School of Chemical Sciences


Responsive Membranes / Hybrid Plastics

Contact researchers: Prof. Ralph Cooney, Assoc. Prof. Allan Easteal

Research into Responsive Membranes was an Objective on Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) NERF project which ran from 2004 to 2008, and focused upon polymer membranes that incorporated electronically conducting polymers and piezoelectric polymers. This work is being extended in the new FRST programme on Hybrid Plastics ($8 million from 2009-2014), where polymer systems with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties are being developed for applications including packaging, extending the shelf-life of products, and noise-cancelling ear-pieces for hearing aids and MP3 players. The hybrid plastics being developed will incorporate conducting polymers and nano particles into commercial plastics. Along with the FRST funding the research team has secured an additional $2 million of industry co-funding, and will also involve researchers from the Plastics Centre of Excellence and the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials.

Responsive membranes containing polyaniline


Responsive or ‘smart’ polymer materials are functional, structured systems that show selective response to external (environmental) conditions. Polyanilines are normally insoluble and infusible, but approaches have been developed to prepare polyanilines which can be blended with processable thermoplastic polymers (Dr Sudip Ray). The polymerisation of substituted anilines is also being examined to create polymers with improved solubility (Norizah Abdul Rahman - PhD) and for blending with thermoplastics to create films with low and controllable oxygen permeability (Dr Marija Gidzdavic-Nikolaidis).

Three academics who work with responsive membranes and hybrid plastics pose for a photo
Neil Edmonds, Chu Kuen and Allan Easteal

Polypyrrole-coated wollastonite/polyethylene composites


A composite of polypyrrole coated wollastonite and polyethylene (PE) has been made via suitable compatibilisers, which contain an ethylene group to link to PE and a polar methylacrylate to interact with the mildly polar polypyrrole. Polypyrrole has also been coated onto a microtubular aluminosilicate halloysite powder, and used to create multifunctional composite sheets with PE (Chu Kuen Ong - PhD).

Three researchers are shown to be working in the lab
Joy Hsu, Sui Jing and Dr Hui Peng under- taking in situ UV-vis spectroelectrochemistry

Antioxidant properties of conducting polymers


Polypyrrole and polyaniline have been found to be very effective scavengers of free radicals in the DPPH assay, and in this sense can be considered as solid antioxidant materials. The radical scavenging and mechanical properties of conducting polymers, and of blends with conventional plastics, is being evaluated using various antioxidant test procedures, enabling the preparations to be optimised (Chyong Fang Hsu - PhD). Further antioxidant assays applied widely in Food Science have been modified to determine the radical scavenging capacity of various conducting polymers (Cedric Basel - French exchange student in 2008). Blends of conducting polymer with PET are being evaluated for their suitability for use in beverage packaging (Ashveen Nand - PhD).

Professor Jadranka Travas-Sejdic with her students
VUW staff and students with Jadranka at the ICSM06 conference in Dublin

Research work at Victoria University of Wellington


PERC has had a strong link with the research group of Prof. Jim Johnston at Victoria University of Wellington. The focus of collaborative projects has been upon hybrid materials between the conducting polymers polypyrrole and polyaniline with nano-structured calcium silicate, kaolinite clay, cellulose and wool fibres and silver nanoparticles. Interesting properties of the composites include their conductivity, colour effects, redox properties and anti-microbial activity through the inclusion of silver: The hybrid materials are being incorporated into plastics to impart such functionality to them. The group also focuses on the development of new hybrid materials involving the incorporation of metal oxide and sulfide nanoparticles onto the surface of natural and synthetic fibres to provide photochemical and optical functionality to them.

Recent publications


  • C.F. Hsu, H. Peng, C. Basle, J. Travas-Sejdic and P.A. Kilmartin, "ABTS scavenging activity of polypyrrole, polyaniline and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)", Polymer International (2010) in press.
  • C.F. Hsu, H. Peng, L. Zhang, J. Travas-Sejdic and P.A. Kilmartin, "Structural changes in polyaniline upon reaction with DPPH", Journal of Surface Science and Nanotechnology 7 (2009) 269-272.
  • S. Ray, A.J. Easteal, R.P. Cooney and N.R. Edmonds, "Structure and properties of melt-processed PVDF/PMMA/polyaniline blends", Materials Chemistry and Physics 113 (2009) 829-838.
  • J.H. Johnston, F.M. Kelly, K.A. Burridge and T. Borrmann, "Hybrid Materials of Conducting Polymers with Natural Fibres and Silicates", International Journal of Nanotechnology 6 (2009) 312-328.
  • A.C. Small, J.H. Johnston, "Novel hyrbid materials of magnetic nanoparticles and cellulose fibres", Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 331 (2009) 122-126.
  • C.K. Ong, S. Ray, R.P. Cooney, N.R. Edmonds and A.J. Easteal, "Preparation and characterization of composites of polyethylene with polypyrrole-coated wollastonite", Journal of Applied Polymer Science 110 (2008) 632-640.
  • X.W. Yuan, A.J. Easteal and D. Bhattacharyya, "Influence of surface treatment on hybrid wollastonite-polyethylene composite resins for rotational moulding", Journal of Materials Science 43 (2008) 6057-6063.
  • C.F. Hsu, L. Zhang, H. Peng, J. Travas-Sejdic and P.A. Kilmartin, "Scavenging of DPPH free radicals by Polypyrrole powders of varying levels of overoxidation and/or reduction", Synthetic Metals 158 (2008) 946-952.
  • C.F. Hsu, L. Zhang, H. Peng, J. Travas-Sejdic and P.A. Kilmartin, "Free radical scavenging properties of polypyrrole and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)", Current Applied Physics 8 (2008) 316-319.
  • T. Borrmann, J.H. Johnston, A.J. McFarlane, K.J.D. MacKenzie and A. Nukui, "Structural elucidation of synthetic calcium silicates", Powder Diffraction 23 (2008) 204-212.
  • F.M. Kelly, J.H. Johnston, T. Borrmann and M.J. Richardson, "Functionalised hyrbid materials of conducting polymers with individual wool fibers", Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology 8 (2008) 1965-1972.
  • A.C. Small and J.H. Johnston, "Novel Hybrid Materials of Cellulose and Doped ZnS Nanoparticles", Current Applied Physics 8 (2008) 512-515.
  • S. Ray and A.J. Easteal, "Advances in polymer-filler composites: Macro to nano", Materials and Manufacturing Processes 22 (2007) 741-749.
  • M.J. Richardson and J.H. Johnston, "Sorption and Binding of Nanocrystalline Gold by Marino Wool Fibres - an XPS Study", Journal of Colloid Interface Science 310 (2007) 425-430.
  • F.M. Kelly, J.H. Johnston, T. Borrmann and M.J. Richardson, "Functionalised hyrbid materials of conducting polymers with individual fibres of cellulose", European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry 35 (2007) 5571-5577.