Design, Synthesis and Evaluation of Novel Hydrogelators for Water Purification

This project proposes a short study to produce novel organic compounds that are able to filter out water-born contaminants.

Department: Chemistry, Chemistry, Food BioSciences and Pharmacy

Supervised by: Dr Wayne Hayes

The Placement Project

One of the major global challenges of the coming decade will be to meet the ever-growing need for safe drinking water. Current technologies for water purification (such as reverse osmosis membranes) require massive up-front investment and are energy intensive to run, limiting their use to first world countries. A potential solution to this problem is to produce novel, inexpensive compounds that are able to filter out water-born contaminants at the molecular level. We propose that this can be achieved through the rational synthesis of a series of new hydrogelators - molecules that can self-assemble in water to form extended structures. The three-dimensional network formed by the hydrogelator will trap and filter out impurities, resulting in cheap, safe drinking water. This self-contained project will allow the student to become familiar with many aspects of academic research. Under the guidance of experienced members of the Hayes Group, the applicant will begin by designing, synthesising and characterising a series of new compounds prior to assessing the ability of each to form stable hydrogels. Once the optimum hydrogel has been selected, the student will design an assay to assess the range of contaminants (bacteria, carcinogens, pesticides, pharmaceuticals) that the new materials can remove from water. With careful supervision in the laboratory and weekly progress meetings with Dr. Hayes and his research group, the student will be able to make rapid progress, seeing the project through from conception to application over a six week period, gaining them exposure to all aspects of synthetic, supramolecular chemistry.


The student will spend approximately 3 weeks on the design, synthesis and characterisation of novel organic molecules. The synthetic component will require the use of all standard laboratory equipment including hotplate-stirrers, glassware and chromatography columns. During the remainder of the placement, the student will characterise the resulting compounds using the full suite of modern instruments available in the Chemical Analysis Facility, such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), mass spectrometry (MS) and infra-red (IR) spectroscopy. The nature of the hydrogels will be probed via differential scanning calorimetric and microscopy which will be carried out in the Centre for Advanced Microscopy.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The successful applicant should have a working knowledge of basic laboratory skills including synthetic organic chemistry procedures and routine chemical analysis such as NMR, IR and MS. They should also be competent in chemical database searching (Scifinder, Web of Knowledge) and have a working knowledge of chemical structure drawing software (such as Chemdraw).

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will be exposed to all aspects of modern synthetic chemistry research. They will plan and complete new reactions during which time they will acquire knowledge in how to isolate and characterise novel compounds. This will require extensive, hands-on use of cutting-edge analytical equipment such as that found in the newly installed Chemical Analysis Facility and the Centre for Advanced Microscopy. The remainder of the time will be spent analysing and evaluating the new compounds in real-world tests for water purification efficiency. Alongside these tasks, the student will write concise weekly progress reports which will be combined to form a thesis-style summary of their achievements during the placement. This will require use of chemical drawing packages (Chemdraw) in addition to referencing databases and programs (Scifinder, Endnote). The report will form the basis of potential publications for which the student will receive authorship credit. Finally, the student will write and deliver a 15 minute lecture on their research to the Hayes research group at the end of their placement, gaining key presentation skills in Powerpoint and lecturing techniques.

Place of Work

Department of Chemistry

Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Unknown - Unknown

How to Apply

The student should apply by sending a CV and covering letter to Dr. Wayne Hayes.

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