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University of Parma
Country: Italy
4 Projects, page 1 of 1
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/K016210/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,815,950 GBP

    The use of non-covalent self-assembly to construct materials has become a prominent strategy in material science offering practical routes for the construction of increasingly functional biomaterials. A variety of molecular building blocks can be used for this purpose; one such block is de-novo designed peptides. Peptides offer a number of advantages to materials scientists. Peptide synthesis has become a routine procedure making them easily accessible. The library of 20 natural amino acids offers the ability to play with the intrinsic properties of the peptide such as structure, hydrophobicity, charge and functionality allowing the design of materials with a wide range of properties. The main challenge facing scientists in this field is being able to rationally design these peptides to gain control over the physical properties of the resulting self-assembled materials. This requires not only an in depth knowledge of the self-assembling processes at all length scales, but also a detailed understanding of the specific requirements of each application targeted. A key point that makes the development of an actual technological platform crucial is the variability of the requirements placed on the materials depending on the application targeted. For example, injectable materials need to be developed for cell delivery, while for drug delivery oral cavity sprayable systems could be required. For cell culture and tissue engineering the issue of adaptability of material properties is even more critical as depending on cell type, origin and intended behaviour, cells have very different requirements in term of their environment, (i.e.: material properties and functionality) in which they are placed. Finally, one other key element is the cost of these materials. When used as structural materials such as in hydrogels the quantity of peptide required is significant. In this context the development of a technological platform based on the same family of "simple" and "cheap" to produce peptides that can be used across a number of applications is a significant advantage (see impact summary). Through this fellowship my group will develop such a technological platform by: - Developing a fundamental understanding of the self assembly and gelation properties of our materials at all length scales. In particular we will broaden the range of materials and materials properties (e.g.: mechanical, triggering mechanism, injectability) available to be in a position to design and develop new functional and responsive materials - Develop strong collaborations with academic and industrial end-users. This will allow us to engage end-users with the development process ensuring that the materials we design are relevant and used, and also that we maximise exploration of new potential fields of application - Develop a comprehensive strategy for the exploitation of the IP generated to maximise the impact of the work at all levels. This will be done in close collaboration with University of Manchester Intellectual Properties (UMIP) and will include the coherent and efficient management of existing and future agreements with industrial and academic partners as well as the development of an efficient process for the identification of novel IPs and their protection and exploitation. This project will contribute to a number of priorities and Grand Challenges at the centre of EPSRC's remit. It is fully placed within the EPSRC Healthcare Technologies Challenge theme and will directly contribute to the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering strategic research theme. In addition the work will also contribute towards the EPSRC Regenerative Medicine Grand Challenge and the Chemical sciences and engineering Grand Challenge: Directed Assembly of Extended Structures with Targeted Properties, of which I am a member.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/L010615/1
    Funder Contribution: 329,230 GBP

    Magnetic Materials are employed in an enormous range of applications in modern society, from information storage in computers, refrigeration in security and astronomical instrumentation, biocompatible agents for use as both contrast and polarizing agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diagnosis, and as agents for magnetic hyperthermic treatments. Academically, molecule-based magnets are also studied intensively with regard to their important fundamental chemistry and physics, since they have the potential to be exploited in nanoscale electronics devices, as beautifully demonstrated recently by the construction of single-molecule spintronic devices (spin valves and transistors). Molecule-based materials offer the great advantage of being designable and manipulable by synthetic chemistry. That is, they can be constructed atom by atom, molecule by molecule with the unparalled advantages of being soluble, monodisperse in size, shape and physical properties, and tuneable at the atomic scale. Indeed, this "bottom-up" research vision is not restricted to academia - IBM recently reported information storage in surface-isolated (2x6) arrays of Fe atoms at liquid He temperatures and are actively investigating spintronics and data storage with a view to the ultimate miniaturisation of such technologies. However, before any molecule or molecule-based material can have commercial application or value, the fundamental and intrinsic relationship between structure and magnetic behaviour must be understood. This requires the chemist to design and construct familes of related complexes, characterise them structurally and magnetically, and through extensive collaboration with a network of world-class condensed matter physicists and theoreticians, understand their underlying physical properties. The current proposal directly addresses these fundamental questions through the controlled aggregation and organisation of molecular magnets into designed 0-3D architectures in the solid state. Specifically it applies the fundamental principles underpinning supramolecular chemistry to assemble single-molecule magnets into novel topologies by taking advantage of simple coordination-driven self-assembly processes. We will employ molecular magnets as building blocks for the formation of supramolecular assemblies and coordination polymers in which the spin dynamics of the molecular building blocks are modulated through the attachment of, and interaction with, other paramagnetic moieties. In order to achieve this we will: design and build a range of metalloligands, ranging from simple isotropic molecules to more complex and exotic anisotropic molecules and attach them to pre-made SMMs; construct hybrid magnetic materials from SMMs and cyanometalate building blocks; design and synthesise dual-functioning ligands which are capable of directing the formation of SMMs and simultaneously linking them into higher order (O-3D) materials; and characterise all materials, structurally and magnetically, through a battery of techniques.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: AH/L007053/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,539,720 GBP

    Our everyday understanding of perception is that our sense organs enable us to see, touch, smell, taste and hear. The vocabulary of five distinct senses ramifies through descriptions of thought ("I see what you mean") emotion ("I was touched by her suffering") and aesthetics ("That's not to my taste"). Traditionally, philosophers have also thought that the five senses producing distinctive, separate conscious experiences. Equally, until recently, scientists have also studied each of the senses in isolation. But modern neuroscience is radically changing our understanding. Each sense organ contains many kinds of sensory receptors (think of all the different feelings from your skin). Everyday experiences - watching a film, eating a meal, walking along the street - involve different senses, working together. But most remarkable is a mass of recent research showing highly specific sensory interactions, in which one sense modifies the experience of another. Imagine listening to a syllable (say /ba/) spoken over and over, while watching a video of someone mouthing a different syllable (say /ga/), you actually hear the sound differently. Equally, the voice of a ventriloquist seems to come from the mouth of a doll some distance away. Somehow, what we see changes what we hear, presumably through processes that normally help us to associate sounds and sights correctly. Flavour provides the most surprising examples of sensory interaction, What we call the "taste" of food and drink is largely determined by smell rather than taste, but it also depends on the temperature and texture of food and drink, and its colour, and even the sounds that accompany eating. For instance, white noise reduces sensitivity to flavour (the so-called "aircraft food effect"). Equally, your sense of your own body can be changed by what you see and feel. If you look at a model hand being stroked with a brush, while your own hand, out of sight, is simultaneously stroked, you will soon feel that the model hand is part of you. The traditional view that information flows in one direction from basic sensation to perception, memory and action, has also been overturned. Recognising a spoken word, a familiar face, or a favourite piece of music draws on previous knowledge. Perception is influenced by memory, expectation, emotion and attention. Further, since our head, hands and eyes are constantly in motion, the brain must somehow stitch together perception from a sequence of sensory "snapshots". A comprehensive account of perception needs to begin with the relationships and interactions between the sensory modalities that produce our awareness of the world and of ourselves in it. Although the science of perception is moving very fast, it lacks the conceptual framework that philosophical thinking can bring to understanding the relationship between brain processes and experience. Our plan is for philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists to work together in entirely new ways, including planning laboratory experiments together, to help us to understand how the brain puts together different sensory information, under the influence of past experience and expectation, to create the seamless flow of conscious experience, to identify objects and events in the world, to give us an sense of our own body, and to enable us to control our actions. We believe that our work will have wide impact beyond our university departments. It will help in the design of new forms of prosthetic devices to help deaf and blind people, and those who suffer untreatable pain, changes in body image or reduction in the sense of smell. It will inform the rapidly advancing technology of enhancement of sensory experience, cast light on the appreciation of the visual and performing arts, and stimulate new forms of preparation and presentation of food, and new understanding of the way in which people choose what products to buy, what works of art they prefer and what food they eat.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/N032128/1
    Funder Contribution: 5,101,380 GBP

    Tony Skyrme proposed that under special circumstances it is possible to stabilize vortex-like whirls in fields to produce topologically stable objects. This idea, effectively of creating a new type of fundamental particle, has been realised with the recent discovery of skyrmions in magnetic materials. The confirmation of the existence of skyrmions in chiral magnets and of their self-organization into a skyrmion lattice has made skyrmion physics arguably the hottest topic in magnetism research at the moment. Skyrmions are excitations of matter whose occurrence and collective properties are mysterious, but which hold promise for advancing our basic understanding of matter and also for technological deployment as highly efficient memory elements. Following the discovery of skyrmions in a variety of materials, several urgent questions remain which are holding back the field: what are the general properties of the phase transitions that lead to the skyrmion lattice phase, the nature of its structure, excitations and stability and how might we exploit the unique magnetic properties of this matter in future devices? These questions have only recently begun to be addressed by several large international consortia and are far from being resolved. For the UK to contend in this highly competitive field a major project is required that brings together UK experts in materials synthesis and state-of-the-art theoretical and experimental techniques. We propose the first funded UK national programme to investigate skyrmions, skyrmion lattices and skyrmionic devices. Our systematic approach, combining experts from different fields is aimed at answering basic questions about the status of magnetic skyrmions and working with industrial partners to develop technological applications founded on this physics.

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