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Research in Materials Chemistry

Materials chemistry is a broad topic and the School of Chemistry materials research section are involved in a variety of blue-sky and translational research programmes. These include investigating self-assembly and crystal engineering processes to photovoltaic solar cells, organic electronics and photonics. Magnetic properties and biocompatible polymers are also being investigated. Some details are below:

Inorganic materials (Prof. M.A. Beckett)

Research involving the synthesis and characterization of novel polyborate compounds with potential applications as precursors to porous borate materials for hydrogen storage is being explored. The synthesis and characterization of organic cation (i.e non-metal cation, NMC) containing ionic borate species is being investigated with the aim of exploring their solid-state structures and investigating structure directing effects through cation-anion interactions. The synthesis and characterization of supramolecular pentaborate materials with well-defined channels and pores are being explored, as potential sorbents, catalysts, ion exchangers, and materials for H2 storage. Polyborate compounds with novel structural features are being prepared - the synthesis and characterization of polyborate salts containing cationic transition-metal complexes is also being investigated. Transition-metal coordination compounds as cations have been chosen because of their steric bulk, high charge, and their abilty to form many H-bonds donor interactions with groups in their second coordination shell. The aim of this work is to investigate their structure directing effects and to engineer novel polyborate anions. Some of these crystalline materials display interesting SHG non-linear optical properties, and these properties are being studied.

Novel Magnetic Materials (Dr Leigh F. Jones)

Research within our group focuses on developing synthetic methodologies towards novel magnetic materials, which include polymetallic cages (i.e. Single-Molecule Magnets and Magnetic Coolants) and coordination polymers / Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs). Applications lie in the fields of information storage, quantum computing and molecular spintronics. We are also interested in the modification of magnetic molecules by modulating their second-sphere coordination and supramolecular behaviour towards further architecture growth in a controlled manner.

Bio-materials Chemistry (Dr Hongyun Tai)

Research concerns the synthesis, functionalization and engineering of polymeric materials for a variety of applications. A wide range of polymerisation and functionalization methods are used, including ring opening polymerisation, condensation polymerisation, living controlled free radical polymerisations (e.g. atom transfer free radical polymerisation (ATRP) and reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerisation (RAFT), click chemistry and bioconjugate techniques.
Polymers with rational designed and engineered chemical composition, functionality and topologies are highly desirable, in particular for biological and biomedical applications, such as drug delivery, tissue engineering, sensing, imaging and diagnostics. We have synthesized stimuli responsive hyperbranched polymers as injectable hydrogels materials for tissue engineering and drug delivery, also developed photocrosslinkable polymer materials from renewable resources (i.e. polysaccharides and plant oils). Studies on degradable properties of polymers and polymer blends for packaging applications, e.g. PLA and starch, are also undergoing. Collaborations in these areas include the University of Nottingham (UK), the University of Washington (USA), Utrecht University (the Netherland) and University College Dublin (Ireland).

Research in Solid-state Materials Chemistry (Dr John Thomas)

Research is concerned with solid state chemistry including: synthesis and assembly of nanoparticles, charge transport in films of nanocrystals, interfacial phenomena and self-assembly. He is particularly interested in nanocrystalline architectures for energy generation applications.