Nanotechnology and bioengineering transform basic science into novel materials, devices and processes for improved sustainability and health. They play a vital role in current and emerging technologies, and contribute to all areas of engineering through materials expertise including developing new materials and improving existing ones.

UQ’s researchers in this field are internationally renowned with accolades including: three past Australian Research Council (ARC) Federation Fellows; one State of Queensland Premier's Fellow; one ARC Professorial Fellow; four ARC Future Fellows; four Fellows of the Australian Academy for Technological Science and Engineering (ATSE); one Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science; an ATSE Clunies Ross Award; a Eureka Prize; and a CSIRO Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader. Australian nanomaterials pioneer, Professor Max Lu, has been named a Queensland Great and also received a China International Science and Technology Award.

‘Nano-bio’ applications are as diverse as sustainable energy, regenerative medicine, biomedical imaging, drug and vaccine delivery, and personalised medicine. The impact of these new technologies will be felt across a wide range of endeavours, from therapeutic and tissue regeneration products, to bioderived consumer products and environmental applications. Of particular interest at UQ is nanotechnology research at the biological interface, including nanoparticles developed to detect early cancer markers in the blood; ‘smart surfaces’ mimicking conditions in the body and encouraging high rates of stem cell production; and the engineering of cells to produce the building blocks for plastics.

Our Nano- and Bio- researchers have extensive global links with universities and industry. Collaborative partner highlights include DOW Chemicals, DSM Biologics, DuPont, GS Caltex, Merck and Co, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, MIT, University of Oxford, Harvard, Max Planck Institute, and the ETH.

UQ activity is centred at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), and the Schools of Chemical Engineering; Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences; Information Technology and Electrical Engineering; and Mechanical and Mining Engineering. 

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Functional nanomaterials
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Industrial biotechnology

Nanotechnology and Bioengineering in brief

  • More than 35 full-time equivalent researchers in the specific fields of Nanotechnology, Environmental Biotechnology, and Industrial Biotechnology, working with collaborators in fields including Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, and Clinical Sciences and Experimental Medicine
  • More than 524 publications since 2008
  • More than $45.5 million in research funding since 2008
  • Environmental Biotechnology, Industrial Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology research rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise. UQ led the nation in Environmental Biotechnology and Industrial Biotechnology with no other university receiving this rating.


UQ has substantial infrastructure supporting intensive research activity in nanotechnology including:

  • The Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology supporting three NCRIS facilities in nanofabrication, biologics and metabolomics. 
  • Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis with advanced facilities for electron microscopy 
  • The Centre for Advanced Imaging with extensive capabilities in NMR studies for soft materials and biomolecules.

Highlights of UQ Nanotechnology and Bioengineering

Functional nanomaterials building a healthier and more sustainable world

  • Functional nanomaterials research at UQ addresses the major global challenges of clean and sustainable energy and water supply, and innovative and equitable health care. To successfully meet these challenges, world-class groups from across chemistry, biology, engineering and pharmacy work and collaborate on projects in biofuels, energy storage, smart materials for manufacturing, drug delivery and diagnostics. 
  • The National Breast Cancer Foundation Diagnostics Centre combines the latest developments in molecular genetics and nanotechnology to create and clinically test novel diagnostic technologies that will have a dramatic impact on early detection, prediction and treatment of advanced breast cancer. The priorities of this research include discovering novel biomarkers, which are predictors of early and advanced breast cancer, and developing a diagnostic technology that will allow early detection and diagnosis of advanced breast cancer in the clinic.
  • UQ start-up company TenasiTech Pty Ltd is commercialising a polymer nanocomposites platform as applied to large polyurethane and acrylic polymer markets and applications. This technology has a strong focus on fundamental materials science with global benchmarking, biomaterials and nanomaterials toxicology studies, and scalable advanced manufacturing.

Engineering solutions delivering advanced medical tools

  • UQ is making significant progress toward novel materials for vaccine delivery. A particular focus has been the delivery of biomolecules and stimuli to cells in skin (and other soft tissue) using physical methods. The goal is novel delivery strategies for step-change improvements in the treatment/vaccination of key major diseases. An outstanding achievement of this research is the development of the Nanopatch, a needle-free vaccine delivery device, which is under rapid research and development to product through spin-out company Vaxxas Pty Ltd. The Nanopatch technology has been licensed to US-based pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.
  • Biomedical engineering (BME) is a rapidly growing transdisciplinary field that bridges the gap between technology, medicine and biology. The core aim of UQ BME is to find practical solutions in medical and biomedical sciences using engineering approaches and analyses, for example, developing life support systems, designing devices to aid the impaired or disabled, or creating systems to allow better diagnosis of medical disorders. The BME group at UQ is led by Professor Stuart Crozier, who co-developed the technology now used in two-thirds of the world’s high field MRI systems sold since 1996.
  • UQ is leading the derivation of footprint-free induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) in Australia, with a particular focus on neuronal and cardiac disease models. The reprogramming of somatic cells to iPSCs that can generate every cell type of the human body has opened the way for the development of patient and disease specific cells for future stem cell therapies, novel disease models and drug screening platforms.

Industrial biotechnology advancing new therapeutics

  • UQ’s Centre for Systems and Synthetic Biology develops approaches for handling complex, transient dynamics in developing tissue as well as rational design of complex pathways. These novel approaches are used in the design of bioprocesses as diverse as the production of blood cells for transfusion and the production of industrial biopolymers.

  • Biologics is an exciting new class of human therapeutics, developed using the power of biotechnology and genetic engineering. UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology houses the NCRIS Queensland node in a custom-designed facility. Our Biologics experts harness invaluable experience in biopharmaceutical development and production. The Biologics Facility is a powerful resource of expertise and equipment and is available to Australian academic and industrial researchers wishing to bridge the gap between laboratory experiments and the well-characterised cell line and bioprocesses needed to produce material for pre-clinical trials.