Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Supramolecular Chemistry
Code CHEM446
Coordinator Professor AG Slater
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2023-24 Level 7 FHEQ Second Semester 7.5

Pre-requisites before taking this module (or general academic requirements):



Supramolecular chemistry deals with the interactions between molecules and has become one of the fundamental areas of chemical research. The aims of the module are to introduce and develop the students’ knowledge of the chemistry of molecular assemblies and intermolecular bonds, or "chemistry beyond the molecule". The module will introduce the concepts of non-covalent chemistry, host-guest chemistry, molecular recognition, self-assembly and self-organisation. The module also aims to develop the students' knowledge of how to characterise supramolecular complexes.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) By the end of this module the students will be knowledgeable of non-covalent bonding such as hydrogen-bonding, ion-ion interactions, ion-dipole interactions, van der Waals forces, pi-pi stacking interactions, solvatophobic forces etc. with respect to  supramolecular chemistry. able to describe, understand and rationalise a range of supramolecular assemblies

(LO2) Students will be able to show understanding of the underlying principles of complementarity, preorganisation, and cooperative interactions with respect to supramolecular chemistry, and be able to rationalise the characteristics of binding in a given supramolecular complex with respect to these three key concepts.

(LO3) Students will be able to describe, show understanding of and rationalise a range of supramolecular assemblies, including their formation, their behaviour, and their applications in the context of supramolecular chemistry.

(LO4) Students will be able to explain the principles of solvent effects on supramolecular complexes, why and how solvents affect the strength of supramolecular interactions, and design potential supramolecular hosts taking these principles into account.

(LO5) Students will be able to evaluate which characterisation method is suitable for a given supramolecular complex (including NMR, ITC, MS, UV/Vis titration), and explain what the data show for each method.

(LO6) Students will be able to comment critically on and synthesise a summary of the key messages from a recent research paper describing applications for supramolecular complexes.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Lectures. This module will be delivered online via approx. 30 asynchronous short videos (10-20 minutes, 3 per week). Key videos will have an associated quiz for students to test their knowledge. Lectures are complimented by supplementary reading materials (examples are profiles of supramolecular chemists, a dive into a research paper, or a description of an application of supramolecular chemistry).

Each week an online drop-in office hour session will be timetabled so students can join for questions and discussion, alongside a module discussion board.

Workshops: Four in-person sessions designed to give you the skills you will need to demonstrate in the assessed coursework to unseen systems.
1: In this workshop, we will start to explore the design considerations when making a host for 3 types of guests: cationic, anionic, and neutral, considering the important concepts from weeks 1 and 2. In week 4, the lectures will cover binding such guests in more detail.
2: In this workshop, you will read and discuss a paper from the supramolecular literature: "A biomimetic receptor for glucose", by Tromans et al. After a brief intro, you'll be split into small groups and asked to discuss the following questions: i. What is the point of this paper? ii. What are the underlying supramolecular concepts used? iii. How did they use analysis and data to prove their conclusions?
3: In this workshop, we will go through some problems including calculating binding constants, interpreting analytical data, and analysing binding titration experiments.
4: An in-person revision session where feedback from the coursework will be given, and we will go through past paper questions. This workshop is further supported by recap and exam question videos in Week 10.

Coursework: The coursework is a set of 3 questions, set at the start of the year. The questions will be designed to allow students to apply the principles of supramolecular chemistry to mod el systems they will not have encountered before. This will count for 15% of the marks. This work is anticipated to take approximately 15 hours using lecture notes and wider reading. The deadline will always be at least two weeks after the date the work was set.

*Lectures (online): 15 hr
*Drop-in sessions: 12 hr
*Workshops: 4 hr



Supramolecular chemistry covers a wide range of systems including host-guest systems, clathrates, cavitands, supramolecular polymers and gels. In this module, the students will be introduced to concepts such as self-assembling compounds, molecular self-assembly, host-guest complexes and biological mimics with a focus on current research and applications.

The syllabus will include:
Introduction to supramolecular chemistry – nature of supramolecular interactions, solvation effects, cooperativity, host-guest interactions, chelation, macrocyclic effect, characterisation of supramolecular systems.
Cation-binding – Why bind cations?, Synthesis of macrocycles, crown ethers, cryptands, spherands, proton binding, calixarenes.
Anion binding – Why bind anions, Properties of anions, recognition using electrostatic Hydrogen bonds and Lewis acidic hosts.
Simultaneous cation and anion binding – Cascade approach, Separate binding sites,
Neutra l guest binding – Hydrogen bonds, Hydrophobic effect.
Solid state Host-Guest systems – clathrates, calixarenes, molecular crystals.
Self-Assembly – pi-electron donor-acceptor systems, transition metal directed assemblies, hydrogen bond assemblies, anion directed assemblies.
Characterising supramolecular systems
Biological Mimics and Supramolecular Catalysis – enzyme mimics
Present and future applications – Phase transfer reagents, separation of mixtures, Sensors, Switches and Molecular Machinery.

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours     12



Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 44


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
written exam. Resit: A single resit including reassessment of the coursework.  120    85       
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
problem set Resit: No separate resit, reassessment is included in exam resit    15