Science and Engineering



What is nanoscience?

Nanoscience reveals and explains the novel and complex behaviour of matter spatially confined on the scale of nanometres.

Our scientists and engineers are interested in synthesising, characterising and utilising nanomaterials and fabrication and characterisation of nanoscale devices. We collaborate on projects across chemistry, physics, materials science, surface science, optics and nanomechanics, with the goal of creating a detailed understanding of how to control the structure of nanomaterials.

Our ultimate aim is to develop and advance functionalities that enable emerging technologies and address challenges faced by society.

Practical applications

Nanoscale materials have intriguing electronic, photonic and mechanical structure and properties, putting them at the forefront of applications in:

  • solar energy conversion
  • charge storage (batteries, supercapacitors)
  • sensors
  • light sources
  • biomaterials
  • superconductivity.


Examples of our major research facilities include:

Featured research

Our researchers collaborate on projects in specialised research groups and facilities across disciplines and institutions:


Our research has made significant contributions to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ratings achieved by QUT in 2015.

We received:

  • 5 (well above world standard) in materials engineering, macromolecular and materials chemistry
  • 4 (above world standard) in mechanical engineering, physical chemistry (including structural chemistry), environmental sciences, environmental science and management, optical physics and other physical sciences.

ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) evaluates the quality of research undertaken in Australian universities against national and international benchmarks.


Category 1 funded research we are currently leading:

Xe-plasma dual beam for advanced future materials

Professor Nunzio Motta, Professor Dmitri Golberg, Professor Yuantong Gu, Professor Cheng Yan, Professor Kostya (Ken) Ostrikov and external collaborators.
Project summary

This ARC Linkage infrastructure, equipment and facilities funded project aims to establish a state of the art Xe-Plasma dual-beam facility providing characterisation and fabrication capabilities to Australia’s research community. The project will use two beams - one Xe, the other electrons - to mill the surface of bulk materials which are subsequently analysed by electron or ion beam techniques to determine atomic-scale microstructure(s) and compositions.

Anticipated outcomes are advanced materials engineering and new knowledge about ancient and future materials. This is expected to provide significant advances across a variety of fields including material science, engineering and geology and enhance trans-disciplinary collaborations.

Characterisation of mechanical behaviour of lithiated silicon

Project leader
Professor Cheng Yan
Project summary

This project aims to develop novel characterisation and numerical techniques, therefore aiming to solve the problem of mechanical failure in silicon based high energy density lithium-ion batteries. This will be achieved through development of novel techniques for in situ microscopy observation, nano-mechanics testing and atomistic modeling. The expected outcomes are effective solutions for development of reliable and efficient battery systems.

This project will provide significant benefits in the development of new power sources and energy storage devices for mobile electronics, electric vehicle and sustainable energy industries.

In situ electron microscopy toward new materials and applications

Project leader
Professor Dmitri Golberg
Project summary

This project will probe fundamental mechanical, electrical, thermal, optical, optoelectronic and photovoltaic properties of diverse nanostructures, targeting novel materials for structural and green energy applications. We will use spatially-resolved, dynamic in situ transmission electron microscopy. These techniques allow for direct measurement of nanomaterial (1D nanotubes and nanowires and 2D graphene-like nanosheets) response to external mechanical, electrical, optical and thermal stimuli . This will enable design of new ultralight and superstrong structural composites and green energy nanomaterials, such as solar cells, touch panels, batteries, supercapacitors, field-effect transistors, light sensors and displays.

Plasma-enabled processes of high-quality graphen films in touch screen devices

Project leader
Professor Kostya Ostrikov
Project summary

The project aims to develop novel plasma-enabled processes for low-cost, energy-efficient, and scalable growth of high-quality graphene films for applications in touch screen, solar cell and other devices. It aims to discover non-equilibrium plasma-surface interactions enabling nucleation and growth of graphene films with large and low-defect domains on metal catalysts at low temperatures, and then develop energy-efficient, environment-friendly, and scalable fabrication and device transfer processes. These processes are designed to retain high quality of graphene films upon scale-up and will be compatible with the existing and emerging applications in touch screens and other devices.The expected outcomes include fundamental understanding and novel practical approaches to control synthesis and device integration of two-dimensional atomically-thin materials.

Reducing carbon dioxide to useful products using solar energy

Project leader
Dr Jingsan Xu
Project summary

The project aims to develop novel photocatalysts for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) to useful products using solar energy. Carbon dioxide (CO2) photoreduction is attracting growing attention because of its potential to mitigate CO2 emissions and convert the captured CO2 to chemical commodities. The project also plans to identify the photocatalytic mechanisms of the catalysts by investigating the reaction systems, such as the interface morphology, structure coherence and energy alignment of the component phases and reactant. Innovative technologies in the field of sunlight-driven photocatalysis have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Characterisation of mechanical behaviour of TiO2 nanotube thin films

Project leader
Associate Professor Cheng Yan
Project summary

Vertically aligned titanium oxide (TiO2) nanotube arrays have demonstrated remarkable properties for application in dyesensitised solar cell, photocatalysis, self-cleaning coating, purification of pollutants and orthopaedic implants. More excitingly, their architecture and dimensions can be precisely controlled using anodisation of titanium (Ti), creating considerable scientific interest and practical importance.

This project aims to develop novel techniques for determining the mechanical behaviour of TiO2 nanotube arrays and its dependence on crystal structure and geometrical parameters. The outcomes are expected to provide solutions to development of robust TiO2 and other nanotube arrays for broad applications in sustainable energy and tissue engineering.

Nanoscale electrochemical imaging of catalyst inks for water oxidation

Project leader
Associate Professor Anthony O'Mullane
Project summary
This project aims to reduce the cost of current water splitting technology by making new catalysts from earth abundant materials that will ensure a sustainable technological solution for the storage of renewable energy. This technology is an excellent solution to storing energy from intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar as it generates hydrogen which is a clean fuel.

Using new techniques that can image the catalyst at the nanoscale while it is operating is expected to provide the knowledge for developing the next generation of water splitting electrolysers that can be utilised by households and businesses for storing solar or wind energy.

Antibacterial impact assessment of nanopillar surfaces on titanium implants

Project leader
Professor Prasad Yarlagadda, Associate Professor Hongxia Wang, Dr Indira Prasadam
Project summary
This project aims to further understand the bactericidal properties of nano-pillared/textured surfaces, onto orthopaedic implants. It will do so by mimicking the nano-pillar structures derived from cicada wings by using Helium ion microscopy (HIM) and also Hydro Thermal techniques. The project also aims to study the physical mechanisms of the fracture of bacteria using numerical modelling.

This project will result in new generation implants with minimal bacterial infection that could result in cost savings to the Australian healthcare, improved quality of life in aged population, and may lead to the establishment of new implant industry sector in Australia.

Are you looking to further your career by pursuing study at a higher and more detailed level? We are currently looking for students to research a number of topics within a range of broad themes.

There are topics relevant to students who would like to pursue:

  • PhD study
  • Research masters
  • Research project (part of masters by coursework or undergraduate project unit).

Emerging materials

A range of research projects are available in experimental and computational studies of materials with properties tailored for specific emerging applications. Examples include materials with high permanent porosity (e.g. zeolites and covalent organic frameworks), high-performance boron materials, 2D materials, thin films, nanowires/nanotubes, nanocomposites and advanced materials interfaces.

For more information, contact:

Green energy

A number of our researchers are working on reliable and high performing methods to convert, store and transmit energy, including photovoltaics, batteries, supercapacitors and high temperature superconductors.

For more information, contact:

Light/matter interaction

Our nanoscience researchers are working on a number of topics in applied optics, with specific strengths in technique development for optical measurements, plasmonic nanostructures and light-emitting nanomaterials.

For more information, contact:

Plasma nanoscience

Plasmas are a versatile tool for materials synthesis and modification. We have projects available in plasma catalysis, plasmas for cleantech applications, plasma medicine and plasma nanotechnology, among other topics.

Contact Professor Ken Ostrikov for more information.

Surface science

Our projects in surface science involve using clean, crystalline surfaces as the foundation for making and studying new materials on an atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule basis.

Fore more information, contact:


School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering

  • Level 7, O Block, Room 703
    Gardens Point