Skip to main content

Research programs

Our current projects and outcomes

Our research programs are multidisciplinary and focus on solving some of the big issues facing humanity today. We are aiming to discover groundbreaking solutions by creating the Grand Challenge, Frontier, Catalyst and Kickstarter projects; and by incorporating expertise from disciplines across the University in a range of research programs. These are listed below. 

Grand Challenges

These flagship programs focus on bringing together reseachers from across the University to solve some of the world's largest challenges that are of a social, economic and scientific significance. The six Grand Challenge projects are: 


The Frontier scheme is designed to assess and develop one emerging technology platform in multiple applications to identify technology transfer opportunities over a diverse range of sectors.

Quantum Sensing

Chief investigator: James Rabeau

Quantum technologies have reached an inflection point in terms of technological maturity and are one step closer to being used in real world applications. Quantum sensing effectively takes advantage of the inherent weakness of all quantum systems: their sensitivity to the external environment. This project will undertake a detailed survey of the application landscape for quantum sensing, and in particular, will provide opportunities to collaborate or partner with industry/research to develop focused quantum sensing devices for real-world problems.  


The Catalyst scheme underpins Grand Challenges or encourage new ways of thinking about research. It aims to bring together researchers from Social Sciences, Design, Law and the Business School with scientist from Science, Health Sciences, Medicine and Engineering.

Engaged Innovation Scholarship for Impact

Chief Investigators: Steven Maguire, Eric Knight

This transversal program aims to bring innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and sustainability to each of the Grand Challenge projects. This includes integrative cross-cutting research from The University of Sydney Business School and is for anyone interested in studying the innovation and commercialisation of nanoscience technologies ‘in the making’ by offering the opportunity to be engaged in a multidisciplinary team.


The Kickstarter projects are precursors for Grand Challenges and must comprise of a multi-disciplinary team with researchers from across at least two Faculties, with humanitarian or environmental impact.


Chief Investigators: Mark Gillies, Wojciech Chrzanowski, Ling Zhu

This project aims to transform treatment of blindness by harnessing the combined advances in nanomedicine engineering and synthetic biology to manipulate the genetic code that enables the blind to see. Through nanotechnology, we can revolutionise the delivery of drugs to treat retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), which are leading causes of blindness.

Other current research projects being undertaken by our members: 

DNA origami nanobots

Chief investigators: Ali Abbas, Shelley Wickham

Our research focuses on designing and testing a DNA nanobot for targeted delivery of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) into cancer cells for gene silencing. Read about DNA origami nanobots.

Developing analysis methodologies for atom probe microscopy 

Chief investigator: Anna Ceguerra

This project develops new mathematical formalisms and computational algorithms to analyse the data from atom probe microscopy. Read about Developing analysis methodologies for atom probe microscopy.

Engineered quantum molecular systems

Chief investigator: Ivan Kassal

Quantum mechanics holds molecules together, but quantumness quickly fades in intermolecular process. Our aim is to convert fundamental observations about quantum coherence, disorder, and noise into principles for systematic molecular engineering. Find out more about Engineered quantum molecular systems.

Exotic solitons and quantum topological edge states

Chief investigator: Andrea Blanco Redondo

This project is about using nanophotonics to access uncharted states of light, leading to fundamental discoveries with exciting potential in applications. Find out more about Exotic solitons and quantum topological edge states.

Extracellular vesicles

Chief investigator: Georges Grau

This program of research investigates the precise role of the nanosize elements known as extracellular vescicles in immunoregulation and immunopathology, as well as their potential as biomarkers in a number of diseases. Find out more about Extracellular vesicles

Hybrid plasmonic waveguide for on-chip photonic devices

Chief investigators: Stefano Palomba, Alessandro Tuniz, Martijn de Sterke

By combining metals merely to confine light, and dielectrics as lossless waveguides, a “hybrid” device can avoid the drawbacks of traditional photonic solutions. This is the focus of our research. Find out more about Hybrid plasmonic waveguide for on-chip photonic devices

Inhaled phage therapy

Chief investigators: Kim Chan, Rachel Chang

A major interest of our group is using bacteriophages (phages) to combat bacterial infections in the lungs caused by multidrug resistant (MDR) bacteria.  Our work is focused on developing stable dry powder phage formulations and establishing PK/PD profiling as well as uncovering the phage stabilisation mechanisms. Find out more about Inhaled phage therapy.

Integrated microwave photonics

Chief investigator: Xiaoke Yi

We are delivering major breakthroughs in signal processing and sensing, which will bring about disruptive changes in fields such as communications, defence and healthcare delivery. Find out more about Integrated Microwave Photonics.

Linking fundamental to applied photonics

Chief investigator: Benjamin Eggleton

Our research group works on a wide range of programs such as but not limited to all-optical and nonlinear signal processing, mid-infrared photonics and single photon generation. Find out more about Linking fundamental to applied photonics.

Measurement and control at the nanoscale (flagship)

Chief investigator: David Reilly

Our research group seeks to understand the laws of nature at the nanoscale and then harness them to build technologies. Find out more about Measurement and control at the nanoscale.

Molecular simulation of polymeric nanoparticles 

Chief investigator: Ahmad Jabbarzadeh

Our work on engineering functional polymeric nanoparticles requires an understanding of their crystallization effected by particle size, surface effects, and other processing conditions. Find out more about Molecular simulation of polymeric nanoparticles

Multifunctional polymer nanostructures 

Chief investigator: Markus Muellner

Our research uses controlled polymerisation techniques to construct polymer architectures and polymer assemblies to address key questions in a range of University priority areas. Find out more about Multifunctional polymer nanostructures.

Nano safety and sustainability

Chief investigator: Wojciech Chrzanowski

Our progress in the development of nanoparticles and the steep increase in their applications does not match the progress in the evaluation of the possible environmental health and safety impacts across their lifecycle. By providing fundamental mechanistic insights into nanotoxicity and establishing novel protocols for nanotoxicity testing, we can also support regulatory agencies in protecting our health. Find out more about Nano safety and sustainability.

Nano-engineered reversible energy storage (flagship)

Chief investigator: Thomas Maschmeyer

This program aims to provide the necessary breakthroughs in battery technology to enable pervasive application. Find out more about Nano-engineered reversible energy storage.

Nanoscale fluid flow at solid surfaces 

Chief investigator: Luming Shen

This program studies the molecular mechanisms of liquid slip to develop friction-free flow nanofluidic devices for desalination and other chemical purification techniques. Find out more about Nanoscale fluid flow at solid surfaces.

Nanoscale photonic circuits (flagship)

Chief investigator: Benjamin Eggleton

Our group works in optical physics and photonics, and our breakthroughs in nonlinear nanoscale waveguides have created a new paradigm for photonic chip based signal processing. Find out more about Nanoscale photonic circuits.

Nanorobotic surgery

Chief investigator: Benjamin Eggleton

Our research is aiming for precise surgery at the cellular or sub-cellular level using nanorobotic machines in a manner that would transform the way we treat diseases. This could include reducing the invasiveness of surgery, providing early detection methods and improving outcomes for patients with diseases that require high risk treatment or cannot be treated. Find out more about Nanorobotic surgery.

New insights into disease and drug targets (flagship)

Chief investigator: Georges Grau, Peter Lay, Nicholas King

This project aims to discover new aspects of human diseases and new pathways for drug targeting from the myriad of endogenous biological nanovescicles released by the immune system in response to both infectious and non-infectious diseases. Find out more about New insights into disease and drug targets

Quasielastic neutron scattering

Chief investigator: Chris Ling

Our research is finding insights into atomic-scale ionic conduction mechanisms, where quantitative fitting of quasielastic neutron scattering reveals liquid-like oxide ion diffusion through a solid. Find out more about Quasielastic neutron scattering

Quantum control with trapped ions (flagship)

Chief investigator: Michael Biercuk

The primary focus of our research on trapped ions is the development of efficient and robust control techniques for arbitrary quantum systems in the presence of environmental noise. Find out more about Quantum control with trapped ions.

Self-assembled protein nanocompartments

Chief investigator: Yu Heng Lau

Nature is a master of self-assembly, creating nanoscale architectures that are otherwise impossible to build synthetically. In our lab, we re-engineer these natural systems to construct new catalysts and drug delivery systems. Find out more about Self-assembled protein nanocompartments.

Semiconducting nanowires 

Chief investigator: Rongkun Zheng

This research project is conducted via post-analysis of as-grown InGaAs nanowires at atomic-scale, to deduce the thermodynamics of nanowire growth, specifically, chemical distribution, the geometry evolution, and crystallography. The outputs of this project are expected to be a guideline for the synthesis of the nanowires in a controllable manner for targeted application. Find out more about Semiconducting nanowires.

Silicon photonics nanofabrication

Chief investigator: Benjamin Eggleton

Our research covers a wide range of programs including all-optical and nonlinear signal processing, mid-infrared photonics and single photon generation. Find out more about Silicon photonics nanofabrication.

Special wettability nanostructured surfaces

Chief investigator: Chiara Neto

This program replicates natural phenomena to solve diverse challenges, for example: developing self-cleaning paints to increase the energy efficiency of commercial coatings and alleviate water scarcity in arid climates. Find out more about Special wettability nanostructured surfaces.

Tailoring carbon nanomaterials 

Chief investigator: Yuan Chen

This research aims for a synthesis of carbon nanomaterials with well-defined atomic structures to achieve unique properties and to convert nanoscale properties into macroscale functionalities to gain practical applications. Find out more about Tailoring carbon nanomaterials.