School of Chemical Sciences

Physical and Materials Chemistry

Key Staff Involved

Professor Ralph Cooney

Ralph Cooney

Professor Cooney was lead author of the proposals and is Director/Deputy Director of two MSI funded programmes:

Hybrid Anti-microbial Polymers: This interdisciplinary programme bridging Chemistry and Microbiology which involves 25 academics, postdoctoral fellows and PhD students is based on the discovery of a new family of antimicrobial conducting polymers which has generated considerable industrial interest and attracted significant co-funding. The new agents are being developed as commercial products in the packaging, coatings, filtration and wound dressing industries. See for further details.

The Materials Accelerator: This multi-materials interdisciplinary programme bridging Engineering and Science is hosted by the UA and involves a large network of research centres and applied researchers working on metals, composites, polymers, conducting polymers, prototyping and materials analysis. It has developed several Technology Platforms so far including Aerospace, Construction, Air quality, Agricultural Technology and Coatings each with innovative lead companies.  See for details.


Mr Neil Raymond Edmonds

Neil Edmonds

Neil Edmond's group focuses on formulation, processing, characterisation and performance measurements of thermoplastic and network polymers, composites, coatings, inks and adhesives.

This includes

  • Reactive compounding of polymers
  • Synthesis of emulsion polymers, crosslinking processes
  • Nanomaterials, membranes. Surface modification of polymers
  • Thin films. Development of antireflective coatings
  • Geopolymers, hybrid materials.
  • Biopolymers and biocomposites. Degradation behaviour
  • Timber treatment.
  • Development of novel binder systems for composite materials

Dr Jianyong Jin


The main research focus of Dr Jin's group is to discover new functional polymeric materials through advanced polymer architectures design and versatile organic chemistry approaches.

In his past six years industry career in the United States (2005-2011), he was involved in several areas, including fluoropolymers for passive and active optics, low cost proton exchange membrane for hydrogen fuel cell, gas separation membrane and nanocrystals composites.

Specific interests

·       Novel fluorinated polymer synthesis

·       Novel step growth polymer synthesis

·       Novel high performace thermoplastics synthesis

·       Novel polymer carrying biological functions



Professor James Metson


Surface and Materials Science

  • Metal oxides, hydroxides and nitrides in catalysis, semiconductor materials,absorbents and refractories.
  • Synchrotron radiation and applications in surface and materials science.
  • Alumina microstructure and the impacts of alumina properties in aluminium reduction technology.
  • Silicon carbide based refractories for aluminium reduction technology  

Aluminium oxides are being studied particularly in relation to thermal effects on microstructure and how these develop during calcination. This is of particular importance in the use of aluminas in catalysis and as absorbents. The work is carried out in collaboration with several external sponsors.

Mixed transitional metal oxides and oxynitrides are being investigated in terms of their electronic and magnetic properties.  Metal/metal oxide nanoparticles grown within oxide layers are being investigated in terms of their formation mechanism and magnetic sensing capabilities.

Silicon Nitride bonded and Silicon carbide bonded silicon carbide refractories are being developed as next generation refractories for the sidewalls of molten salt electrolysis cells.  These materials show very good performance in terms of resistance to corrosion and gas attack, but higher density, lower porosity materials are key to life extension.   Novel infiltration and densification technologies are being examined.


Associate Professor Cather Simpson


Cather Simpson studies fast (femtoseconds to nanoseconds) photochemistry and photophysics of molecules in the condensed phase. Her interest in understanding and influencing the redistribution of energy within a collection of bound atoms makes her joint appointment in the School of Chemical Sciences and the Department of Physics a natural one.

Research projects include the design and testing of molecular dragons, molecules that can focus the intermolecular flow of excess vibrational energy to generate very local changes in molecular "temperature". These systems, based upon heme and phthalocyanine platforms, have potential applications as cancer therapeutic agents.

Unraveling the chemical physics of a -P=P- based chemical cousin of the very useful photonic switch molecules stilbene (C=C) and azobenzene (N=N) is another major focus of research in her laser lab. These molecules are designed to extend functional polymer capabilities, particularly in the areas of conducting and light-responsive chains. The project has strong collaborative ties to with synthetic chemistry experts in the USA. With its state-of-the-art ultrafast spectroscopy and high-level quantum chemistry computational aspects, this project exemplifies the synergy between experiment and theory in modern chemical physics.


Associate Professor Jadranka Travas-Sejdic


Prof  Travas-Sejdic's current research is the field of advanced polymeric materials, particularly those based on conducting polymers, and their application in health and bioelectronics, and polymer electronics devices.

Current projects

Currently, a number of projects on conducting polymers run, in collaboration with the research groups from Chemistry Department, School of Medicine and Engineering (“Polymer Electronics Research Group”). The projects include

  • Developing of novel gene sensors based on conducting polymers
  • Conducting polymers-based actuators
  • Conducting polymer self-assembled nanostructures
  • Poly(p-phenyl vinylene) based electroluminescent polymers
  • Spectroscopy, EPR and NMR studies on polyaniline

Dr Geoffrey Waterhouse


Dr Geoffrey Waterhouse research interests are diverse and multidisciplinary, spread across the fields of Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Biology, Nanotechnology and Food Science. Current research is focused in 4 main areas:


  1. The development of efficient supported noble metal nanoparticle catalysts for hydrogen production from renewable sources, pollution abatement and industrial chemical synthesis.
  2. The fabrication and characterisation of smart optical coatings, and in particular photonic crystal thin film coatings, for optical (sensors), optoelectronic (waveguides, solar cells), catalytic and antifouling applications.
  3. The structure, electronic and optical properties of perovskite-type oxynitrides, and the applications of these materials as ecologically friendly pigments and visible-light driven photocatalysts.
  4. The advancement and utilisation of synchrotron techniques (XPS, XANES, XRD, IR) and in-situ spectroscopic techniques (in particular surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) for studying chemical reactions at the surface of solids.

A central theme of my research is exploration of the fundamental relationships between the chemical, physico-chemical, structural, electronic and optical properties of solids and their function. Most of my projects involve active collaborations with researchers abroad and investigators of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.


Professor David E Williams

Work in the Professor David E Williams group is centered on 
  • Electrochemistry and corrosion science (awarded the Geoffrey Barker Medal in
                  Electrochemistry, Royal Society of Chemistry)
  • Semiconducting oxides as gas sensors (awarded the John Jeyes Medal and
                   Lectureship of the Royal Society of Chemistry)

Biomolecules at interfaces: studies of adsorption of enzymes and antibodies, and relationship between adsorbed conformation and activity


Dr Duncan McGillivray


Dr Duncan McGillivray's research involves looking at the surface structures of biological systems using surface sensitive methods, particularly neutron and X-ray scattering. The recent commissioning of the OPAL research nuclear reactor in Sydney, and the opening of the Australian Synchrotron X-ray source in Melbourne, provide world-class facilities within My research involves looking at the surface structures of biological systems using surface sensitive methods, particularly neutron and X-ray scattering. The recent commissioning of the OPAL research nuclear reactor in Sydney, and the opening of the Australian Synchrotron X-ray source in Melbourne, provide world-class facilities within


Dr Geoff Willmott

Geoff willmott

Dr Geoff Willmott’s research involves developments in the fields of dynamic microfluidics, and nanofluidics.

  • Geoff runs a dynamic microfluidics laboratory with high-speed photography. This enables the study of interactions between moving liquids drops and interesting surfaces. For example, projects are available to study interfacial slip, superhydrophobicity, and capillary tubes.
  • In nanofluidics, Geoff has a general interest in nanofluidic transport – the motion of liquids (and particles within them) on very small scales. More specifically, he works extensively on nanopore-based sensing, interactions between nanopipettes and soft matter systems, and the dynamics and aggregation of interesting colloids.

These areas involve the application of chemistry and physics to both fundamental and practical problems, and have rich potential for applications in medicine, sensing, biotechnology and industry. Geoff is based within the Department of Physics in addition to SCS.