Science and Engineering

Nanotechnology and molecular science



Our researchers work on various aspects of materials synthesis and characterisation.

We are currently exploring the applications of these novel materials in:

  • energy storage
  • nanomedicine
  • photocatalysis
  • environmental remediation
  • molecular switches
  • components for next generation computing.

We also have researchers who analyse the surfaces, chemical composition, physical morphology, electronic and optical properties of materials. They also examine the characteristics of environmental pollutants and their impacts on human health and the environment.


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.


Discipline leader
Professor Godwin Ayoko
Professor Leonie Barner
Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik
Professor Stephen Blanksby
Professor Steven Bottle
Professor Lidia Morawska
Professor Ken Ostrikov
Professor Zoran Ristovski
Professor Cheng Yan
Professor Huai Yong Zhu
Emeritus Professor Graeme George
Associate professors
Associate Professor Tim Dargaville
Associate Professor Esa Jaatinen
Associate Professor John McMurtrie
Associate Professor Kathryn Fairfull-Smith
Associate Professor Prashant Sonar
Associate Professor Eric Waclawik
Senior lecturers
Dr James Blinco
Dr Dennis De Pellegrin
Dr Emad Kiriakous
Dr Bill Lott
Dr Wayde Martens
Dr Kathleen Mullen
Dr Ziqi Sun
Dr Tuquabo Tesfamichael
Dr Jingsan Xu
Dr Branka Miljevic
Dr Graham Johnson
Associate lecturers
Dr Nathan Boase
Principal research fellows
Professor Nunzio Motta
Senior research fellows
Dr Ting Liao
Dr Jennifer MacLeod
Dr Aaron Micallef
Dr Yunfei Xi
Postdoctoral fellows
Dr Kye Masters
Dr Svetlana Stevanovic
Mr Timothy Van der Laan
Research fellows
Dr Tomasz Blach
Dr John Colwell
Dr Congrong He
Dr Rohan Jayaratne
Dr Melissa Nikolic
Dr Berwyck Poad
Dr Mahnaz Shafiei
Dr Phong Thai
Visiting fellows
Dr Mandana Mazaheri
Mr Michael Murphy
Dr Madeline Schultz
Dr Kristy Vernon
Facilities coordinators
Dr Llew Rintoul
Dr Mark Wellard
Research associates/officers
Dr Joseph Fernando
Dr Katarzyna Futrega
Dr Josh Lipton-Duffin
Dr Sean Powell
Adjunct professors
Adjunct Professor Peter Fredericks
Emeritus Professor Ray Frost
Adjunct Professor Tunga Salthammer
Adjunct associate professors
Adjunct Associate Professor John Bartley


The Category 1 funded research projects we are currently leading are:

Soft materials containing hierarchy via 3D sacrificial micro-moulding

Project leader
Associate Professor Tim Dargaville
Project summary

The project seeks to develop sophisticated new polymeric materials and devices not possible using current manufacturing techniques. The project will focus on the development of a 3D moulding process for generating soft materials containing precise channels decorated with defined molecules. Intended outcomes include a fundamental understanding of the 3D moulding process, new polymers and advanced tools for bioengineers for future applications such as tissue transplants, cell guides for treating spinal cord injuries, soft robotics, and microfluidic devices to study cancer metastasis.

Establishing advanced networks for air quality sensing and analyses

Project leader
Professor Lidia Morawska
Project summary

This project aims to develop innovative, cost-effective, high-resolution air quality networks. Recent developments in sensor technologies improve the ability to harvest atmospheric data. This project will develop, validate and implement methods for high sensitivity atmospheric sensing and apply cutting-edge statistical and analytic techniques to the data sets, unprecedented in scope and resolution. Outcomes include an open access database to quantify and visualise intra-urban air pollution and human exposure and develop air quality maps and smoke pollution management tools.

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.

A new strategy to enhance the performance of metal catalysts with sunlight

Project leader
Professor Huai Yong Zhu
Project summary

This project aims to develop photocatalysis of supported metal nanoparticles to drive various chemical synthesis reactions at moderate temperatures using sunlight. The nanostructures of plasmonic metals (gold, silver and copper) are used as light absorbers to concentrate the energy of incident light and generate intense electromagnetic field, which are utilised to promote the catalytic reactions on transition metals in the photocatalysts. The mechanisms of these new photocatalytic processes will be defined.

Successful completion of this project will result in new strategies for catalytic chemical synthesis and valuable knowledge within the areas of catalysis, conversion of solar energy to chemical energy, and nanomaterials.

Nitroxide-containing scaffolds for controlling biofilm-related infections

Project leader
Dr Kathryn Fairfull-Smith
Project summary

Bacterial biofilms are a major problem in healthcare systems around the world as they cause persistent and chronic infections, including those associated with medical implants and cystic fibrosis. This project aims to develop new chemical approaches to deliver nitroxides at surface interfaces and in microparticles to facilitate long term control over biofilm growth.

It is expected that these functionalised scaffolds will represent a breakthrough in the field and will have a profound impact by reducing infection rates associated with medical devices and improving airway clearance in cystic fibrosis patients.

Characterization 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.

Great Barrier Reef as a significant source of climatically relevant aerosol particles

Project leader
Professor Zoran Ristovski
Project summary

Every cloud drop is formed from a microscopic aerosol particle, known as a cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). In unpolluted environments the CCN particles originate from biogenic sources. Determining the magnitude and driving factors of biogenic aerosol production in different ecosystems is crucial to the development and improvement of climate models.

This project aims to determine the mechanisms of new particle production from one of the biggest ecosystems in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef. It is expected that the project will establish whether marine aerosol along the Queensland coast is coral-derived and show that this aerosol can affect the CCN concentration and therefore cloud formation and the hydrological cycle.

Revolutionising protection against air pollution

Project leader
Professor Lidia Morawska
Project summary

This interdisciplinary project aims to develop a personalised air pollution exposure monitoring system, leveraging the ubiquitousness and advancements in mobile phone technology and state of the art miniaturisation of monitoring sensors, data transmission and analysis. Airborne pollution is one of the top contemporary risks faced by humans; however, at present individuals have no way to recognise that they are at risk or need to protect themselves.

It is expected that the outcome will empower individuals to control and minimise their own exposures. This is expected to lead to significant national socioeconomic benefits and bring global advancement in acquiring and utilising environmental information.

Fighting slime with free radicals - new surface coatings for biofilm remediation

Project leader
Dr Kathryn Fairfull-Smith
Project summary

Bacterial biofilms are a major problem in a number of environmental, industrial and medical applications. They cause significant risks to human health and present an enormous economic burden to society. This project aims to develop smart polymeric coatings that will discourage bacterial attachment and ensure greater long term control over biofilm growth.

These coatings represent a breakthrough in the field and will have a profound impact in many areas, including reducing infections related to medical implants and improving the efficiency of marine engineering systems.

Permanent concentration gradients captured in molecular and framework co-crystals

Project leader
Associate Professor John McMurtrie
Project summary

This project aims to design, synthesise and characterise molecular and framework co-crystals in which the molecular components are arranged in permanent concentration gradients. Synthetic crystals of this type are unprecedented. The concentration gradient has significant implications for the physical properties of the crystals (for example, optical, magnetic and electronic) as these must also vary in concert with the changing local molecular composition.

These co- crystals promise unique magnetic and optical properties that will influence design of new smart solid-state materials with potential for use in future high-technology applications.

Dyes and pigments as building blocks for novel high performance organic semiconductors

Project leader
Associate Professor Prashant Sonar
Project summary

Natural dyes and pigments are well known for their bright colours, photochemical and thermal stability, and cheap cost. Recently, the necessity of high performing materials in the organic electronics has stimulated a renaissance of these historical molecules and their subsequent derivatives into new families of p-conjugated building blocks used to construct new donor-acceptor semiconductors.

The aim of this project is to explore various novel dyes, pigments and their derivatives for constructing outstanding materials for future organic electronics.

Nanoscale control of energy and matter for future energy-efficient technologies

Project leader
Professor Kostya (Ken) Ostrikov
Project summary
Unprecedented control of energy and matter in nanoscale fabrication will be achieved using non-equilibrium self-organised plasma-solid systems. The outcomes will lead to energy-efficient, environment- and human-health-friendly production of nanomaterials for future energy, health, information, food, water, environmental and security technologies.

Holistic evaluation of diesel exhaust filters and related measuring instrumentation

Project leader
Professor Zoran Ristovski
Project summary
The proposed project will determine how well current and new type diesel exhaust filters deal with ultra-fine (sub 100 nanometre sized) particles which are currently not measured in many mining related DPM studies. At the same time it will assess the applicability of possible measurement instruments to the testing of filters and equipment in working conditions at a mine site.

Interdisciplinary and inter-institution projects

Some of the projects we are contributing to with other disciplines and institutions are:

  • Customer responsive risk-managed network planning, 2014-2017
  • A novel multiscale modelling technique to explore mechanical deformation of nanowires in high-performance devices, 2013-2015
  • From innovators to mainstream market: a toolkit for transforming Australian housing and maximising sustainability outcomes for stakeholders, 2013-2016.

Student topics

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
  • Masters by research
  • Research project (part of masters by coursework or undergraduate project unit).

Nanotechnology (including materials engineering)

Our discipline supports a range of projects covering the chemistry, physics and mechanical engineering aspects of materials, encompassing all materials scales. A snapshot of our research activity includes:


  • carbon nanotubes
  • conductive polymers
  • graphene
  • inorganic materials
  • layered, porous and mesoporous materials
  • perovskites
  • semiconductors.

Modelling and characterisation

  • nanocomposites
  • plasmonics
  • nonlinear optics.

Advanced analysis techniques

  • electron microscopy
  • optical physics, including single-particle spectroscopy
  • Surface science (SPM, XPS)
  • tribology.

Research applications include catalysis, gas sensing, nonlinear optics, photocatalysis, plasmonics, nanomechanics, solar energy materials and solar cells.

Find a supervisor in this research theme:

Molecular Science

Researchers in our discipline conduct research across many fields of molecular science, including:

  • free-radical chemistry
  • molecular crystals
  • polymer chemistry
  • organic electronics
  • synthetic metals
  • supramolecular chemistry
  • traditional organic chemistry
  • natural product synthesis.

Areas of research strength include nitroxide free radical chemistry in materials science, as antioxidants, as surface modifying agents and probes to assess damage in polymers and living tissues.

Find a supervisor in this research theme:

Air quality and health, new detection methods and environmental remediation

Our discipline hosts the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH), which offers opportunities for research in the complex, interdisciplinary field of air quality and its impact on human health, with a specific focus on ultrafine and nanoparticles.

Current topics include:

  • application of mobile phone technologies for health risk assessments
  • airborne infection spread
  • effect of environmental ions and charged particles on human health
  • diesel exhaust emissions
  • analysis of personal exposure to ultrafine particles
  • effect of biofuels on urban air quality
  • source apportionment of air pollutants.

Our research extends to protein, cholesterol and lipid analysis, and also clinical diagnosis and forensic analysis, including the use of nanomaterials and nanostructured surfaces for the selective and rapid detection of toxins, doping agents, illicit substances, energetic materials, environmental pollutants, bio-active molecules and pathogens.

The development and application of new detection methods involve techniques such as:

  • Raman spectroscopy
  • surface enhanced Raman scattering
  • electrochemistry
  • chromatography
  • mass spectrometry
  • atomic spectroscopy
  • nuclear magnetic resonance and magnetic resonance imaging.

Environmental remediation using nanomaterials, composite materials and modified natural clay minerals is being actively investigated by our researchers. This involves the development of natural materials-based nanocomposite materials, organoclay materials and optimization for water contaminants remediation.

Find a supervisor in this research theme:


Some of our industry and community partners include:


Australian tertiary institutions

Our researchers collaborate with staff from many Australian universities, especially:

Research institutes




Asia and Oceania


School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering

  • Level 7, O Block, Room 703
    Gardens Point