Biomimetic recognition schemes utilizing molecularly templated/imprinted polymers (MIPs) have proven their potential as synthetic receptors in numerous applications including liquid chromatography, solid phase extraction, biomimetic assays, and sensor technology. The inherent advantages of synthetic receptors and functionalized membranes in contrast to biochemical/biological recognition and immobilization schemes include their robustness, synthetic versatility, and low cost, thereby rendering MIPs and related materials ideal molecular capture or scavenger matrices tailorable for selective recognition or immobilization of a wide range of target molecules.
We have successfully demonstrated this concept for a variety of molecular species including flavones/flavonoids, mycotoxins, herbicides/pesticides, nitrophenoles, and endocrine disrupting compounds (e.g., estradiol derivatives). More recently, our research focuses on biomedical and biotechnological applications of MIPs including selective scavengers for contrast agents and proteins. However, tailoring synthetic recognition elements to a target analyte requires thorough analysis and fundamental understanding of the molecular interactions governing the imprinting process. An ultimate goal of our research is the rational prediction and design of optimized synthetic strategies leading to molecular capture, recognition, and immobilization schemes with superior control on their physical properties and molecular selectivity. Hence, we focus on combining the analysis of the governing principles in molecular templating by NMR, IR, UV/VIS, MS, ITC, and XRD studies for elucidating the nature of the molecular interactions with fundamental molecular (dynamics) simulations enabling predictive modeling.
In addition to MIPs, a wide variety of (functionalized) polymer and sol-gel membranes are studied with particular emphasis on their molecular enrichment properties for volatile organic target analytes (VOCs) including e.g., benzene, chlorinated hydrocarbons, etc. for use in chemical sensors.