Awards Database

Cottrell College Science Awards - 2015

Xiaopeng Li

Texas State University, San Marcos

Self-Assembly of Supramolecular Fractals with Self-Similarity

Industry is always looking for efficient ways to make new synthetic materials.

Xiaopeng Li, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Texas State University, believes he can further this goal by developing a better understanding of the relationship between fractals and supramolecular chemistry.

To aid in this work he has recently been awarded a Cottrell College Science Award by Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).

Fractals are infinitely complex, recursive patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over. Supramolecular chemistry is that branch of the science that looks beyond individual molecules to focuses on “chemical systems” made up of assembled molecular subunits or components.

“Through further understanding of the relationship between fractals and supramolecular chemistry,” Li says, “our research is poised to refresh the design of new synthetic materials with molecular-level precision.”

Specifically, Li’s research will involve attempts to use the chemical compound terpyridine to create what chemists call “ligand” -- a molecule that readily attaches to a metal atom. In this case Li will use “multitopic” ligands – those capable of attaching at multiple separate sites. The goal is to form a discrete architecture composed of supramolecular hexagons that self-assemble into larger and larger fractal patterns of various metallic molecules.

“These novel fractal supramolecules may possess excellent sensing, magnetic, optical and catalytic properties, and act as excellent model systems for researchers investigating the structure, dynamics and function of macromolecules,” Li says.

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