Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme


Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Chemistry and Physics

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Innovation)
Division / Faculty
Division of Research and Innovation
Dr Anja Goldmann
Senior Strategic Research Advisor
Division / Faculty
Division of Research and Innovation


Nature is an expert at developing high-performance materials which combine properties like high toughness, stiffness, and low weight.

Some well-known examples include:

  • wood
  • bone
  • spider silk.

In this project we aim to mimic the structure and properties of another, less known natural high-performance material: nacre.

Additionally, we want to introduce a light-adaptive control mechanism. This will enable a controlled transformation of physical and mechanical properties in real-time.

To achieve adaptable properties, a control mechanism on the molecular level is required, featuring several distinct functional plateaus.

It is proposed to exploit a reversible covalent bonding technique in the form of Diels-Alder (DA) couples.

Different DA couples show different thermal plateaus and can be distinctly manipulated by using a photothermal converter.

This molecular control will be embedded into polymer structures, further developed into hydrogels until finally introducing these control mechanisms into a nanocomposite.

Research activities

In this research project, you'll be involved with:

  • organic synthesis
  • macromolecular synthesis
  • photochemistry
  • soft matter materials science
  • advanced functional materials.

You’ll be working with Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik as part of your research. Professor Barner-Kowollik is an ARC Laurette Fellow and a member of QUT’s Centre for Materials Science and School of Chemistry and Physics.


Since this topic spans through several levels of chemistry, you'll learn the ins and outs of chemical synthesis and analytics employed on a molecular to a polymer level, up to a colloidal and finally a functional materials level.

Skills and experience

To be considered for this project, you should demonstrate strong skills in organic synthesis as well as a strong interest in:

  • soft matter materials science
  • advanced manufacturing
  • multidisciplinary work between physics, chemistry and biology.

You must also be willing to collaborate internationally.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.