David A Fulton Research Group

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David A Fulton Research Group
Based in the School of Chemistry at Newcastle University, we are organic chemists performing creative and imaginative research in the fields of polymer and supramolecular chemistry.  Our interests lie in applying organic and polymer syntheses with supramolecular principles towards the development of responsive and adaptable nanoparticles and materials with potential applications in molecular recognition and sensing, medicine and materials science.  Here you can find out more about what’s going on in our laboratory, including our current and research. The DAF group are based in the School of Chemistry's Chemical Nanoscience Laboratory, and have received generous funding from EPSRC, EU-FP7, The Royal Society, the regional development agency OneNorthEast and the Nuffield Foundation.

News and Research Highlights

Making Silicon Brighter

Nanoparticles based upon semi-conductor materials are potentially very useful in the life sciences because of their unique fluorescent properties, which allow the fate of these nanoparticles within cells to be tracked using microscopes.  However, many of these nanoparticles contain cadmium, which is highly toxic to cells.  At Newcastle we are developing a class of silicon nanoparticle (sometimes known as silicon quantum dots), which are fluorescent but lack the toxicity associated with many other semi-conductor nanoparticles.  We have recently shown in the journal Nanoscale that the fluorescence of silicon nanoparticles can be enhanced by co-encapsulating them alongside gold nanoparticles inside of larger polymer nanoparticles.  It is well-known that gold nanoparticles can enhance the fluorescence of nearby species, and by co-encapsulating both gold and silicon nanoparticles within a larger polymeric package ensures that they are spatially close to one another.  These composite nanoparticles are expected to widen the scope of applications for both silicon and noble metal-nano devices.  This work was performed by DAF group member Noor Aniza Harun, in collaboration with Dr Matthew Benning (School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering) and Dr Ben Horrocks (School of Chemistry).  Read the article by clicking here.


Transmission electron micrographs showing Au nanoparticles encapsulated inside of larger polymer nanoparticles (about 100 - 150 nm in diameter).  Because Si is essentially transparent in this technique, its presence is confirmed in separate spectroscopic experiments.

Investigating Templating in Polymer-Scaffolded Dynamic Combinatorial Libraries


The desire to create receptors which can recognise selectively and bind target molecules has been a topic of much interest in chemistry.  Our approach to this challenge is based upon a new type of dynamic combinatorial library—the polymer-scaffolded dynamic combinatorial library (PS-DCL)—a twist upon the dynamic combinatorial libraries concept established by the groups of Sanders and Lehn. We believe PS-DCLs are ideally suited for the discovery of new wholly-synthetic macromolecules capable of selective molecular recognition.  In this work we show that PS-DCLs can respond to templates in ways which can be rationalized, and that changing structural features of the scaffold can have unanticipated effects.  Read more about this work in Polymer Chemistry by clicking here.



September 2014 Niza’s paper on composite nanoparticles which can simultaneously display enhanced luminescence and Raman spectra has just been published in Chemical Communications.  Click here to read article.


August 2014 Congratulations to Clare for successfully defending her PhD dissertation.  Proving that quality always beats quantity, her thesis came in at less than 100 pages.  Clare is now the third PhD student to graduate from the DAF group.

July 2014 Clare Mahon's perspective review "Mimicking nature with synthetic macromolecules capable of recognition" has been published in Nature Chemistry.  This article discusses some of the recent highlights from work focused on developing "synthetic antibodies", and is available for free download for the month of August.  To read the article click here.



June 2014 Welcome to Drs Claudia Ventura and Luke Dixon, who have joined the group to work on novel anti-biofouling coatings for marine applications.



March 2014 DAF presented recent work from the group at the ACS meeting in Dallas.  Together with Prof Brent Sumerlin of University of Florida, he also co-organized a very successful symposium focused on Dynamic Covalent Chemistry in Polymer Science which featured talks from just about all other groups currently active in the field, including Profs Stuart Rowan, Hideyuki Otsuka, Fraser Stoddart and krzysztof Matyjaszewski.


Seventy life-size bronze steers make their way through Pioneer Plaza in downtown Dallas.

February 2014 Clare presented her recent work on Polymer-Scaffolded Dynamic Combinatorial Libraries at the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology 2014 in Adelaide Australia.

November 2013 After a successful three and a half years in the DAF group, Niza successfully defended her thesis.  After gradudation, Niza will return to Malaysia to take up a position as a lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.


October 2013 Michael Bracchi joins that DAF group as a PhD student.  Michael spent his MChem project in the DAF group developing the chemistry of cyclodextrin-containing rotaxanes, and will now work on new stimuli-responsive polymeric nanoparticles.


August 2013 DAF speaks at the 10th Internation Conference on Advanced Polymers via Macromolecular Engineering at Durham University.  This talk focused on work by Daniel Whitaker and Clare Mahon on polymeric nanoparticles which can reversibly cross-link into hydrogel materials upon the application of a temperature stimulus.  Calre Mahon also presented a well-received poster about templating polymer-scaffolded dynamic combinatorial libraries.

August 2013 Niza's paper in RSC journal Nanoscale describing luminescence enhancements in encapsulated SiQDs is one of the most downloaded in the second quarter of 2013.  Read the paper by clicking here.

July 2013 Clare Mahon spoke about her PhD work at the second annual Northern England Postgraduate Chemistry Conference at York University. Ten universities from across the region presented posters and talks of an exceptionally high level, which made for a great day of postgraduate research.