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


Plastic waste reduction and management is perhaps the most critical challenge facing modern economies, and plastic pollution cannot be resolved by generic approaches to research or to problem-solving.

QUT's Soft Matter Materials Team aims to resolve the anonymity and ubiquity of plastics by pioneering a simple optical readout system that can identify the uniquely coded information in macromolecules that have been embedded in plastics.

You will be part of this dynamic team led by ARC Laureate Fellow, Christopher Barner-Kowollik, from QUT’s Centre for Materials Science and School of Chemistry and Physics.

Research activities

Your research will involve:

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


In this project, optically readable macromolecular barcodes based on a system of excimer fluorescence switch-on in uniquely coded polymers will be synthesized by photochemistry. By decrypting monomer-based codes, the unique combination will enable the readability and thus the detection and traceability of plastics.

If you chose this project, you will be one of the first researchers to give anonymous plastics their own ‘DNA’ – which may one day be readable by a simple smart phone app!

Skills and experience

You must have:

  • a strong interest in soft matter materials science and advanced manufacturing
  • strong skills in organic synthesis
  • a strong interest in multidisciplinary work between physics, chemistry and biology
  • a willingness to collaborate internationally.



Contact the supervisor for more information.