Zhang Group

Advancing (fluoro)polymer chemistry and its societal impact

The Zhang Group, led by Group Leader and ARC DECRA Fellow Dr Cheng Zhang, is dedicated to advancing (fluoro)polymer chemistry and its societal impact by exploring structure-property relationships to develop innovative functional polymeric platforms.

These platforms encompass new technologies for concentrating and destroying perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) from the environment, next-generation fluorinated components for energy storage devices, including batteries, and polymers for use as molecular imaging agents.

With a focus on academic excellence and social engagement, the group aims to make a global impact through productive collaborations with the industry. By bridging the gap between fundamental research and practical applications, the Zhang Group actively collaborates with industry partners, such as The Chemours Company, Gold Coast City Council, and IXOM, to provide valuable training opportunities for young scientists.



  • Dr Cheng Zhang

    Group Leader, ARC DECRA and NHMRC CJ Martin Fellow
    Zhang Group


We have collaborated closely with a number of national and international leading research groups, including experts in polymer chemistry and physics (Professors Craig Hawker, Christopher Bates and Glenn Fredrickson at University of California Santa Barbara; Professor Afang Zhang at Shanghai University), solid state electrolytes and energy materials (Professor Maria Forsyth at Deakin University; Professors Lianzhou Wang and Ruth Knibbe at The University of Queensland), computational theory (Professor Petr Král at the University of Illinois Chicago and Professor Debra Bernhardt at The University of Queensland), biomedical engineering (Professor Justin Gooding at the University of New South Wales), and environmental remediation (Professors Kevin Thomas and Andrew Whittaker at The University of Queensland)


(69) Wang, Y.; Wu, Z.; Azad, F.; Zhu, Y.; Wang, L.; Hawker, C.; Whittaker, A.; Forsyth, M.; ZHANG, C. The Fluorine Toolbox: from Molecular Design to Advanced Batteries. 2023. DOI: 10.26434/chemrxiv-2023-zj9ld.

(68) Chen, Y.; Mickel, P.; Pei, H.; Wen, Y.; Guan, X.; Wang, Y.; Wang, X.; Mhtachem, O. A.; Zhang, C.; Nie, H.; et al. Bioinspired Separator with Ion-Selective Nanochannels for Lithium Metal Batteries. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2023. DOI: 10.1021/acsami.3c01311.


(67) Zhang, C.; Yan, K.; Fu, C.; Peng, H.; Hawker, C. J.; Whittaker, A. K. Biological Utility of Fluorinated Compounds: from Materials Design to Molecular Imaging, Therapeutics and Environmental Remediation. Chem. Rev. 2022, 122 (1), 167-208. DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.1c00632.

(66) Zhang, C. Fluorine in Medicinal Chemistry: In Perspective to COVID-19. ACS Omega 2022, 7 (22), 18206-18212. DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.2c01121.

(65) Yan, K.; Mu, C.; Zhang, C.; Xu, Q.; Xu, Z.; Wang, D.; Jing, X.; Meng, L. Pt nanoenzyme decorated yolk-shell nanoplatform as an oxygen generator for enhanced multi-modality imaging-guided phototherapy. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 2022, 616, 759-768.

(64) Wu, J.; Zhang, J.; Liu, Y.; Wang, J.; Zhang, C.; Yan, J.; Li, W.; Masuda, T.; Whittaker, A. K.; Zhang, A. Supramolecular Chiral Assembly of Symmetric Molecules with an Extended Conjugated Core. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022. DOI: 10.1021/acsami.2c09752.

(63) Whittaker, A.; Zhang, C.; Tan, X. Capture of fluorinated carbon compounds. US Patent App. 17/429,217: 2022.

(62) Wang, Y.; Tan, X.; Usman, A.; Zhang, Y.; Sawczyk, M.; Král, P.; Zhang, C.; Whittaker, A. K. Elucidating the Impact of Hydrophilic Segments on 19F MRI Sensitivity of Fluorinated Block Copolymers. ACS Macro Lett. 2022, 11 (10), 1195-1201. DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.2c00414.

(61) Wang, X.; Zhang, C.; Sawczyk, M.; Sun, J.; Yuan, Q.; Chen, F.; Mendes, T. C.; Howlett, P. C.; Fu, C.; Wang, Y.; et al. Ultra-stable all-solid-state sodium metal batteries enabled by perfluoropolyether-based electrolytes. Nat. Mater. 2022, 21 (9), 1057-1065. DOI: 10.1038/s41563-022-01296-0.

(60) Tao, S.; Zhang, C.; Zhang, J.; Jiao, Y.; Li, M.; Lin, W.; Ran, L.; Clement, B.; Lyu, M.; Gentle, I.; et al. A Hydrophobic and Fluorophilic Coating Layer for Stable and Reversible Aqueous Zinc Metal Anodes. Chem. Eng. J. 2022, 446, 136607. DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2022.136607.

(59) Tan, X.; Sawczyk, M.; Chang, Y. X.; Wang, Y. Q.; Usman, A.; Fu, C. K.; Kral, P.; Peng, H.; Zhang, C.; Whittaker, A. K. Revealing the Molecular-Level Interactions between Cationic Fluorinated Polymer Sorbents and the Major PFAS Pollutant PFOA. Macromolecules 2022, 55 (3), 1077-1087. DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.1c02435.

(58) Tan, X.; Dewapriya, P.; Prasad, P.; Chang, Y.; Huang, X.; Wang, Y.; Gong, X.; Hopkins, T. E.; Fu, C.; Thomas, K. V.; et al. Efficient Removal of Perfluorinated Chemicals from Contaminated Water Sources Using Magnetic Fluorinated Polymer Sorbents. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2022, 61 (49), e202213071. DOI: 10.1002/anie.202213071.

(57) Murphy, E. A.; Chen, Y.-Q.; Albanese, K.; Blankenship, J. R.; Abdilla, A.; Bates, M. W.; Zhang, C.; Bates, C. M.; Hawker, C. J. Efficient Creation and Morphological Analysis of ABC Triblock Terpolymer Libraries. Macromolecules 2022, 55 (19), 8875-8882. DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.2c01480.


(56) Zhang, C.; Vigil, D. L.; Sun, D.; Bates, M. W.; Loman, T.; Murphy, E. A.; Barbon, S. M.; Song, J.-A.; Yu, B.; Fredrickson, G. H.; et al. Emergence of Hexagonally Close-Packed Spheres in Linear Block Copolymer Melts. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2021, 143 (35), 14106-14114. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.1c03647.

(55) Usman, A.; Zhang, C.; Zhao, J.; Peng, H.; Kurniawan, N. D.; Fu, C.; Hill, D. J.; Whittaker, A. K. Tuning the thermoresponsive properties of PEG-based fluorinated polymers and stimuli responsive drug release for switchable 19 F magnetic resonance imaging. Poly. Chem. 2021, 12 (38), 5438-5448. DOI: 10.1039/D1PY00602A.

(54) Tan, X.; Zhong, J.; Fu, C.; Dang, H.; Han, Y.; Král, P.; Guo, J.; Yuan, Z.; Peng, H.; Zhang, C.; et al. Amphiphilic Perfluoropolyether Copolymers for the Effective Removal of Polyfluoroalkyl Substances from Aqueous Environments. Macromolecules 2021, 54 (7), 3447-3457. DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.1c00096.


(53) Zhao, Q.; Zhao, W.; Zhang, C.; Wu, Y.; Yuan, Q.; Whittaker, A. K.; Zhao, X. Sodium-ion storage mechanism in triquinoxalinylene and a strategy for improving electrode stability. Energy Fuels 2020, 34 (4), 5099-5105.

(52) Zhang, C.; Moonshi, S. S.; Wang, W.; Ta, H. T.; Han, Y.; Han, F. Y.; Peng, H.; Král, P.; Rolfe, B. E.; Gooding, J. J. Correction to High F-Content Perfluoropolyether-Based Nanoparticles for Targeted Detection of Breast Cancer by 19F Magnetic Resonance and Optical Imaging. ACS nano 2020, 14 (10), 14245-14246. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c07373.

(51) Zhang, C.; Liu, T.; Wang, W.; Bell, C. A.; Han, Y.; Fu, C.; Peng, H.; Tan, X.; Král, P.; Gaus, K.; et al. Tuning of the Aggregation Behavior of Fluorinated Polymeric Nanoparticles for Improved Therapeutic Efficacy. ACS Nano 2020, 14 (6), 7425-7434. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c02954.

(50) Zhang, C.; Bates, M. W.; Geng, Z.; Levi, A. E.; Vigil, D.; Barbon, S. M.; Loman, T.; Delaney, K. T.; Fredrickson, G. H.; Bates, C. M.; et al. Rapid Generation of Block Copolymer Libraries Using Automated Chromatographic Separation. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142 (21), 9843-9849. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.0c04028.

(49) Tian, F.; Chi, B.; Xu, C.; Lin, C.; Xu, Z.; Whittaker, A. K.; Zhang, C.; Li, L.; Wang, J. “Dual-Key-and-Lock” dual drug carrier for dual mode imaging guided chemo-photothermal therapy. Biomaterials Science 2020, 8 (22), 6212-6224.

(48) Qiao, R.; Fu, C.; Li, Y.; Qi, X.; Ni, D.; Nandakumar, A.; Siddiqui, G.; Wang, H.; Zhang, Z.; Wu, T. Sulfoxide‐containing polymer‐coated nanoparticles demonstrate minimal protein fouling and improved blood circulation. Adv. Sci. 2020, 7 (13), 2000406. DOI: 10.1002/advs.202000406.

(47) Lin, C.; Sun, K.; Zhang, C.; Tan, T.; Xu, M.; Liu, Y.; Xu, C.; Wang, Y.; Li, L.; Whittaker, A. Carbon dots embedded metal organic framework@ chitosan core-shell nanoparticles for vitro dual mode imaging and pH-responsive drug delivery. Microporous Mesoporous Mater. 2020, 293, 109775. DOI: 10.1016/j.micromeso.2019.109775.

(46) Fu, C.; Yu, Y.; Xu, X.; Wang, Q.; Chang, Y.; Zhang, C.; Zhao, J.; Peng, H.; Whittaker, A. K. Functional polymers as metal-free magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents. Prog. Polym. Sci. 2020, 108, 101286. DOI: 10.1016/j.progpolymsci.2020.101286.

(45) Fu, C.; Demir, B.; Alcantara, S.; Kumar, V.; Han, F.; Kelly, H.; Tan, X.; Yu, Y.; Xu, W.; Zhao, J. Low‐fouling Fluoropolymers for Bioconjugation and In Vivo Tracking. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59 (12), 4729-4735. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201914119.

(44) Bates, M. W.; Barbon, S. M.; Levi, A. E.; Lewis III, R. M.; Beech, H. K.; Vonk, K. M.; Zhang, C.; Fredrickson, G. H.; Hawker, C. J.; Bates, C. M. Synthesis and self-assembly of AB n miktoarm star polymers. ACS Macro Lett. 2020, 9 (3), 396-403. DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.0c00061.

(43) Barbon, S. M.; Song, J.-A.; Chen, D.; Zhang, C.; Lequieu, J.; Delaney, K. T.; Anastasaki, A.; Rolland, M.; Fredrickson, G. H.; Bates, M. W. Architecture effects in complex spherical assemblies of (AB) n-type block copolymers. ACS Macro Lett. 2020, 9 (12), 1745-1752. DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.0c00704.


(42) Zhang, C.; Sanchez, R. J. P.; Fu, C.; Clayden-Zabik, R.; Peng, H.; Kempe, K.; Whittaker, A. K. Importance of Thermally Induced Aggregation on 19F Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Perfluoropolyether-Based Comb-Shaped Poly(2-oxazoline)s. Biomacromolecules 2019, 20 (1), 365-374. DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.8b01549.

(41) Zhang, C.; Li, L.; Han, F. Y.; Yu, X.; Tan, X.; Fu, C.; Xu, Z. P.; Whittaker, A. K. Integrating Fluorinated Polymer and Manganese‐Layered Double Hydroxide Nanoparticles as pH‐activated 19F MRI Agents for Specific and Sensitive Detection of Breast Cancer. Small 2019, 15 (36), 1902309. DOI: 10.1002/smll.201902309.

(40) Yang, G.; Liu, Y.; Wang, H.; Wilson, R.; Hui, Y.; Yu, L.; Wibowo, D.; Zhang, C.; Whittaker, A. K.; Middelberg, A. P. J.; et al. Bioinspired Core–Shell Nanoparticles for Hydrophobic Drug Delivery. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58 (40), 14357-14364. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201908357.

(39) Yadav, P.; Zhang, C.; Whittaker, A. K.; Kailasam, K.; Shanavas, A. Magnetic and photocatalytic curcumin bound carbon nitride nanohybrids for enhanced glioma cell death. ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng. 2019, 5 (12), 6590-6601. DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.9b01224.

(38) Xiao, M.; Hao, M.; Lyu, M.; Moore, E. G.; Zhang, C.; Luo, B.; Hou, J.; Lipton‐Duffin, J.; Wang, L. Surface ligands stabilized lead halide perovskite quantum dot photocatalyst for visible light‐driven hydrogen generation. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2019, 29 (48), 1905683. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201905683.

(37) Lin, C.; Chi, B.; Xu, C.; Zhang, C.; Tian, F.; Xu, Z.; Li, L.; Whittaker, A. K.; Wang, J. Multifunctional drug carrier on the basis of 3d–4f Fe/La-MOFs for drug delivery and dual-mode imaging. J. Mater. Chem. B 2019, 7 (42), 6612-6622.

(36) Fu, C.; Tang, J.; Pye, A.; Liu, T.; Zhang, C.; Tan, X.; Han, F.; Peng, H.; Whittaker, A. K. Fluorinated glycopolymers as reduction-responsive 19F MRI agents for targeted imaging of cancer. Biomacromolecules 2019, 20 (5), 2043-2050.

(35) Chen, A.; Er, G.; Zhang, C.; Tang, J.; Alam, M.; T. Ta, H.; Elliott, A. G.; Cooper, M. A.; Perera, J.; Swift, S. Antimicrobial anilinium polymers: The properties of poly (N, N‐dimethylaminophenylene methacrylamide) in solution and as coatings. J. Polym. Sci., Part A: Polym. Chem. 2019, 57 (18), 1908-1921.


(34) Zhao, Q.; Yang, D.; Zhang, C.; Liu, X.-H.; Fan, X.; Whittaker, A. K.; Zhao, X. Tailored polyimide–graphene nanocomposite as negative electrode and reduced graphene oxide as positive electrode for flexible hybrid sodium-ion capacitors. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2018, 10 (50), 43730-43739. DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b17171.

(33) Zhang, C.; Moonshi, S. S.; Wang, W.; Ta, H. T.; Han, Y.; Han, F. Y.; Peng, H.; Král, P.; Rolfe, B. E.; Gooding, J. J.; et al. High F-Content Perfluoropolyether-Based Nanoparticles for Targeted Detection of Breast Cancer by 19F Magnetic Resonance and Optical Imaging. ACS Nano 2018, 12 (9), 9162-9176. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b03726.

(32) Zhang, C.; Li, W.; Liu, L.; Reid, J.; Bernardi, S.; Searles, D. J.; Peng, H.; Zhang, A.; Whittaker, A. K. Solution properties of thermally sensitive macromolecules studied by high resolution NMR and MD simulations. In Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society, 2018; AMER CHEMICAL SOC: Vol. 255.

(31) Zhang, C.; Kim, D. S.; Lawrence, J.; Hawker, C. J.; Whittaker, A. K. Elucidating the impact of molecular structure on the 19F NMR dynamics and mri performance of fluorinated oligomers. ACS Macro Lett. 2018, 7 (8), 921-926. DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.8b00433.

(30) Zhang, C.; Ferenz, K. Nano-Bio-imaging and therapeutic nanoparticles. J. Nanosci. Nanomed. 2018, 2 (1), 19-20.

(29) Truong, N. P.; Zhang, C.; Nguyen, T. A.; Anastasaki, A.; Schulze, M. W.; Quinn, J. F.; Whittaker, A. K.; Hawker, C. J.; Whittaker, M. R.; Davis, T. P. Overcoming surfactant-induced morphology instability of noncrosslinked diblock copolymer nano-objects obtained by RAFT emulsion polymerization. ACS Macro Lett. 2018, 7 (2), 159-165.

(28) Qiao, R.; Esser, L.; Fu, C.; Zhang, C.; Hu, J.; Ramírez-Arcía, P.; Li, Y.; Quinn, J. F.; Whittaker, M. R.; Whittaker, A. K. Bioconjugation and fluorescence labeling of iron oxide nanoparticles grafted with bromomaleimide-terminal polymers. Biomacromolecules 2018, 19 (11), 4423-4429. DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.8b01282.

(27) Önal, E.; Zhang, C.; Davarcı, D.; İşci, Ü.; Pilet, G.; Whittaker, A. K.; Dumoulin, F. Cyclotriphosphazene, a scaffold for 19F MRI contrast agents. Tetrahedron Lett. 2018, 59 (6), 521-523. DOI: 10.1016/j.tetlet.2017.12.032.

(26) Moonshi, S. S.; Zhang, C.; Peng, H.; Puttick, S.; Rose, S.; Fisk, N. M.; Bhakoo, K.; Stringer, B. W.; Qiao, G. G.; Gurr, P. A. A unique 19 F MRI agent for the tracking of non phagocytic cells in vivo. Nanoscale 2018, 10 (17), 8226-8239. DOI: 10.1039/c8nr00703a.

(25) Liu, Y.; Zhang, C.; Xu, C.; Lin, C.; Sun, K.; Wang, J.; Chen, X.; Li, L.; Whittaker, A. K.; Xu, H.-B. Controlled synthesis of up-conversion luminescent Gd/Tm-MOFs for pH-responsive drug delivery and UCL/MRI dual-modal imaging. Dalton trans. 2018, 47 (32), 11253-11263. DOI: 10.1039/c8dt02436g.

(24) Liu, Y.; Zhang, C.; Liu, H.; Li, Y.; Xu, Z.; Li, L.; Whittaker, A. Controllable synthesis of up-conversion nanoparticles UCNPs@ MIL-PEG for pH-responsive drug delivery and potential up-conversion luminescence/magnetic resonance dual-mode imaging. J. Alloys Compd. 2018, 749, 939-947. DOI: 10.1016/j.jallcom.2018.03.355.

(23) Li, L.; Zhang, C.; Zhang, R.; Xu, Z.; Xu, Z.; Whittaker, A. K. Multifunctional magnetized porous silica covered with poly (2-dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate) for pH controllable drug release and magnetic resonance imaging. ACS Appl. Nano Mater. 2018, 1 (9), 5027-5034. DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.8b01131.

(22) Lawrence, J.; Zhang, C.; Kim, D. S.; Hawker, C.; Whittaker, A. Elucidating the impact of dispersity on the 19F NMR dynamics and MRI performance of fluorinated oligomers. In Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society, 2018; American Chemical Society: Vol. 256.

(21) Han, F. Y.; Whittaker, A. K.; Howdle, S. M.; Naylor, A.; Shabir-Ahmed, A.; Zhang, C.; Smith, M. T. Formulation of bioerodible ketamine microparticles as an analgesic adjuvant treatment produced by supercritical fluid polymer encapsulation. Pharmaceutics 2018, 10 (4), 264. DOI: 10.3390/pharmaceutics10040264

(20) Fu, C.; Zhang, C.; Peng, H.; Han, F.; Baker, C.; Wu, Y.; Ta, H.; Whittaker, A. K. Enhanced performance of polymeric 19F MRI contrast agents through incorporation of highly water-soluble monomer MSEA. Macromolecules 2018, 51 (15), 5875-5882. DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.8b01190.