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Inorganic surfactants with multifunctional heads (I-SURF)
Start date: Mar 1, 2014, End date: Feb 28, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Surfactants are molecules of enormous scientific and technological importance, which are widely used as detergents, emulsifiers or for the preparation of diverse nanostructures. Fascinating abilities regarding the formation of self-organized structures, like micelles or liquid crystals, originate from their amphiphilic architecture, which comprises a polar head group linked to a hydrophobic chain. While almost all known surfactants are organic, a new family of surfactants is now emerging, which combine amphiphilic properties with the advanced functionality of transition metal building blocks. The current project aims at the synthesis of unique inorganic surfactants (I-SURFs), which contain multinuclear, charged metal-oxo entities as heads, and their exploration with regard to additional redox, catalytic or magnetic functionalities. A particular challenge is the creation of smart surfactant systems that can be controlled via external stimuli. While thermotropic liquid crystals and their adjustment in electric fields (enabling LCDs) have been studied in depth, very limited research concerns the control of self-assembled amphiphilic structures by use of magnetic fields. It is obvious that exposure to a magnetic field has inherent advantages over electric fields for controlling structures in water. I-SURFs with single-molecule magnets as heads will be thus prepared and studied. Another groundbreaking task is the creation of I-SURFs with additional catalytic activities. Since catalytic heads can be positioned via self-organization, for instance on the surface of micellar aggregates, catalytic relay systems can be assembled with a second catalytic species in proximity to the first. Thus, cooperative effects in catalytic tandem reactions will ultimately be observed. These examples show that frontier research on I-SURFs is of outstanding relevance for supramolecular science and will certainly pave the way toward new technological applications with great benefits to society."
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