Research in our group broadly seeks to develop tailor-made functional surfaces that can be used for understanding fundamental chemical processes at the molecular level. Research activities are at the intersection of materials, analytical and physical chemistry and the program offers opportunities for students and postdoctoral researchers with diverse backgrounds to perform interdisciplinary experimental research. Please check also the vacancies section for openings!
We are interested in a variety of subjects that have surfaces and interfaces as a common thread. We are currently focusing on three broad areas:
1) Understanding the chemistry of combustion particulate matter via model surfaces
It has been observed that numerous important heterogeneous reactions occur at gas-carbon and liquid-carbon interfaces on carbon micro and nanoparticles originating from combustion processes (soot). The use of model surfaces in order to understand complex heterogeneous chemistry of environmental relevance has been already applied to the study of aerosol chemistry, but suitable surfaces for simulating combustion carbonaceous aerosols (see figure) have remained elusive.
Despite the importance of combustion soot for establishing the extent to which our environment is perturbed by human activities, few studies on well defined surfaces have been utilised to investigate its chemistry. We would like to tackle this problem by developing model carbon materials whose composition, electronic structure and surface chemistry can be tailored to mimic different types of soot and then study heterogeneous reactions of environmental relevance.
2) Novel nanoparticle based materials for pollutant remediation
The area of waste management and remediation technologies is a growing field due to the increasing level of industrial activities and the mounting global awareness of its effects on the environment. Nanomaterials hold the promise of providing new improved tools for waste management and pollution minimization. There are already a large number of examples of rapid and environmentally friendly applications of nanoparticles in pollutant remediation (e.g. TiO2, iron, etc.). However, most of these examples are successful at the laboratory scale whereas one of the great challenges in this research area is the deployment of these technologies in the field.
We want to leverage fundamental knowledge of surface chemistry and materials science in order to address this issue. Some of the projects we are developing involve a combination of materials synthesis, characterisation, kinetic and transport studies in order to understand how to deliver nanomaterials to polluted zones in a targeted fashion. Ultimately, we want to obtain materials whose interfacial interactions with different media (e.g. groundwater, soils, non-aqueous phases) are understood and can consequently be controlled in order to become effective remediation agents in the real world.
3) Probing biorecognition processes with smart surfaces
We are interested in developing surface chemistries and detection approaches to understand and transduce biorecognition events.
Solid/organic interfaces that bear specific chemical functionalities can be used to both:
(a) control the presentation of small molecules to biomolecules such as proteins or nucleic acids, or to cells, in order to understand fundamental aspects of recognition events in biology (see figure);
(b) transduce a recognition event by taking advantage of the optical or electronic properties of the solid for biotechnology applications.
Please contact us if you want to know more about these projects!!!