Molecules and Materials

Molecules and Materials

Our world is a work in progress

Explore our research

Researchers from a range of disciplines are working together to improve the quality of millions of lives, while protecting our planet. They are using cutting-edge technology to make manufacturing more efficient and to reduce the environmental impact of mining valuable metals. Meanwhile, researchers from molecular and cell biology are working with chemistry colleagues to develop new approaches to medicine.

A deeper dive into our materials and molecules research

The UK has historically had lower productivity than many of our competitors.

Our researchers analyse data and use Artificial Intelligence to identify both the underlying causes of that ‘productivity gap’ and potential solutions. They are developing new engineering components and devices to improve efficiency in manufacturing.

Academics at Leicester are also applying their expert knowledge in geological research to reduce the environmental impact of mining.

The world is entering a new age for metals and minerals – driven by the need to end our dependence on carbon-based energy. However, other raw materials are increasingly being mined for use in the solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and energy-efficient lighting needed to achieve that goal.

Our geologists have worked with colleagues from chemistry to study ore deposits around the world. They have identified mineral deposits that could reduce the overall environmental impact of mining.

The waste mountains around mining sites often contain large amounts of the metal being mined – or other metals. Our researchers have shown that it is possible for mining companies to extract several metals from one site – reducing the total number of mines needed to supply global demand. Their goal is to ‘design waste out of the system’ by recycling the waste material.

Our researchers are also addressing the devastating impact of oil leaks into our oceans. They work with industry and academic partners globally to reduce the millions of barrels of oil spilled into the sea each year through cracks in pipelines and deep-sea mining platforms.

Researchers took their understanding of the welding process to a microscopic level, analysing the crystal structures created when two metals are fused together. Their analysis and the use of alternative materials produced new techniques that are more resilient and less prone to failure.


Researchers in chemistry and biology are increasingly working together to improve our understanding of the human body – and identify potential treatments for disease.

Researchers from the Leicester Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology study the molecules that cause health and disease. This work increases our understanding of how life works. It also aims to identify potential new drugs and ensures they reach the patient more quickly.

Leicester has a long history of using structural biology to improve drug discovery. The institute includes experts engaged in work that could ultimately lead to new treatments, securing support from pharma companies and other funders. Glaxo Smith Kline has awarded funding to researchers developing molecules targeting lymphocytic leukaemia, which reflects one of the institute’s four inter-related research themes: structure-based drug discovery and design.

Our researchers use chemistry to develop probes and tools to explore biological systems – providing a ‘chemical view’ of human biology.

Our experts explore the biological role of formaldehyde, a natural but little-studied product of several important biological reactions in cells, along with exploring the therapeutic role of chemicals that stabilise protective protein-protein interactions.

The institute’s other two research themes are ‘Understanding the structure and mechanism of macromolecular complexes’ and ‘Using single molecule techniques to understand complex and dynamic biological processes.’

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