in China and Germany are working together to look very closely at how
complex molecular assemblies work, and how they can be improved and
harnessed to manufacture better and more efficient tools for people
around the world.
61, or the Transregional Collaborative Research Center for “Multilevel
Molecular Assemblies: Structure, Dynamics, and Functions”, was
established in 2008 and supports about 150 research staff in Muenster
and Beijing. The combined weight of the DFG (Deutsche
Forschungsgemeinschaft) and the NSCF (National Science Foundation of
China) is behind the project, providing powerful momentum. TRR 61 is the
first project to bring these two national government science funding
foundations together in collaboration of this size and offers much
through complementary cultural backgrounds and research organization.
of the top-quality research from the first phase of the project have
been collected together in a special issue of the Wiley-VCH journal small, which deals with micrometer-sized materials down to those a
thousand times smaller, on the nanometer scale. Guest editors from the
University of Muenster (Harald Fuchs and Lifeng Chi), Tsinghua
University (Xi Zhang), and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Deqing
Zhang) were invited to assist with the issue; all are members of the
Executive Board of TRR 61. The issue comprises two review articles, one
concept piece, seven communications, and seven full papers.
research carried out by the interdisciplinary team of chemists,
physicists, and biologists is inspired by the way large natural systems
are assembled from numerous diverse small molecular structures. Known as
“supramolecular systems”, these functional structures on the nanoscale
display unique properties through collective interactions. According to
the guest editors, it is the developments in synthetic chemistry which
have enabled scientists to prepare the building blocks of functional
molecules. Also, organized hybrid systems made of biological systems
such as molecular motors with inorganic surfaces are investigated. “The
understanding of the relation between chemical structures and properties
with an increased integration of knowledge in chemistry, biology, and
physics at the molecular level has contributed to the development of
artificial systems, which, while being much simpler than natural ones,
can perform rather complex tasks.”
first phase of the project, covered by the special issue, focuses
mainly on the underlying mechanisms of self-assembly, particularly
concerning multiple interactions, co-operative effects, and dynamic
behavior in the self-assembly process. Long-term goals aim at
understanding and controlling properties and functions of the systems,
especially electronic, optical, and sensing properties, where complex
systems can outperform simpler conventional materials.
specific topics under investigation by the project can be seen from the
papers in small. The reviews by L. F. Chi and Y. L. Li concern broad
aspects: “Structure Formation by Dynamic Self-Assembly” and “Design and
Self-Assembly of Molecular Machines on Nanoscale towards
Functionalization”, respectively; while the concept article by H. P. Xu
explores “Unconventional Layer-by-Layer Assembly: Surface Molecular
Imprinting and Its Applications”. Other papers show the diversity of
research being carried out: the modification of silica which often used
as a base material (S. Oberhansl, H. Zacharias), DNA systems (D. S.
Liu), metal-ion sensors (D. Q. Zhang), photonic cyanide sensors (G. T.
Li), multiple allergen testing (S. Sekula-Neuer), modifying bacteria
surface motility (B. Maier), light-activated antifungal polymers (S.
Wang), alternating organic structures at surfaces (D. Y. Zhong), organic
heterojunctions (J. N. Liu), redox-active molecular multilayers (B. J.
Ravoo), Cucurbituril building blocks (G. T. Li), organic memory
arrays (W. P. Hu), and dissipative tip–molecule interactions (G.
asked to note any outstanding papers in the issue, Prof. Fuchs replied,
“I would not really tend to name some of the projects as outstanding,
due to the fact that they are all kind of outstanding.”
the specific projects as such, we have created a very valuable research
platform on which more new projects and outstanding scientific
discoveries can develop, in particular due to the effect that we get two
different cultural backgrounds and to a large extent also complementary
research structures, equipment etc, coming together. The special issue
is excellent proof that it flies.”
Small special issue: Multilevel Molecular Assemblies, TRR 61