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  Mechanophores for the force-controlled release of small molecules

   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof G De Bo  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Any force developed at the macroscopic scale can induce dramatic changes at the molecular scale, even breaking covalent bonds.[1] Indeed, mechanical force is a formidable source of energy that, with its ability to distort, bend and stretch chemical bonds, is unique in its ability to promote reaction pathways that are otherwise inaccessible to traditional methods of activation. A precise control of this force can be achieved when the chemical entity that is the subject of the mechanical force (a “mechanophore”) is embedded within a polymeric backbone.[2-5] Pulling both ends of a macromolecule apart creates highly directional strain with its highest intensity in the middle of the chain in a way reminiscent to a tug-of-war. The activation can be performed in solution, with the help of ultrasounds, or in the solid state, by simple stretching.

The mechanochemical release of cargo molecules offers great promise for the development of various controlled release applications in medicine and materials. Various mechanophore designs have been used for this purpose but they are often limited in the diversity and/or quantity of molecules released per stretching event. We have recently described a new mechanophore that can release a small molecule ‘trapped’ between 2 polymers actuators.[5] This new mechanophore provides a useful platform for the release of more complex molecules.

In this project you will investigate new mechanophores for the force-controlled release of small molecules. You will investigate their activation both in solution, using ultrasounds, and in the solid-state by mechanical stretching, and explore their properties. This project could lead to the development of self-healing materials and to the creation of chemical systems able to perform complex synthetic tasks.

You will be trained in synthetic organic, polymer, and supramolecular chemistry.

Contact for further information

For more information on the group visit:

Follow us on Twitter: @GuillaumeDebo

Application/inquiries: please contact Prof. Guillaume De Bo at [Email Address Removed] (including a CV).


Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class Master degree (or equivalent) in in Chemistry or Polymer Chemistry. An experience in synthetic organic chemistry, synthetic polymer chemistry or supramolecular chemistry is desirable. 

Before you apply:

We strongly recommend that you contact the supervisor to discuss the application before you apply. The email address for Prof De Bo is [Email Address Removed]

How to apply:

You will need to submit an online application through our website here:

When you apply, you will be asked to upload the following supporting documents: 

• Final Transcript and certificates of all awarded university level qualifications

• Interim Transcript of any university level qualifications in progress

• CV

• You will be asked to supply contact details for two referees on the application form (please make sure that the contact email you provide is an official university/ work email address as we may need to verify the reference)

• English Language certificate (if applicable)

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6)

Funding Notes

The 3.5 year Project will be fully funded (fees and stipend) by the Department of Chemistry. The closing date for applications is 23rd October 2023. The start date is September 2024. This project is also eligible for the Osborne Reynolds top-up Scholarship which provides an additional £1500 per year top-up to stipend for outstanding candidates. Successful applicants will be automatically considered for this top-up.


(1) De Bo, G. Macromolecules 2020, 53, 7615–7617.
(2) Stevenson, R.; De Bo, G. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139 (46), 16768–16771.
(3) Zhang, M.; De Bo, G. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 15879.
(4) Nixon, R.; De Bo, G. Nat. Chem. 2020, 12, 826–831.
(5) Suwada, K.; Ieong, A. W.; Lo, H. L. H.; De Bo, G. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2023, 145, 20782.

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