nano - interfaces

Research in my group focuses on phenomena that occur when liquids are confined on the nano- and micro- scales. We conduct experiments in a wide range of fields, including: functional coatings, interfacial slip, superhydrophobic surfaces and nano-patterned coatings. We are interested in understanding fundamental physico-chemical mechanisms, and also in their application in bio- and nano-technology. Most of our research is multi-disciplinary, spanning the traditional disciplines of chemistry, physics, materials science and chemical engineering. A broad range of surface characterisation techniques is employed, including atomic force microscopy (AFM), optical microscopy, neutron and X-ray reflectometry, ellipsometry, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and contact angle goniometry. Research projects are available in the following general areas.

Project 1

Functional coatings for water capture

This project addresses the development of new micro-patterned surfaces that can collect water from humid atmosphere. The surfaces are patterned using thin liquid film dewetting, which leads to the formation of isolated hydrophilic droplets on a hydrophobic background. The produced patterns collect water by condensation and facilitate droplet roll-off. So far we have achieved collection rates of the order of 10 L/hour/square meter of surface. Future research could lead to the use of these coatings in the real-world, to provide decentralised and convenient water collection means to solve water shortage problems in our cities. For a video illustrating the principle visit



Project 2

Slip at nanoparticles

This project addresses the fundamental problem of interfacial slip and aims at identifying the nano-scale interfacial properties that make surfaces slippery. Problems of profound importance in pure and applied surface science will be addressed, and its results will dramatically affect many other research fields, such as microfluidics, confined biological systems, and colloidal stability. This project consists in measuring the diffusion of nanoparticles in a liquid by using high-resolution nanoparticle characterisation techniques, such as light scattering. This will be done in collaboration with the National Measurements Institute in Lindfield, where nanoparticles standards are defined in Australia. We will evaluate the ability of different surface treatments to enhance the interfacial slip of liquids.


Project 3

Superhydrophobic surfaces

Water repellence is important in many technological applications, such as self-cleaning surfaces and microfluidic devices. The hydrophobicity of a surface can be enhanced by a chemical and topographical modification, which leads to an increase in the contact angle of a water drop, with values reaching the theoretical maximum of 180 degrees. We develop new approaches for the fabrication of superhydrophobic surfaces, and we investigate their potential applications. In this project we will design novel superhydrophobic coatings and test their performance as robust self-cleaning coatings. For a video illustrating the principle visit



Project 4

Nano-patterns in thin copolymer films

In order to construct devices on the nano- and micro-scale we need to be able to make patterns on these scales, and what best way to do it than by self-assembly. We address this objective by studying films of copolymers where the two blocks are incompatible and spontaneously ‘phase-separate’ in domains which are regular and ordered on the nano-scale, due to the incompatibility of its constituent blocks.



Please feel free to come and talk to me and members of my group for further information.

Dr Chiara Neto

Room 349

School of Chemistry

Eastern Avenue

University of Sydney NSW 2006

Phone: +61 2 9351 2752