Prospective Postgraduate Students

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Opportunities

Name of Faculty Member Title of Project Brief Description of Project
A/P Alex Yan Qingyu Heterogeneous nanostructures for electrocatalysis and advanced metal-air battery. The project mainly focus on the junction formation of two or more phases including sulfides, selenides, oxides to enhance their electrocatalytic performance, which will be extended to next generation energy storage system as metal-air battery.
A/P Alex Yan Qingyu 2D materials for thermoelectric applications. Control the crystal orientation to study the thermoelectric properties along different atomic planes.
​A/P Andrew Grimsdale ​ Synthesis of heteroacenes. ​Synthesis of new heteroacene molecules and investigation of their properties and suitability as materials for use in organic electronic devices such as  transistors, sensors and memories.
​Prof Chen Zhong ​Surface engineering of materials. ​Functionalized surfaces for a series of value-adding applications, including wear resistance, corrosion resistance, self-cleaning, self-healing, anti-fogging, and anti-icing.
​Prof Chen Zhong ​Nanostructured semiconductor oxides for energy and environmental applications. ​Design and synthesis of oxide nanostructures for environmental and energy applications including photocatalytic pollutant treatment, artificial photosynthesis, and energy storage.
​Prof Chen Zhong ​Mechanical behaviour of materials. ​Strength, deformation, fracture, fatigue, creep, wear of metals, ceramics & composites; Mechanical behavior of thin films, surfaces, and interfaces.
​Prof Chen Xiaodong ​Stretchable electronic devices based on tough hydrogels for implantable biomedical devices. ​Given the supreme biocompatibility and high water content, hydrogels are used as porous scaffolds for tissue engineering, responsive vehicles for drug delivery, self-healing actuators for controlling fluidics. Recent advances in highly stretchable and tough hydrogels further bring the opportunity of developing stretchable electronic devices as implantable biomedical devices for probing the physiology and pathology of such robust organs as heart and lungs, without incurring thrombosis or fibrosis. The development of such novel devices will not only allow continuous monitoring of physiology, but will also enable the programming of various functionalities of smart hydrogels via the way of electronic communication.   
​Asst/P Czarny Bertrand Marcel Stanislas ​Nanoparticles and biomaterials encapsulated drugs for treatment of brain inflammatory diseases ​The blood brain barrier (BBB) is a major hurdle in the effective therapeutic treatment of CNS diseases; it restricts penetration of over 98% of small molecule drugs. Drug encapsulation into carrier systems can help to overcome this hurdle by improving the therapeutic index of drugs. However, conventional carrier systems have limited success in non-invasively treating CNS diseases. Lately, exosomes have been acknowledged as potential carrier systems and proved to be therapeutically effective in treating brain tumors and Parkinson in rodents. Yet, production yield of exosomes is very limited. In order to preserve the beneficial properties of exosomes but create a more feasible workflow, we developed cell derived nanovesicles (CDN) who have similar protein-lipid composition to exosomes and contain their key protein markers. The objective is to validate BBB penetration of these CDNs and others specific nanocarriers, achieve encapsulating efficiency, and demonstrate their potential as carriers in the case of CNS diseases such as stroke or Parkinson's disease by targeting and accumulating these nanoparticles in the inflamed area. This project will be focused on the design and development of nanomedicines to treat inflammatory diseases, with large emphasis on translational in vivo pre-clinical studies. The main objective is to design and develop nanoparticles with high efficacy and safety for pre-clinical studies and choose nanomaterials in relation with the drug and the disease.
​A/P Dong Zhili ​Synthesis of Hierarchical Porous Materials using Expanded Solvents and Supercritical Fluids. ​Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) and zeolites are important classes of porous materials. MOFs are suggested as next generation materials for gas separation and storage and zeolites are extensively used as solid-state catalysts for numerous applications. Their ability to perform these functions is intrinsically linked to structural characteristics, such as high surface area, for increasing gas storage capabilities and catalytic activity, and well-defined pore dimensions, which control diffusion and separation of molecules and selectivity of catalytic products. Traditionally, these materials are synthesized via hydrothermal methods with the use of organic structure-directing agents. In addition to the low atom economy of this strategy, a common synthetic problem is the removal of the organic template and solvent molecules from the pores without causing them to collapse. Due to the high aspect ratio of micro- and meso-pores, capillary forces are very strong, and high vacuum and elevated temperatures are needed to extract all organics, entailing various degrees of structural deterioration. Compressible gases as near- or supercritical fluids have unique physico-chemical properties, which have been exploited for large-scale synthesis of aerogels. In this project, we want to explore the possibility of coupling MOF and zeolite synthesis in the presence of compressed carbon dioxide with the solvent extraction step, in order to create tailored structures without the need for structure-directing templating agents. Applying moderate pressures of carbon dioxide to organic solvents (5-50 bar) causes them to swell by the very large dissolution of the gas, resulting in a continuum of pressure-tuneable changes in density, diffusivity and surface tension. This effect will be exploited for control over material morphology, coupled with a highly efficient post-synthetic purification method.
​Prof Hng Huey Hoon ​A New Reactive Burn model for explosives . ​The goal is to extend existing reactive burn models used in modeling of detonation (which are typically pressure-based only) and build a more comprehensive and accurate reaction model to especially account for ignition based on thermal stimulus. The work will involve a comprehensive review of explosive decomposition models and the incorporation of these models in commercial hydrodynamics codes. The new reactive burn model, when integrated with the commercial hydorcodes, should be able to model the ignition, propagation and detonation of common explosives ignited by impact or heat. Knowledge of programming languages such as Fortran will be advantageous.
​Prof Hng Huey Hoon ​Mesoscale reactive modeling of heterogeneous explosives. ​The objective is to better understand and model the phenomenon of deflagration to detonation transition (DDT) in heterogeneous explosives at the mesoscale by creating a sufficiently accurate reactive model both for studying the DDT dynamics and for use with hydrocodes. This work involves a review of chemical decomposition of energetic materials and investigating the physics of material deformation and the dynamics of hotspot formation in granular explosives. A strong programming background in Fortran will be advantageous.      
​Prof Hu Xiao ​Functional polymers, hybrid nanomaterials and composites. ​The project aims to study the underlying principles of design, synthesis and processing of new materials for targeted end applications, e.g., for environment, sustainability and homeland security. We use a wide range of materials characterization tools including those for mechanical, thermal, dielectric, conductivity, EMI shielding, photonic and electronic properties. We also study materials with special catalytic, phase-changing, surface/interfacial, and stimuli responsive properties.
​A/P Huang Yizhong ​Direct evidence of electrochemical behavior of single nanostructures subject to aqueous solutions. ​Since nanostructures have started to replace the traditional bulky materials in many industrial/residential applications, it is of significant importance to understand the environmental stability of materials when their dimensions are down to the size at nano scale. For example, nanostructured materials have been used to manufacture the batteries, in particular, Li-ion battery, in order to improve their energy power. However, frequent explosions of batteries have taken place in reality. Therefore, the fundamental research to clarify the failure mechanism of batteries is broadly known and becomes significantly in demand. However, this research has been hardly carried out and reported so far. The main reason is that nanostructured materials are extremely difficult to be experimentally handled in lab compared with their bulky counterparts.
With the availability of an in-situ TEM liquid cell holder, a PhD candidate is needed to engage the direct observation of the microstructural evolution of electrochemical processes for single nanostructured materials. Based on the understanding of the fundamental mechanism, the preferential plan of this project will study on the stability of electrode and electrolyte structures in energy capacitors when subject to alternating charges and discharges. It is aimed that the phase transformation, morphological changes and volume expansion leading to fracture or cracking of material components in the energy storage devices during the multiple redox cycles will be clarified.
​A/P Huang Yizhong ​Electrocatalytic activity of ordered adlayers on the surface of graphene. ​The objective of this project for a PhD candidate is to understand the dependence of electrocatalytic effect of the composite on molecular orientations at molecular scale, to explore the scope of electrocatalytic system based on the controlled molecular orientations for modification of graphene as well as developing of the properties of these directed electrochemical active adlayer materials. By the rational design of metallophthalocyanine and metalloporphyrin building blocks with various substituents, the successful outcome of the self-assembly process is expected to be directed by a competitive interaction which balances intermolecular interactions through such as Van der Waals interactions, hydrogen bonding and metal coordination. The further step is to control and even transform the structure of a self-organized adlayer (for example from disordered to ordered pattern) by applying external stimuli. In this part, we will tailor the metallophthalocyanine and metalloporphyrin adlayer on graphene with the help of electric field and flow. Additionally, the solvent direct and concentration dependent experiments will be performed.
​A/P Jason Xu Zhichuan ​Small molecule electrocatalysis and electrosynthesis. ​We are interested in several small molecules like oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and alcohols, which play critical roles in energy conversion and storage systems. We are also interested in electrosynthesis of valuable chemicals from C1-C3 molecules as well as the functional group conversion. Our research strategy is to understand the reaction mechanisms and then to apply those understandings in developing better electrodes. The reproducibility and consistency of the electrochemical measurements are our top priority. Only with reliable measurements and results, one can make analysis and conclusions reliable and reproducible. We aim to develop robust electrode materials with desired activity, selectivity, and stability.
​​A/P Jason Xu Zhichuan ​Energy storage materials. ​The increasing global demand for more efficient and larger scale energy storage has simultaneously initiated studies on future battery chemistries and the research of novel electrode materials. We are particularly interested in understanding fundamental problems/phenomenon behind alternative alkali battery chemistries through advanced characterization methods. This is especially important with the rise of Li-S and Na ion technologies where there are still underlying issues to be addressed before commercialization. Asides from that, what interests us is the development of nanostructured materials for energy storage applications. When the size of the material is reduced to the nano-dimension, physical, chemical and electronic properties change significantly. Precise control of the structure, porosity and density of the nanomaterials is essential for the development of electrode materials with enhanced cyclability, faster charging capabilities and higher energy/power density.
​​A/P Jason Xu Zhichuan ​Operando approaches for characterizing electrochemical materials. ​In situ characterizations is a class of most effective and popular tools for revealing fundamentals of electrochemical reactions and electrodes. We are interested in several in situ tools, like synchrotron X-rays absorption spectroscopy, Raman, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy for such studies. For example, we have employed X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) to monitor the Li storage and pseudocapacitive behaviors in transition metal oxides during operation. We perform these measurements in our collaborators' synchrotron radiation facilities. The X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) probe the unoccupied electron state of elements, thus sensitive to the chemical states of the measured element as reflected from the XANES edge shift. The extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) reflects the X-ray scattering from the local arrangement of atoms, thus providing local atomic structure information such as bond distances and element coordination numbers of the measured elements.
​A/P Joachim Loo ​Drug Delivery Systems. ​Developing drug delivery systems for metabolic (i.e. diabetics) and infectious (i.e. tuberculosis) diseases.
​A/P Joachim Loo ​Energy through bacteria and sunlight. ​Developing hybrid platforms to generate fuel through natural processes.
Asst/P ​Liu Zheng ​Synthesis of novel two-dimensional materials (graphene, BN, transition metal dichalcogenides). ​Use chemical CVD, MOCVD and other methods to produce the cutting-edge materials as thin as one-atom thickness. Those materials will have great potentials in the applications of chemistry, optics, magnetism and electronics devices.
​Asst/P ​Liu Zheng ​Deep learning / machine learning driven prediction and synthesis of materials. ​Collaborating with professors from SCSE, we will use deep learning / machine learning to predict the growth and nature of the promising materials including not limed to superconductors, thermoelectrics, etc.
​Asst/P ​Liu Zheng ​One method for a basket of 2D materials. ​Synthesis of 2D materials is always a challenge. Among all the methods (mechanical exfoliation, liquid exfoliation, vapor deposition or transport deposition), the deposition is the most promising way to produce large-size and high-quality 2D materials. Different technologies and receipts are required to produce various 2D materials like graphene, h-BN and metal dichalcogenides. We aim to develop a full spectrum of 2D materials. Our preliminary result show that we are able to make more than 40 atom-thin binary and alloys films including sulfides, selenides, and tellurides.
​Asst/P ​Liu Zheng ​Nanomaterials for high-performance CO2 capture. ​Current post combustion selective CO2 capture materials are evaluated mainly on its hydrophobicity, CO2 selectivity, thermal stability and the cost for CO2 regeneration. Based on the above criteria, a myriad of materials has been developed to selectively adsorb CO2. Zeolites, metal organic framework (MOF), Aqueous amines, nitrogen doped carbonaceous porous materials etc. are so far exhibited a decent capability of selective CO2 adsorption. In this work, we aim to develop a 2D materials based structure for selective CO2 adsorption. Our primary result shows that there is one-hundred-fold increase in the selectivity of CO2 over N2 at 298k.
​Asst/P ​Liu Zheng ​Atomic 2D nanomaterials based wearable/flexible sensing electronics for personal health-monitoring system. ​Monitoring human physiological signals is considered to be an effective way for disease diagnosis and health assessment. Conventional hospital-centered healthcare sensing devices including infrared based photo-electric devices and rigid multi-electrode pressure sensors have been employed for physiological signals detection, however the use is yet rather limited because of their poor portability and wearability. Currently, 2D nanomaterials, including graphene, chemical modified graphene, and MoS2, have been widely investigated and shown unprecedented performance in flexible sensing electronics with ultra-sensitivity, fast-response time and low power consumption etc. The good performance make the flexible sensing electronics have the capability of monitoring human physiological signals such as heart rate, wrist pulse, muscle movement, and pressure from sole of foots. Therefore, the 2D nanomaterials were considered to be the most promising materials for the next generation of wearable/portable health-monitoring systems.  To improve the comfortability, convenience, and security of health-monitoring in clinical diagnoses and daily life, we proposed a new-type of cost-effective portable personal health-monitoring system, which make use of the flexible and wearable sensing electronics to address the human health conditions.  In this project, the atomic two-dimensional (2D) layer nanomaterials were employed as electrode and channel materials to construct flexible sensing electronics.
​Dr Long Yi ​Nanostructured energy saving materials. ​Air conditioning consumes half the energy of the building sector. We aim to develop nanostructured thermochromic smart window materials to cut down the energy consumption.
​A/P Lu Xuehong ​Multifunctional polymer electrolytes for electrochromic devices. ​Electrochromism refers to a reversible change in a material’s optical properties under an applied voltage. Electrochromic devices (ECDs) have a wide range of applications, such as for smart windows, energy-saving displays, etc. In this project, novel polymer electrolytes will be prepared to replace the traditional electrolytes in ECDs, aimed at offering additional functions to the ECDs.
​A/P Lu Xuehong ​Novel polymer nanocomposites for strain sensing applications. ​Strain sensors capable of detecting mechanical deformation via measuring the change in electrical resistance have emerged as an attractive solution for a multitude of applications, such as robotics, artificial skin, human motion detection, etc.  In this project, polymer nanocomposites with novel structures and morphologies will be designed and fabricated to make flexible/stretchable, conformal and sensitive strain sensors.
​Prof Madhavi Srinivasan ​Inter-disciplinary research in emerging energy storage technology. ​Project would involve inter-disciplinary research in emerging energy storage technology, which will include primary batteries, lithium ion and other battery systems. The Project will be in collaboration with Industry which will give the candidate a good exposure to R and D at industry also.

The candidate would be working on and acquire the below during their PhD –
• Electrochemical knowledge and in depth understanding of advanced battery and other energy storage systems
• Experience in handling electrochemical testing equipments and device fabrication .
• Experience in fabricating and characterizing nanostructured materials.
​A/P Ng Kee Woei ​Developing the Potential of Hair Keratins for Biomedical Applications. ​Human hair keratin has been explored as a raw material for various biomedical applications in recent years. This material brings exciting new possibilities because it is abundant, easily accessible and a cheap biomaterial that is of human origin. In this project, the objective is to explore novel ways of manipulating keratins extracted from human hair, in order to produce templates of new and improved properties.
​A/P Ng Kee Woei ​Understanding the health risks associated with skin exposure to engineered nanomaterials. ​Engineered nanomaterials, especially nanoparticles, have found their way into our everyday lives. Skin exposure to these nanomaterials is now common, through workplace scenarios and consumer product applications. There are now growing concerns that such exposure may pose a health risk, especially to those with compromised skin conditions. This project seeks to unravel some of the mysteries behind skin exposure to engineered nanomaterials.
A/P ​Raju V. Ramanujan ​Magnetic nanomaterials. ​The projects in my group focus on the development of novel magnetic nanomaterials for energy, bio-, transducer, microfluidic and multifunctional applications.
Examples of ongoing work are magnetocaloric materials, exchange coupled hard magnets, functionally graded soft magnets, magnetic fluids, magnet based Janus particles, magnetic composites, functionalized magnetic nanoparticles and multifunctional materials.
A variety of synthesis techniques, sophisticated characterization methods and physical property evaluation techniques are carried out in my group to maximize performance.
Prof ​Subbu Venkatraman ​Nanotechnology for prophylactic treatment of cardiovascular disease ​Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the arterial wall, resulting from dysregulated lipid metabolism and a maladaptive inflammatory response. Current treatment of atherosclerosis involves pharmacological interventions with cholesterol-lowering drugs given systemically. This treatment is ineffective due to both limitations in accurate diagnosis and options for early therapy. Recent advances in nanotechnology has provided novel insights to disease prevention and made possible different approaches to treatment of atherosclerosis by developing novel drug delivery systems. To achieve effective treatment for atherosclerosis, the student will carry out the following key tasks:
Fabrication and characterization of anti-inflammatory drug loaded nanocarriers.
Evaluation of drug release profiles from different formulations to understand the factors that control the release of drug (size, surface charge, thickness of coating, etc).
Relate observed uptake of these nanoparticles by a cell line (foamed macrophages) to particle properties, such as surface charge, size, presence of targeting ligand, density, etc.
​​A/P Xue Can ​Functional carbon nitride nanostructures as efficient photocatalysts for solar fuels production. ​The project focuses on chemical modification and surface functionalization of  carbon nitride based nanostructures through solvothermal approaches. We will utilize the obtained carbon nitride photocatalysts for solar-driven hydrogen generation and CO2 reduction.​
​A/P Xue Can Development of plasmonic metal-semiconductor hybrid nanostructures for photo-enhanced chemical reactions. We will develop anisotropic Ag/Au nanostructures coupled with different semiconductors and metal catalysts to investigate the enhancing effect of surface plasmon excitation on various chemical reactions.
A/P Zhang Qichun ​Doping oligoacenes with heteroatoms for organic electronics. ​We will design, synthesize and characterize novel oligoheteroacenes and find their application in FETs, memory devices, OLEDS, sensing, etc.
​A/P Zhang Qichun ​Novel organic acceptors for solar cells. ​We will design, synthesize, and characterize novel organic acceptors for highly efficient solar cells.
​A/P Zhang Qichun ​Novel inorganic crystalline materials for energy-related applications. ​We will design, prepare and characterize novel inorganic crystalline materials and find their application in energy-related applications.
​A/P Zhang Qichun ​Inorganic-organic nanocomposites for MFCs and bioapplications (sensing, imaging, biodetection and drug delivery). ​We will design, fabricate and characterize novel inorganic-organic hybrid nanocomposites for MFCs and bioapplications (sensing, imaging, biodetection and drug delivery).
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