty
  • Electron-rich polyoxometalates - Errington
  • Synthesis and Reactivity of Chloro-Titanium Substituted Polyoxometalates - Errington
  • Polyoxometalate-based hybrid materials for oxidative catalysis and water purification - Errington
  • Synthesis and characterisation of a stimuli responsive hydrogel - Fulton
  • Developing semi-interpenetrating gels based on Caf1 Protein Polymer - Fulton
  • Compositional Biasing in polymer-based “composomes” - Fulton
  • Understanding the binding of Ag+ ions and Ag+ Nanoclusters to single stranded DNA - Horrocks
  • Exploiting Electrochemical Properties of Polyoxometalates for Waste Heat Harvesting - Horrocks
  • Synthesis and characterisation of DNA-template nanowires using different semiconductors - Horrocks
  • Self-assembly of fluorescent chiral Coordination Polymers - Houlton
  • Synthesis and characterisation of silver arrays with pyrimidine ligands - Houlton
  • Single Molecular Sheet Transformations from Single Crystals of Novel Coordination Frameworks based on M(II)-N Bonds - Houlton
  • Synthesis and structural characterisation of homoleptic samarium complexes with extremely hindered dialkylphosphide ligands - Izod
  • Alkyl-substituted Diphosphatetrylenes - Izod
  • Synthesis and Application of Planar Diphosphaphosphenium ion: A Potential Transition Metal Mimic - Izod
  • Investigations of Fluorescent Boranil Compounds for Applications in Polymers - Knight
  • Synthesis of new Boranil-based fluorescent dyes in gram scale quantities - Knight
  • Towards the enzymatic synthesis of custom-length functionalised DNA - Pike
  • An assessment of fluorescent probes for use in diagnostics of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease - Tuite
  • Investigation into the Binding Capabilities of Fluorescent Probes with Amyloid Proteins for Diagnostics - Tuite
  • Binding and photophysics of novel Ru(II) and Ir(III) complexes with DNA - Tuite


Our publications listed by year.


Our Functional Molecules and Materials researchers are listed here.

Group leader

Group leader

Professor Andrew Houlton
Professor of Inorganic Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6262



Dr Toni Carruthers
Lecturer in Physical Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0)19120 87025

Dr Simon Doherty
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6537

Dr John Errington
Reader Metalorganic Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6643

Dr David Fulton
Senior Lecturer in Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7065

Dr Ben Horrocks
Reader in Physical Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5619

Dr Keith Izod
Reader in Main Group Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7101

Dr Julian Knight
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7068

Dr Hanno Kossen
Lecturer in Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8536

Dr Erli Lu
NU Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT)

Telephone: 0191 208 4511

Dr Cristina Navarro Reguero
Lecturer in Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8536

Dr Andrew Pike
Senior Lecturer Chemical Nanoscience, Chemistry Undergraduate Admissions Tutor

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7061

Dr Eimer Tuite
Senior Lecturer in Biophysical Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5523