materials chemistry & education research
Research in my group focuses primarily on developing novel and improved ceramic materials for use in a range of technological applications. Chemistry Education research projects are designed to improve our understanding of how we best support student learning.
Sustainable energy storage (with Prof. A. Kuhn, Madrid)
Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are widely used in portable electronics and start making an impact in hybrid and electric vehicles. In order to employ rechargeable battery technology in cars on a large scale battery performance, safety and lifetime need to be improved and research to that end is carried out on a massive scale. Furthermore, producing energy through sustainable means requires cheap and efficient storage to maximise the benefits. Compounds that can reversibly insert lithium have potential to be used in rechargeable lithium ion batteries. We have a current program that looks at a range of suitable compounds from defect perosvskites to spinels and olivine type structures. Two characteristics, the availability of interstitial or defect sites for the incorporation of lithium and the presence of redox active cations are essential for potential candidates. This project’s aim is to synthesise a number of target compounds and to examine their chemical reactions with lithium as well as their chemical and electrochemical lithium intercalation behaviour. The structures of all products will be examined using X-ray and neutron diffraction at both national and overseas facilities.
Many colourful pigments that are still in use contain toxic heavy metals (e.g. PbCrO4). The search for benign replacements has been successful for yellow pigments but not so much for the orange-red part of the spectrum. Metal nitrides and oxynitrides are often coloured and some already form the basis for new pigments. Synthesising and analysing a range of new mixed metal nitrides and oxynitrides from suitable oxides, this project endeavours to develop new coloured materials suitable as pigments in a range of everyday applications.
Modulations and other challenges
Modulated structures constitute an intriguing class of materials that lack lattice periodicity (i.e. 3-D order) and yet are still perfectly long-range ordered. The full potential of these systems in terms of their applications remains to be explored. We have successfully investigated a number of systems over recent years involving lead-free piezoelectric ceramics as well as a family of transition metal borates with non-linear optical properties. The proposed projects encompass a wide range of both synthetic chemistry and characterisation techniques, in particular X-ray and neutron powder and single-crystal diffraction as well as electron microscopy using in-house equipment as well as instrumentation at major national and overseas research facilities.
Education in chemistry (with A/Prof. A. Bridgeman)
This is a time of rapid evolution of educational techniques with many exciting developments. We are experiencing a move towards ‘student centred’ education rather than ‘teacher centred’ education, along with ‘research led teaching’ and the increasing integration of information technologies into the curriculum. How do we best design on-line learning materials and how do we find out whether they do what we expect? Research projects in this area will focus on the learning context of our First Year Chemistry units. Use will be made, e.g., of student surveys and focus groups to probe relevant issues and develop an exciting and effective learning environment for First Year Chemistry students.
For further information, please contact:
School of Chemistry
University of Sydney NSW 2006
Phone: +61 2 9351 4196