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How to explain to your grandmother

All matter surrounding us, including materials we use, food we eat as well as our own bodies consist of molecules, which themselves are composed of different atoms from the periodic table of elements. Molecules can be small or large, of simple shape or structurally complex, flat or voluminous, dense or hollow, soluble or solid. Whereas minerals are usually rather simple in composition and internal structure, biologically derived molecules, such as proteins, DNA and vitamins are more complex, both in der 3-dimensional structure as well as specific function.

3D-prints © CleverLab​/​TU Dortmund

For example, enzymes are able to manufacture („catalyze“) the formation of other complex molecules and they possess control switches and input sites for chemical fuels to regulate their activity. Over billion years of evolution, nature has brought the production and function of its building blocks to perfection. They are capable of specific recognition, information storage, signal transduction, self-repair and replication. Acting together, they can function as molecular machines with the ability to maneuver atoms and molecules on the nanometer scale (as Richard Feynman already recognized in the fifties) and produce new molecules, thus acting as microscopic factories. Structural biologists and chemists have elucidated breathtaking details about the shape and motion of the molecules forming the living world.

In the last decades, driven by an inherent curiosity, researchers started to rebuilt, mimic or in some cases even surpass natural paradigms by synthetic laboratory work. They systematically created man-made molecular structures from scratch and tested their ability to reach the structural and functional complexity of what we know from the biological world. After all, they used the same chemical elements also available to nature and built on the same physical laws. Here is where synthetic supramolecular chemistry comes into play, a dedicated branch of chemical research which aims at creating molecular assemblies with ever increasing complexity. After 1987s Nobel Prize for Host-Guest Chemistry kicked off a flourishing width of research activities, the 2016 Nobel Prize for Molecular Machines showed the impressive progress in the meantime. Nevertheless, compared with biological machines and networks, the synthetic systems available to date are still in their infancy.

Within the ERC consolidator project RAMSES (Reactivity and Assembly of Multifunctional, Stimuli-responsive Encapsulation Structures), the Clever Lab has specialized on the synthesis of hollow molecules ("cages") that are able to include smaller molecules in their interior. We use "self-assembly", a process comparable to a self-solving puzzle game where building blocks, organic molecules and metal ions with pre-programmed connectivity, form a larger structure by just shaking them together long enough for the final result to emerge. We further use a special class of chemically-modified DNA structures, called G-quadruplexes, with the ability to bind metal ions, to create bio-hybrid nano-structures. In both compound classes, we integrate functions such as switches (triggered by light or binding of a molecular input), catalytic sites (to promote chemical reactions) and many others.

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund University has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dortmund Airport (DTM) to Dortmund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dortmund Central Station, you can continue to the university campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of international flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the university station.

The facilities of TU Dortmund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Site Map of TU Dortmund University (Second Page in English).