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.



Postdoctoral Positions Available We are looking to recruit two postdoctoral research fellows to work on a new project developing polymer-based anti-fouling surfaces and coatings for marine applications. Work will focus on designing, synthesizing and evaluating surfaces and coatings containing either stimuli-responsive or zwitterionic polymers.  Click here for more details.

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.


June 2013 The DAF group is part of a successful European-wide consortium which has been awarded a total of 15 million euros by EU-FP7 to develop the next generation of anti-fouling marine coatings.  The consortium, lead by Akzo-Nobel, the world-leader in marine coatings and paints, will tackle the problem of the fouling of ships hulls by marine organisms which can lead to unwanted drag and increased fuel consumption.  This funding will fund a number of postdoctoral positions in the DAF group.

June 2013 Clare Mahon's latest work on Polymer Scaffolded Dynamic Combinatoral Libraries is published in flagship RSC journal Chemical Science.  Read by clicking here.

Graphical abstract: Templation-induced re-equilibration in polymer-scaffolded dynamic combinatorial libraries leads to enhancements in binding affinities

May 2013 DAF presented the groups latest work on Polymer-Scaffolded dynamic combinatorial libraries at the School of Chemistry, Leeds University.

April 2013 Willi Smolan joins the DAF group for six months ERASMUS placement.  Willi is in the final year of his studies at Georg-August-University Göttingen in Germany, and will spend his time at Newcastle working on thermoresponsive polymers.

March 2013 Clare Mahon wins best student talk at the RSC Chemical Nanoscience symposium held in Newcastle for a talk highlighting recent progress in polymer-scaffolded dynamic combinatorial libraries.