An ongoing interest in the group is to learn how to manipulate the individually weak, but collectively powerful, interactions between molecules as a mechanism for programming function in materials and devices. In one project, we use well-defined molecular recognition events within polymer networks (both in the bulk and in thin films) to create, with high precision, materials with desired mechanical properties. Because the material properties are determined by these very specific molecular recognition events, the materials are responsive to external stimuli in the same way as the defining molecules. Rather complex, but predictable, macroscopic responses can therefore be engineered at the molecular level.
In a second set of projects, we have created families of molecules that we believe will be effective insulators of molecular wires. In this research, we take hypotheses regarding the interactions of conjugated, cylindrical molecules (for example, carbon nanotubes and poly-ynes) and design and synthesize new partners that wrap around the desired targets. This research specifically targets molecules that might be useful in new, nanoscale devices.