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Tailoring carbon nanomaterials

Translating superior properties into impactful applications
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.

Carbon nanomaterials possess many fascinating properties that differ significantly from other materials. This research aims to translate their superior properties into impactful applications, which can help create a sustainable future for humans.

There are two key challenges in realising this transition. First, owing to the unique properties of carbon nanomaterials that depend on their nanoscale structures, it is necessary to synthesise carbon nanomaterials with well-defined atomic structures. Second, practical applications require functional solutions in macroscale. Thus, it is essential to convert nanoscale properties into macroscale functionalities. I focus on chemical process design and development to address these two challenges. 

Current interests of this research program focus on developing scalable chemical processes to synthesise carbon nanomaterials with well-defined nanoscale structures, assembling nanoscale carbon nanomaterials into functional macroscale structures, and utilising these novel materials for sustainable energy and environmental applications, including high energy density supercapacitors, fibre supercapacitors for smart textiles, Zn-air batteries, carbon electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution, oxygen reduction, oxygen evolution reactions, carbon membranes, and antibacterial coatings.

This research group is notable for chirality selective synthesis and enrichment of single-walled carbon nanotubes with ISI highly-cited paper publications. We first show that the chirality of single-walled carbon nanotubes can be tuned by carbon precursors1; unique (9,8) nanotubes can be synthesised using metal sulphate catalysts2; and fluorene-based polymers can be used to extract single chiral species of carbon nanotubes3. We developed an innovative chemical process to synthesise hybrid carbon fibres for capacitive energy storage. This discovery was published in Nature Nanotechnology in 20144, and was reported by more than 100 websites and newspapers. It was acclaimed as “the highest volumetric energy density so far achieved in a microscale carbon-based supercapacitor”. Recently, we developed novel bimetallic catalysts for oxygen reactions in Zn-air batteries. This work published in Advanced Materials in 20175 was covered in 70+ media outlets – from mainstream Australian media to specialist industry media and international publications. We demonstrated the first stable all-carbon nano-architecture as high-performance separation membranes for water treatment6. We also carried out pioneer studies to advance scientific knowledge on the antibacterial activity of carbon nanomaterials7.

Further reading

  1.  Selectivity of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes by Different Carbon Precursors on Co−Mo Catalysts, 2007
  2. Selective Synthesis of (9,8) Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes on Cobalt Incorporated TUD-1 Catalysts, 2010,
  3. Toward the Extraction of Single Species of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes Using Fluorene-Based Polymers, 2007,
  4. Scalable synthesis of hierarchically structured carbon nanotube–graphene fibres for capacitive energy storage, 2014,
  5. Amorphous Bimetallic Oxide–Graphene Hybrids as Bifunctional Oxygen Electrocatalysts for Rechargeable Zn–Air Batteries, 2017,
  6. All‐Carbon Nanoarchitectures as High‐Performance Separation Membranes with Superior Stability, 2015,
  7. Antibacterial Activity of Graphite, Graphite Oxide, Graphene Oxide, and Reduced Graphene Oxide: Membrane and Oxidative Stress, 2011,



Yuan Chen

  • Room 491, Level 2 Cnr Shepherd and Lander Streets Chemical Engineering J01