Novel Biologically-Responsive MRI Agents

 Supervisor  Dr Changkui Fu

Polymeric nanoparticles have a broad range of applications in drug delivery. This project aims to utilize advanced synthetic polymer chemistry to prepare functional polymeric nanoparticles. These nanoparticles will be designed to be able to deliver oxygen and other chemotherapeutics for more effective treatment of tumor. The students will receive high-level training in synthetic polymer chemistry, nanotechnology, and biomaterials.

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Understanding Effect of Architecture of Fluoropolymers on Their 19F MRI Properties

 Supervisor  Dr Changkui Fu and Professor Andrew Whittaker

Despite the wide use of metal-based MRI contrast agents such as gadolinium chelates in the clinic, safety concerns have been raised regarding their potential toxic effects resulting from long-term in vivo retention. This has driven the development of organic metal-free contrast agents in various forms for use in MRI. Fluoropolymers, polymers containing fluorine, are very promising candidates as organic metal-free MRI contrast agents. However, the clinical application of fluoropolymers as 19F MRI contrast agents has been greatly limited due to insufficient imaging sensitivity of current fluoropolymers. This project aims to boost the imaging sensitivity of 19F MRI by controlling the architecture of synthesised fluoropolymers. The project will highlight the important relationship between the architecture and properties of fluoropolymers, contributing to the development of advanced fluoropolymers as 19F MRI contrast agent with clinical potential.

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Novel Hybrid Materials for Energy and Environmental Applications

 Supervisor Professor Andrew Whittaker and Dr Hui Peng

Sequential infiltration synthesis is a new method for producing nano-scale hybrid materials. It involves infiltration of precursors to inorganic materials into a preformed polymer matrix. The shape and morphology of the polymer matrix controls the structure of the final hybrid. The hybrid can combine the properties of individual components on the nano-scale, leading to new and innovative properties. In this project self-assembly of block copolymers will be used to create 2D and 3D structures. For example spherical micelles of order of 10 nm can be prepared through appropriate chemistry, and on infiltration form novel materials for optical and separation technologies. The project will develop new understanding of polymer-inorganic interactions and novel materials applications.

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Nanofunctional Surfaces for Control of the Biological Interface

 Supervisor  Dr Hui Peng

Biomaterials support, repair or protect the human body. The surface of the biomaterial interacts with the body’s immune system, or for external devices with pathogens. Control of the surface and how it interacts with the biological system is essential for effectiveness in its intended application. This project aims to develop innovative strategies for surface functionalisation using polymers that can either augment or attenuate the body’s response to the material. Two focus applications, namely antimicrobial surfaces and functional titanium alloys have been identified for the development of the novel surface treatments. The projects will build effective pathways from materials science to pre-clinical evaluation, and will provide training in synthetic chemistry, biomaterials science and pre-clinical testing.

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Block Copolymers for Microelectronics

 Supervisor Professor Andrew Whittaker, Associate Professor Idriss Blakey and Dr Hui Peng

Directed self-assembly (DSA) is a type of directed assembly which utilizes block copolymer morphology to create lines, space and hole patterns, facilitating for a more accurate control of the feature shapes. Block copolymers (BCPs) comprise two or more chemically dissimilar homopolymer subunits that can form distinct phases when appropriately treated. Symmetrical BCPs can form regular repeating lamellar morphologies and are typically desired for line/spacing patterning due to their advantages in pattern transfer. To achieve the perpendicular lamellar structures, a so-called “neutral” surface, in which the interface energy between the substrate and the two blocks of the BCPs are equal, is necessary. Due to the great potential of DSA, it is widely regarded as one of the most promising candidate technologies for next-generation lithography. This project will develop new BCPs for this important application.

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