The department is engaged in a number of innovative areas of work. Our research crosses traditional boundaries and engages with other disciplines, both within Pondicherry University and with external stakeholders across a range of sectors. The importance of the Department’s research in the real world is exemplified by our many industrial collaborations and successful start-ups. This collaborative network is reflected in our 8 main research themes
- chemical Biology
- dynamics and mechanism,
- functional materials and interfaces
- theory and modelling of complex systems.
The facilities at Chemistry, Pondicherry for research and teaching are among the best available in India, with a wide range of the latest instrumentation and a huge computational resource networked throughout the University.
Among the facilities available are the latest in automated X-ray diffractometers, electron microscopes, scanning tunnelling microscopes, mass spectrometers, high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers and specialized instruments for the study of solids.
Catalysis (the acceleration of a chemical reaction by a substance that is not consumed itself) is crucially important to all areas of modern life. It is estimated that 85% of all products manufactured involve catalysis somewhere in their production chain, and such products have considerable impact in energy (petrochemicals), healthcare (pharmaceuticals), new–materials (polymers), transport (catalytic convertors) and environment (water, air quality, renewable and bio–produced materials). It is estimated that 90% of all chemical process are catalysed, and thus the economic impact of catalysis is huge, contributing 30–40% of global GDP. Imagine, for example, a world without ammonia (fertilisers), plastics, catalytic convertors or the ability to synthesise fine-chemicals for healthcare solutions.
Pondicherry University Chemistry has a critical mass of world–class researchers involved in catalysis. Their research areas are diverse across the theme, encompassing: small molecule and novel–materials synthesis, the development of routes to new pharmaceuticals and therapeutics, new energy vectors, new polymeric materials, efficient use of renewable resources, novel heterogeneous systems for chemicals essential for modern society, electrocatalysis, innovative healthcare solutions, chemical biology, theory and computation. A key aspect of catalysis research at Pondicherry University is our drive to have a deep, fundamental understanding of the catalytic processes being developed and studied, partnered with a strong trajectory to deliver practical and useful solutions that have positive societal and industrial impact.
Catalysis for the synthesis of fine chemicals
Catalysis is studied to explore the fundamental reactivity of carbon-based molecules and discover new ways to make or break bonds. Much of our work eyes unmet needs in the wider community and is often done in collaboration with leading chemical and pharmaceutical companies. As well as providing more efficient methods, catalysis can open new pathways to access molecules that could not easily be obtained otherwise. The Department has tremendous expertise in developing metal-, small molecule- and enzyme-mediated catalysis, application to target synthesis, and determining reaction mechanisms to facilitate development of new and further improved processes.
Catalysis for energy applications
Research in this sub–theme is focussed on providing solutions for new energy storage and generation solutions (for example fuel cell catalysis).
Catalysis for the synthesis of new functional materials and molecules
Catalysis underpins the development of modern materials chemistry, and a number of groups are developing new catalytic methodologies for the production of new high–performance polymers, and the synthesis of new molecular materials that have specific, and tailored, electronic, structural and functional properties.
Catalysis using renewable and recyclable feedstocks
Catalysis is central to the efficient use of anthropomorphically derived CO2 and a number of groups are actively investigating the development of innovative catalysts that use CO2 as a chemical feedstock for the production of a wide variety of useful chemicals.
Synthesis projects underpin developments in a very wide range of areas. This makes chemical synthesis a unique and enabling science; it means that the design of new molecules can be put into practice so that the target compounds can be made and tested for interesting properties or activity.
Areas in which synthesis is essential
Catalysis is critical to a very wide range of industrial processes, encompassing both bulk and fine chemical manufacture. The rational design, synthesis and optimization of catalyst systems is therefore crucial to the development of more efficient, selective and environmentally tolerant processes. Research in this area is focussed on both metal-containing and metal-free systems, and targets not only better catalysts for existing processes but also entirely new catalytic transformations.
Medicine and drug discovery
The development of new pharmaceutical products is an extremely important aspect of organic synthesis. This undertaking enables the discovery and optimization of complex molecules with potent and selective biological activity. An understanding of synthetic chemistry allows balancing of chemical properties so that the molecules behave as desired in cells and patients. New reaction development is another essential facet of this work, because it opens up previously inaccessible routes to new compounds.
The preparation of functional materials with custom-designed properties (e.g. electronic, optical, magnetic) is fundamental to breakthroughs in areas such as batteries, solar cell development, superconductors, smart materials etc., which hold much promise for future technologies.
The synthesis of molecules that are designed to interact with and probe biological systems is very useful for investigating and understanding the processes involved in living systems. Such compounds allow us to understand fundamental biological processes more clearly, and to aid drug discovery through effective target validation.
Current chemical technologies are overcoming the limits experienced by traditional approaches to biology, biochemistry, medicine, plant sciences and zoology. If we can understand the molecular processes of life we can exploit this knowledge, allowing us to manipulate and modulate living organisms in beneficial and sustainable ways.
Areas of research
Biology at the molecular level; synthesis and modification of biomolecules; development of biomolecular machines; molecular basis of biological mechanism.
Mechanistic studies of metalloenzyme redox catalysis; small molecule activation at metal centres in enzymes; new energy storage and generation solutions.
Medicinal chemistry/probe synthesis and analysis
Creation of hit-lead-probe-drug candidates; development of diagnostic methods; molecular imaging of disease; novel methods for the interrogation of diseased systems; molecular strategies in targeted delivery; De Novo synthetic biology, novel therapeutic strategies.
Chemistry at Pondicherry has a broad range of interests across the fields of materials and interfaces. Amongst these are materials exhibiting interesting optical, electronic, magnetic, catalytic and mechanical properties. Our expertise spans the discovery, understanding and development of theory for materials providing solutions in energy, healthcare, electronics, engineering and catalysis. Much of the research is naturally interdisciplinary and collaborative.
Magnetic and electronic materials
We are experts in the synthesis and characterisation of a wide range of inorganic and inorganic-organic hybrid solids, and in the control of their electronic and magnetic properties using compositional tuning and guided by input from computation. We place a strong emphasis on understanding the relationship between composition, crystal structure and physical properties. The compounds of interest include high-temperature superconductors, ferromagnets, multiferroics, thermoelectrics and energy-storage materials. We exploit strong synergies with other science and engineering departments.
Our research includes very well-controlled syntheses enabling the preparation of a range of well-defined nanoparticles and 2-D nanosheets. Applications for these nanomaterials include as catalysts, electroactive materials, electronics, magnetic materials and medicine/theranostics/imaging. We also investigate nanotoxicology and implications of nanotechnology in applications.
Our interests include investigation of a very wide range of polymerization chemistries and catalyses to make new and known polymers. For example, we have on-going research into the improved preparation of biodegradable polymers, polyolefins, conjugated polymers, polyacrylates and styrenics. We are focussed on the improved and more sustainable synthesis of existing polymers as well as the discovery and optimization of properties of completely new materials. The characterization of polymers includes the whole range of spectroscopy, thermal and mechanical qualification. We design and engineer polymeric coatings on nanoparticles and solid surfaces that additionally generate responsive polymeric nanoparticles for theranostic applications.
Advanced diffraction techniques and computational structural solutions
We focus on developing and utilizing diffraction techniques to probe structure in both solid state and soft condensed matter systems. We investigate both the characterization and prediction of new and known solid state inorganic and organic-inorganic structures, we also investigate the self-assembly of colloidal systems and of biological systems through a range of simulation techniques.
We have strong expertise in ionic liquids and highly concentrated electrolytes. We use a range of high-resolution techniques to measure their physical properties with the aim of understanding the structural, electrostatic, dynamic/electrokinetic and electrochemical properties of these liquid electrolytes.
Theoretical research group at Pondicherry amply reflects this breadth and diversity, yet maintains coherence in terms of research themes and methodology. Core research activities range from fundamental studies of quantum theory in condensed matter, chemical reaction dynamics, and electronic processes in macromolecular systems, to computational soft and biological matter, computer simulation of novel materials, and applied computational research in inorganic and organic chemistry.
Precision gas-phase kinetics and reaction dynamics studies employ state-of-the-art experimental and quantum theoretical techniques to improve our understanding of molecular collisions at the most fundamental level.
In gas-phase studies, it is possible to select individual quantum states of reactant molecules and manipulate their translational motion using electric and magnetic fields before “reacting” them under controlled collision conditions. Product quantum states and momenta can be determined by a combination of spectroscopy and imaging methods yielding an almost complete picture of the dynamics for comparison with predictions based on high level theory.