skip to content

EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies for a Healthy and Sustainable Future



Professor Oren A Scherman is the Director of the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis within the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. Research within the Scherman Group has pioneered supramolecular and polymer chemistry in the development of novel materials with emergent properties through molecular level understanding. Over the last decade Professor Scherman has been awarded over £30m in research funding as PI or co-PI from a variety of national and international sources, including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the European Research Council (ERC), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Leverhulme, and several industrial partners such as BP, Schlumberger and SABIC. He currently sits on a number of international scientific advisory boards and has spun out several companies.


Professor Scherman’s current research interests focus on the application of macrocyclic host-guest chemistry using cucurbit[n]urils in the development of novel supramolecular systems. Through understanding events at the molecular level, bulk material properties can be controlled towards a desired application.

Harnessing these macrocyclic host-guest interactions has allowed for precise control over the assembly of polymers, colloids and small molecules which has led to the development of soft materials based on novel polymer architectures, composite materials using nanoparticle-soft matter assemblies and dynamic supramolecular nanophotonic systems. These controlled architectures have been used in a variety of areas including drug-delivery systems based on dynamic hydrogels, conservation of historical artefacts using dynamic composite materials and sensing and catalysis using self-assembled nanophotonic systems.

Current research efforts are focused on the design of “smart” localised therapeutic delivery systems based on hydrogels that can be loaded with a variety of cargo. The dynamic supramolecular interactions within the hydrogel allow for control over cargo release either passively or using a range of external stimuli (photochemical, chemical, and thermal). The Scherman group is also working on further development of a robust supramolecular sensing platform for the detection and quantification of small molecule neurotransmitters and metabolites in urine. This platform is based on a self-assembled macrocycle-photonic assembly which allows for fast and quantitate multicomponent detection at sub micromolar concentrations. Moving towards the detection of other clinically relevant metabolites in various fluids such as sweat, tears and blood is of great interest.


Key publications: 

Wu, G.; Olesinska, M.; Wu, Y.; Matak-Vinkovic, D.; Scherman, O.A. “Mining 2:2 Complexes from 1:1 Stoichiometry: Formation of Cucurbit[8]uril-Diarylviologen Quaternary Complexes Favored by Electron-Donating Substituents”, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 3202–3208. 

Zhang, J.; Coulston, R.J.; Jones, S.T.; Geng, J.; Scherman, O.A.; Abell, C. “One-Step Fabrication of Supramolecular Microcapsules from Microfluidic Droplets,” Science, 2012, 335, 690–694. 

Sonzini, S.; McCune, J.A.; Ravn, P.; Scherman, O.A.; van der Walle, C.F. “A Simple Supramolecular Assay for Drug Detection in Urine”, Chem. Commun., 2017, 53, 8842–8845. 

de Nijs, B.; Benz, F.; Barrow, S.J.; Sigle, D.O.; Chikkaraddy, R.; Palma, A.; Carnegie, C.; Kamp, M. Sundararaman, R.; Narang, P.; Scherman, O.A.; Baumberg, J.J. “Plasmonic Tunnel Junctions for Single-Molecule Redox Chemistry”, Nat. Commun., 2017, 8, 994. 

Kasera, S.; Biedermann, F.; Baumberg, J.J.; Scherman, O.A.; Mahajan, S. “Quantitative SERS using the sequestration of small molecules inside precise plasmonic nanoconstructs,” Nano Lett. 2012, 12, 5924–5928. 

Appel, E.A.; Loh, X.J.; Jones, S.T.; Biedermann, F.; Dreiss, C.A.; Scherman, O.A. “Ultrahigh-water-content Supramolecular Hydrogels Exhibiting Multistimuli Responsiveness,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 11767–11773.

Other publications: 

Chikkaraddy, R.; Nijs, B.d.; Benz, F.; Barrow, S.J.; Scherman, O.A.; Rosta, E.; Demetriadou, A.; Fox, P.; Hess, O.; Baumberg, J.J. “Single-molecule strong coupling at room temperature in plasmonic nanocavities,” Nature, 2016, 535, 127–130. 

Wu, Y.; Shah, D.U.; Liu, C.; Yu, Z.Y.; Liu, J.; Ren, X.; Rowland, M.J.; Abell, C.; Ramage, M.H.; Scherman, O.A. “Bioinspired Supramolecular Fibers Drawn from a Multiphase Self-Assembled Hydrogel”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A, 2017, 114, 8163–8168. 

Walsh, Z.; Janecek, E.R.; Hodgkinson, J.T.; Sedlmair, J.; Koutsioubas, A.; Spring, D.R.; Welch, M.; Hirschmugl, C.J.; Toprakcioglu, C.; Nitschke, J.R.; Jones, M.; Scherman, O.A. “Multi-Functional Supramolecular Polymer Networks as Next Generation Consolidants for Archaeological Wood Conservation,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 2014, 111, 17743–17748. 

Appel, E.A.; Loh, X.J.; Jones, S.T.; Dreiss, C.A.; Scherman, O.A.* “Sustained Release of Proteins from a High-Water-Content Supramolecular Polymer Hydrogel,” Biomaterials, 2012, 33, 4646–4652. 

Rowland, M.J.; Parkins C.C.; McAbee J.H.; Kolb A.K.; Hein R.; Loh X.J.; Watts C.; Scherman O.A. “An adherent tissue-inspired hydrogel delivery vehicle utilised in primary human glioma models”, Biomaterials, 2018, 179, 199. 

Liu, J.; Tan, C.S.Y.; Yu, Z.Y.; Lan, Y.; Abell, C.; Scherman, O.A. “Biomimetic Supramolecular Polymer Networks Exhibiting both Toughness and Self-Recovery”, Adv. Mater., 2017, 29, 1604951.

Professor of Supramolecular and Polymer Chemistry
Director of the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis
Professor Oren  Scherman