UQ chemists and engineers are pushing the boundaries of science and advanced technology with direct impact on the manufacturing, clean and renewable energy, biomedical devices, environmental, and electronics industries.

Chemical Sciences and Materials Engineering research at UQ is recognised through prestigious academic and industry awards, including a Queensland Greats Award, Chinese Academy of Sciences International Cooperation Award, Orica Award, RK Murphy Medal, Le Fevre Prize, ExxonMobil Award, Chemeca Medal, International Fellow Award from the American Powder Metallurgy Institute, Silver Medal Award from Materials Australia and the American Society of Metals Henry Marion Medal. There are seven Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellows, past Laureate Fellows and Federation Fellows, two Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science and three Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering among UQ’s chemical and materials science community.

In addition to collaboration with world-class universities, such as the University of Cambridge and MIT, UQ researchers have an extensive network of industry partners including Rio Tinto; Boeing; Airbus; Ford; GM; Baosteel; and the Dow Chemical Company. Successful commercialisation of research outputs – (including eight patents) – has led to two spin-off companies, Hydrexia and TenasiTech.

Current research at UQ is tackling the development of new generation engineering materials, smart functional materials and advanced manufacturing technologies, including nanofabrication. Research topics include design of advanced light alloys and processing, development of high-strength steels, and understanding the mechanisms of microstructural control, such as grain refinement, deformation, photocatalysis for solar-driven water pollutant removal, dye-sensitised solar cells, organic electronics, novel polymer materials, biodegradable scaffolds, biopolymer and biosurface engineering.

Research occurs at:

  • Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (School of Chemical Engineering, School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering)
  • Faculty of Science (School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences)
  • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation 

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Engineering Materials (including metals, polymers and composites)
  • Nanofunctional Materials for Clean Energy, Environment and Health
  • Biomedical Materials (including biopolymers, biocomposites and biosurface engineering)

Chemical Sciences and Materials Engineering in brief

  • More than 85 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including Chemical Sciences and Materials Engineering, and Nanotechnology and Bioengineering
  • More than 80 PhD and MPhil students in 2014
  • More than 1760 publications since 2008
  • More than $78 million in research funding since 2008
  • Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry, Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, and Materials Engineering research all rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise. Inorganic Chemistry research rated above world standard

UQ has state-of-the-art facilities to support Chemical Sciences and Materials Engineering research, including:

  • World class materials characterisation facilities in the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis
  • Metallurgy and manufacturing facilities in the $130M Advanced Engineering Building
  • NCRIS – established Australian National Fabrication Facility

Highlights of UQ Chemical Sciences and Materials Engineering

Engineering materials contributing to national and international advanced manufacturing

  • UQ’s strength spans metallic materials, polymers and composites, which contribute to national and international advanced manufacturing, including automotive, aerospace, military, mining and mineral, and food industries. Further strengths include solidification, powder metallurgy, surface engineering, corrosion and property analysis, laser assisted machining of titanium, hypersonic materials and thermoplastic matrix composites.

  • The Centre for Advanced Materials Processing and Manufacturing (AMPAM) integrates a number of national research centres, including nodes of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals, the Defence Materials Technology Centre, former CRC CAST, CRC for Advanced Composite Structures, Polymer CRC and former CRC for Rail Innovation. AMPAM provides a powerful platform for undertaking cutting-edge and breakthrough research on engineering materials. These centres bring with them very large national and international industry and research networks that facilitate beneficial collaborations, for example, the Nihon Superior Centre for the Manufacture of Electronic Materials (NSCMEM) established in 2012 and funded by Nihon Superior. UQ researchers are also having a significant influence on the conduct of international research. Examples include the development of the edge-to-edge matching model and the quantification of the role of alloy chemistry in defining the as-cast grain size.

  • Current partners in engineering materials research include Thales, Australian Defence Apparel, ANSTO, BAE Systems Australia and BlueScope Steel, Advanced Composite Structures Australia Pty Ltd, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Defence Materials Technology Centre, Airbus, Cassidian, Australian Aerospace Composites and other industry and research partners.

Materials for clean energy, environment and health

  • UQ Materials Engineers have been part of the nanotechnology revolution, leading functional nanomaterials research for solutions to clean energy and environmental technologies. Research has led to breakthrough developments of photocatalysts for solar-driven water pollutant removal and new generation solar cells, polymer nanostructures, nanowires and quantum dots. Much of this work is conducted within the Nanomaterials Centre (part of the former ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials), established by leading researcher Professor Max Lu. The centre holds numerous patents and has collaborated with major petroleum and biotechnology companies.

  • Biomedical materials research is a major focus of UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and has contributed to the advancement of novel medical technologies and fundamental science. UQ’s strengths include nanostructured assembly and manipulation of matter to produce materials and devices for application in medicine and biotechnology, investigation of novel methods of manufacturing polymeric scaffolds and methods of surface engineering of these scaffolds for drug delivery and tissue engineering applications, processing multiphase polymers and biopolymers for high value manufacturing and biomedical applications developing membranes, biopesticides and veterinarian vaccines for the agricultural sector and surface modification of biodegradable scaffolds for tissue engineering.

  • The Centre for Organic Photonics and Electronics (within the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences) is a world-leading interdisciplinary centre combining synthesis, materials and device characterisation, molecular modelling and condensed matter theory. Core research activities include materials for organic solar cells and macromolecular organic LEDs.