At Curtin, chemical scientists are working in the areas of electrochemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, catalysis, materials and nanotechnology, as well as across the Fuels and Energy Technology Institute, Curtin Institute for Data Science, and The Institute for Geoscience Research, to solve energy problems, address environmental problems and develop new technologies.
Some of our scientists are creating ‘clean electricity’ by replacing extreme heat with electrical currents to turn silica into silicon – at a reduced economic and environmental cost. Others have explained the enigmatic phenomenon of static electricity and why it occurs, offering potential benefits to the mining, electronics and printing industries.
We’re developing sensors that protect houses from environmental pollution, and we’ve discovered how tiny nanocrystals can be manipulated to produce high-quality pictures and lighting in electronic devices.
Our scientists are developing a new generation of sensors for hazardous gases and explosives that are smaller, cheaper and more robust than the sensors currently on the market.
The tiny sensors can detect any exposure to toxic substances found in materials like paint and fuel and in industries such as mining. The results will inform designs for electrolytes and other smart materials in sensors, which could be used by people around the world to assess the air quality in their towns and cities.
- School of Molecular and Life Sciences
- Curtin scientists recognised for leading astronomy and chemistry research
Curtin University-led research has shown the formation of bubbles on electrodes – usually thought to be a hindrance – can be beneficial, with deliberately added bubbles, or oil droplets, able to accelerate processes such as the removal of pollutants such as hydrocarbons from contaminated water and the production of chlorine.
Our research team used fluorescence microscopy, electrochemistry and multi-scale modelling, to show that in the vicinity of where bubbles stick to an electrode surface, valuable chemical reactions can occur under conditions where normally such reactions would be considered impossible.
Researchers from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences have uncovered a new method of making silicon – a substance found commonly in electronics such as phones, cameras and computers – by using electrochemical reactions to convert clean electricity directly into chemical energy to strip the oxygen from the silica.
Their new silicon-based molecular circuits were made without chemical initiators, heating or high pressure and could potentially lead to the creation of electronic devices that are smaller, smarter and more energy efficient.
Curtin scientists have also explained the long-misunderstood phenomenon of static electricity and why it occurs. The research paves the way for a design of plastic materials where electrification upon contact can be either maximised or prevented such as in pipes transporting flammable hydrocarbons where charging and sparks are unwanted; in nanotechnology and in the design of laser printer toners.
Ranked above world standard for more than a decade in this area, today our scientists are working on the frontiers of synthetic chemistry and photophysics to develop advanced luminescent materials for the next generation of diagnostic and therapeutic imaging.
Having had early success producing efficient NIR emission – a rapidly emerging area set to advance OLED technologies, night-vision devices, fibre optics and other industries – the team is now developing a new metal-based, non-toxic compound for staining lipids in live cells. Revealing the presence of lipids – and the target molecules they bind with – informs our understanding of metabolic disorders and obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, immune disorders, heart diseases and cancers.
Our scientists have discovered tiny ‘greener’ nanocrystals that can be manipulated to produce high-quality pictures and lighting in electronic devices. The new form of nanocrystal was created by using a wet-chemical, ‘bottom-up’ method, in which chemicals in their ionic phase react in a solvent in the presence of organic ligands such as amine.
Due to their unique shape and thickness, the nanocrystals can greatly improve the lighting and picture quality by generating vivid colours. This research is underpinned by a Patent Cooperation Treaty application, with the team expecting to commercalise their work.
Our research in organic geochemistry is creatively combining geological information with data on molecular fossils and their stable carbon, hydrogen and sulphur isotopic compositions to reconstruct details of microbial, fungal and floral inhabitants of modern and ancient aquatic environments, and their association with prolific source rocks for exploration.
We have also identified that organic materials such as soot from an asteroid played an important role in the significant Earth event known as ‘impact winter’, which caused the mass extinction of more than 76 per cent of species including the non-avian dinosaurs.
Professor Kliti Grice
Mass extinctions, Climate, Paleoclimate, Paleocology, Environments, Early life , Exceptional fossil preservation, Microbial communities.
Professor Mark Ogden
Lanthanide-based materials for light emitting and magnetic devices, Hydrogels – novel gelators and nanoscale assembly processes, Crystal growth control, Scale inhibition, Receptor molecules for sensors, New reagents for solvent extraction.
Professor Damien Arrigan
Analytical chemistry and its boundaries with electrochemistry, Nanopores and nanoscale electrochemistry, behaviour and detection of biological macromolecules and disease biomarkers, and the development of sensors to enhance water re-use technologies.
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