Research Directions

Sustainable energy and clean environment are key global challenges in the 21st century. Our research are focused on design and synthesis of porous materials for energy and environmental applications, in applications such as membranes for molecular separations, heterogeneous catalysis, combustion, and energy conversion and storage. 

Recent materials research include nanostructured mixed metal oxides for combustion and low carbon energy processes (Energy Environ. Sci. 2013), and cutting-edge microporous materials and their applications in membranes for gas separations, notably metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and polymer/MOF composites (Energy Environ. Sci. 2012), polymers of intrinsic microporosity (PIMs) (Nature Communications, 2013;  Nature Communications, 2014Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 2016), novel porous molecular materials known as porous organic cages (Advanced Materials, 2016), and microporous polymer nanofilm membranes (Nature Materials, 2016).

The group is interdisciplinary and motivated to basic research but with interests in practical applications of our research in oil & gas, chemical, and energy industries. The group combines knowledge of materials chemistry, polymer physics, porous materials, nanotechnology, and chemical engineering science, to design novel materials for emerging energy and environmental applications. Our research topics cover the following areas:

  • Design and Synthesis of Functional Materials. Design and synthesis of functional materials, such as microporous polymers, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), layered materials and metal oxides, nanostructured carbon materials, and composite materials. 
  • Microporous Membranes for Molecular Separations. Design and fabrication of polymers and porous materials into microporous membranes for molecular-level separations in energy and environmental processes, such as gas separation, liquid separation, and water purification and desalination. 
  • Nanostructured Materials for Energy Conversion and Storage. Design and synthesis of electrode materials, ion-exchange membranes and separators for electrochemical devices, such as redox flow battery, fuel cells and water electrolysers. 
  • Energy and Environmental Catalysis and Reaction Engineering. Design and synthesis of porous materials and nanostructured catalysts for applications in heterogeneous catalysis and reaction engineering, such as catalytic conversion of fuels, production of renewable fuels, and environmental catalysts for air pollutants control.

Rational design of these novel materials for functional applications requires a fundamental understanding of their physical and chemical properties at the molecular level, such as chemical structure, macromolecular structure and crystalline structure, and linking the structures with their bulk properties over multi-magnitudes of scale. A broad scientific approach is used aiming to understand their physical and chemical properties that dominate the processes of molecular and ionic transport, adsorption/absorption and diffusion, and chemical reactions. The group are working on synthetic chemistry and collaborating extensively with chemists and materials scientists. Extensive physical and chemical characterization techniques are used to establish the structure-property relationships, building a fundamental background for their scale-up and commercialization to industrially useful products.

Research Directions