Physical Science

Contact: Prof Seán Cadogan,

Research projects

Condensed Matter Physics - atomic and nuclear techniques such as neutron scattering with studies of magnetic and electronic materials, optical signal processing and storage, ionising radiation dosimetry and imaging, magnetic refrigeration. (Seán Cadogan, Hans Riesen, Heiko Timmers, Wayne Hutchison)

Synthesis Chemistry - synthesis and study of novel molecules including functionalised supramolecular structures and materials for biological, environmental, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications. (Grant Collins, Anthony Day, Lynne Wallace)

Water Quality - novel water quality and purification processes, including low cost, low energy purification processes for remote and developing communities, and the treatment of human, animal, and industrial liquid waste. (Ric Pashley)

Research undertaken by Grant Collins

The research in our group is centred upon the anticancer, antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties of ruthenium metal complexes. Although the need for new anticancer drugs is evident, there is growing worldwide concern for the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Additionally, parasitic diseases - such as malaria and schistosomiasis - continue to be the major health issues in developing countries like Africa.

In our research, we synthesise ruthenium complexes and analyse their biological properties, going from isolated target molecules, e.g. DNA, RNA and proteins, through to studies with whole cells or parasites (e.g. using the fluorescent properties of the ruthenium complexes) and finally to whole animal in vivo studies.

Projects can include: chemical synthesis; NMR studies of DNA/RNA binding; confocal microscopy and flow cytometry with live cells; pharmacokinetic analyses of the ruthenium complexes in mice; and full in vivo trials. Unfortunately, students wishing to do whole cell or in vivo trials must be prepared to spend considerable time in the tropical paradise regions of North Queensland (Cairns and Townsville - adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef) in the laboratories of our collaborators. 

Research undertaken by Heiko Timmers

Materials Physics and Nuclear Techniques

  • suite of materials characterisation techniques including SEM, AFM, XRD, tribological simulation, radioisotope tracing and probing
  • access to synchrotron beam lines and heavy ion beam facilities

Available Projects:

  • synchrotron radiation characterisation of interface and surface effects in graphene materials
  • local atomic-scale probing of defect and interface dynamics of 2D-materials and semiconductors
  • ultra-sensitive gamma-ray spectroscopy of radioactive materials with metallic magnetic calorimetry 
  • development and characterisation of smart knee prothesis materials and sensors
  • tribological studies of polymer materials for medical applications
  • ion beam modification of thin films and materials surfaces

Research undertaken by Lynne Wallace

Current projects

  • K. M. Anis-Al-Haque, Lynne Wallace: Luminescent transition metal complexes as probes for novel material environments.
  • Michael Cronin, Lubna Alrawashdeh*, Anthony Day, Lynne Wallace: Luminescent iridium(III) cyclometalated complexes: host-guest chemistry and application as sensors (Current position: Lecturer, Hashemite University, Jordan)
  • Mallesh Pandrala*, Grant Collins, Lynne Wallace: Photoactivated therapeutic agents. (*Current position: Postdoctoral fellow, Stanford University, USA)
  • Laode Al Muqarrabun, Lynne Wallace, Anthony Day: Synthesis of homomeric dimers of cucurbit[6]uril and characterisation of supramolecular properties.
  • Lynne Wallace, Anthony Day: Advanced energetic materials.

The design, synthesis and study of transition metal complexes provides a fascinating area of study, and also underpins many projects in the group, including development of: selective luminescent sensors for explosives and other target analytes; photo-active anticancer and antibacterial drugs; supramolecular materials, including novel metal-organic frameworks (MOFs); catalysts for the in-situ chemical neutralisation of peroxide-based explosives (often used in IEDs). Improved energetic materials, such as “green” explosives, are also developed and investigated in the group.

Strengths include:

  • Well-equipped laboratories, with instrumentation including spectrometers (NMR, FTIR, UV-vis, steady-state and time-resolved luminescence; circular dichroism and ORD); HPLC and GCMS systems; microwave reactor; analytical and preparative electrochemical systems.
  • The group is strengthened by several collaborations with other academics, both internal and external.
  • The research produces high-quality publications, and addresses important research aims in sensor technology, material design, anti-cancer therapy, and and counter-terrorism.

Research undertaken by Anthony Day

Supramolecular chemistry involving molecular host-guest interactions.

Supramolecular chemistry as a topic is only available in a small number of laboratories in Australia. It is a small community in Australia and NZ, a large community globally. A contemporary area of research, 2016 Nobel prize in chemistry in Supramolecular chemistry for, ‘The design and synthesis of molecular machines’.

I am the pioneer in the chemistry of cucurbituril, a globally significant family of molecules in host-guest chemistry.

Under this topic a variety of chemistry is applied.

  • Synthetic for the preparation of new derivatives of molecular hosts and the synthesis of designed molecular guests – both organic and inorganic.
  • The analytic measurement of host guest interactions involving a variety of physical chemistry techniques.
  • The preparation of new soft materials and molecular devices.
  • Applications such as drug delivery, bio- or analytical sensors, molecular machines, electronic devices, self-healing materials etc.
  • There is also considerable room for cross-discipline collaboration.

Research students:

  • Yi Zhao —‘Functionalised cucurbituril derivatives as supramolecular building blocks’
  • Wei Lu — ‘Application of cucurbit[n]uril as linkers in hydrogels and Acyclic glycoluril derivatives’
  • Asma — ‘The drug delivery potential of cucurbit[n]uril in relation to designed heterocyclic drugs and their synthesis’ The research in this area has also involved the preparation and use of gold nanoparticles stabilised with cucurbit[n]uril 
  • Haritha Bandaru — ‘Glycoluril based amphiphilic molecules as supramolecular components to drug delivery vehicles’
  • Rajni — ‘The extension of drug delivery potential using tiara[n]uril and uril-pincers’
  • Laode Al Muqarrabun — ‘Synthesis Of Homomeric Dimer Of Cucurbit[6]uril and Characterisations of its Supramolecular Properties’
  • Satyavisal Pen — ‘Derivatives of tiarauril and their interaction with bio-relevant molecules such as peptides, proteins, and saccharides’

Some Recent Past Students:

  • Wenjing Wu — ‘Synthesis of Partially Substituted Cucurbit[6-7]uril Derivatives and Binding Studies for Tuned Supramolecular Constructions’
  • Pradeep Kumar C. — ‘Exploration of new cucurbit[n]uril and a novel glycoluril based macrocycle - tiara[n]uril’
  • Vijaybabu Mandadapu — ‘Combined delivery methodologies that can increase the effectiveness of existing drugs’

Research undertaken by Seán Cadogan and Wayne Hutchison

We use a combination of atomic and nuclear techniques, mainly based around neutron scattering, Mössbauer spectroscopy and magnetic resonance, to study the magnetism and crystallography of a variety of functional materials.

The group has particular expertise in the study of compounds containing rare-earth elements. We are currently investigating compounds that show potential for applications in the field of magnetic refrigeration. We also study the Fe-bearing phases in soils, minerals and even meteorites.

The group has a suite of low temperature experimental facilities, including a dilution refrigerator capable of cooling below 10 mK. We also operate a number of Mössbauer spectrometers and a low-temperature x-ray diffractometer. Our neutron scattering work is carried out at Australia’s OPAL reactor in Sydney, about a 3-hr drive from Canberra. We also use the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne (about a 7-hr drive from Canberra).

Some Current Research students:

  • Reyner White: Studies of magnetic order in anisotropic rare earth intermetallic single crystals

    Nancy Elewa: Investigation of the crystal structure and magnetic properties of synthetic, natural and meteoritic olivines

  • Nazrul Makmor: Investigation of the influence of microstructure on the magnetocaloric effect
  • Ardita Septiani: Mossbauer and Microwave Absorption Characteristics of Cr-La-doped Co-U-type hexaferrites
  • Hatem Saad: Crystal and magnetic structures and hyperfine interactions in ternary rare-earth intermetallics

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