Miniaturization to the nanometer scale regime is a very prolific strategy for the development of new materials with novel and often enhanced properties compared to traditional materials, opening up avenues for technological and biomedical applications in many areas, including drug-delivery, diagnostics, catalysis, etc. To date, most nanoscale materials are either purely organic or inorganic in composition. However, architectures created from the supramolecular assembly of organic and inorganic components are rapidly growing as a very attractive alternative class of nanoscale molecular materials.
Traditional metal-organic materials are a fascinating family of solids created from the supramolecular association of inorganic, such as metal ions and metal-organic or inorganic clusters, and organic building blocks, including organic molecules, biomolecules and organic polymers. These bulk materials, in which both type of building blocks are assembled through metal coordination, hydrogen bonding, electrostatic interactions or p-p stacking, have the potential to be tailored to show adjustable structures, compositions and properties. As a consequence, they show promise for an impressive number of applications ranging from gas storage, sensing, catalysis, ion exchange and separation to drug-delivery and diagnostics. However, metal-organic materials in the form of traditional bulk crystalline materials do not always fulfill all specific needs for these applications. Depending upon the intended application, these materials require to be not only fabricated as bulk crystalline solids, but also miniaturized at the nanometer length scale and immobilized at specific locations on surfaces.
In this talk, I will describe our recent advances done on the synthesis, growth and nanostructuration of this particular novel class of metal-organic nanomaterials, their potential properties and applications, and illustrate some of their future expectations. For example, we will show how nanoscopic dimensions provide metal-organic materials of sufficiently small sizes and excellent characteristics for their use as novel drug-delivery systems, contrast agents and encapsulating systems. In addition, the recent use of biomolecules as bridging bio-related ligands to develop a novel family of metal-biomolecule nanostructures will be presented. In a second part of the talk, I will describe how nanolithographic techniques, such as Dip-Pen Nanolithography, can be used for controlling the deposition of molecular materials and biomolecules on surfaces. Such control opens new avenues for opportunities for biomedical research that cannot be addressed with microarrays or bulk systems.