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Our research

The research carried out in the Department of Chemistry encompasses both fundamental and applied research, with a strong focus on interdisciplinary science and collaboration with industry.

Our institutes and centres include the Curtin Institute for Computation, Nanochemistry Research Institute, Curtin Water Quality Research Centre and the Western Australian Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre.

Current research strengths include the following themes:

Analytical Chemistry

Analytical chemistry has been defined by the editor of the leading scientific journal in the field as “the science of inventing and applying the concepts, principles, and instrumental strategies for measuring the characteristics of chemical systems and species.” (Murray RW. 1991. Analytical chemistry: the science of chemical measurements. Analytical Chemistry 63:271a). These characteristics not only include identity, and concentration, but also increasingly location with measurements being based upon a wide range of instrumental techniques including spectroscopy, chromatography, microscopy, mass spectrometry and electrochemistry.

The Department has a significant track record in both applied and fundamental research in analytical chemistry, in areas as diverse as drinking water analysis, fingerprint detection, biomimetic sensors and the use of stable isotopes for provenancing.

Research areas (with contacts) active in analytical chemistry include:

  • Corrosion
  • Electrochemistry and sensors
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Organic and Isotope Geochemistry
  • Water Quality

A wide variety of sophisticated instrumentation is available within the Department for research involving chemical measurement. In addition, analytical researchers in the Department enjoy close proximity to the ChemCentre, which is co-located with the Department of Chemistry. The ChemCentre is the Western Australia Government analytical science service provider and there is a long history of collaboration with Curtin in analytical chemistry research. Curtin analytical researchers are also significant users of advanced facilities such as the Australian Synchrotron.

Chemistry Teaching & Learning

The core business of a university is educating its students, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. To ensure the Department of Chemistry remains at the forefront of this activity, many of our staff are engaged in research into Chemistry education. The principal areas of research include a focus on enhancing learning in the laboratory, in lectures and tutorials, and in the wider community.

Examples of specific research themes (with contacts) include:

  • Evaluation of laboratory experiments and programs through ASELL (Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory).
  • Enhancing learning in laboratory by demonstrator development programs.
  • Application of active learning strategies in large lecture classes.
  • Development and evaluation of effective teaching strategies.
  • Identification and remediation of student alternative conceptions.
  • Development and evaluation of outreach programs.
  • Curriculum development.

We actively collaborate with the Science and Mathematics Education Centre at Curtin, who are world leaders in educational research. Our research is supported by grants from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Computational Chemistry

Computational chemistry, also known as molecular modelling, allows us to gain unprecedented insights into atomic and electronic structure. By combining computational techniques with experiment it is possible to understand chemical and physical processes occurring at the nanoscale and below.

The Department of Chemistry possesses expertise in both the development of new computational methods, their implementation into software and the use of such techniques to solve both fundamental and applied problems.

Current research themes (with contacts) include:

  • Carbon nanomaterials
  • Crystal growth
  • Minerals chemistry
  • Nanoporous materials and membranes
  • Nuclear materials: radiation resistance and novel chemistry
  • Thermodynamics and potential energy surfaces

Through access to supercomputing facilities within Western Australia at iVEC and nationally at NCI, the scope of what is possible by computer simulation is advancing rapidly; especially with the arrival of the Cray XC30 supercomputer, Magnus, at the Pawsey Centre under the management of iVEC.

Materials Chemistry and Spectroscopy

A major research theme within the Department of Chemistry involves the design, characterisation of chemical structure, exploration of chemical properties, and application of functional and specialist materials. The study of the interface between these materials and their surroundings is important to both the fundamental science and potential applications. The development of novel materials, and understanding of existing materials, with applications in the food industry, human and animal health, the chemical, oil and gas, and mining industries is a focus of the Department’s research.Examples of specific research themes (with contacts) include:

  • Surface characterisation
  • Functional soft materials
  • Laser spectroscopy and interfacial chemistry
  • Computational modelling of materials
  • Crystal growth control
  • Luminescent materials
  • Nano-material fabrication, characterisation and application
  • Corrosion of materials

The development of novel materials and an understanding of chemical behaviour are underpinned by a variety of characterisation techniques that are used to explore a range of fundamental and applied chemical problems. This research is funded by the Australian Research Council, CRC Programs, and by our industry partners.

Geochemistry, Minerals and Water

Minerals and Geochemistry research at Curtin includes three main areas – mineralogy, organic and isotopic geochemistry, and water chemistry.

A selection of some of the current research topics (with contacts) include:

Minerals

  • Computational mineralogy
  • Crystal growth
  • Hydrometallurgy

Organic and Isotopic Geochemistry

  • Paleoclimate change & mass extinction events
  • Environmental pollution
  • Paleontology
  • Petroleum and mineral exploration
  • Provenancing
  • Caves and low-temperature mineral deposits

Water chemistry

  • Water treatment and quality, including desalination
  • Water distribution system management

The Minerals and Geochemistry research at Curtin is funded by the Australian Research Council, CRC programs, international research programs, Centres of Excellence Schemes (State Government), CSIRO Flagship Schemes, and by our industry partners.

Synthesis, Medicinal and Biological Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry has broad expertise in the preparation of complex molecules for their chemical, physical and medicinal properties. Some of these molecules are used to study the fundamental aspects of chemistry such as chemical bonding and photochemistry. The Department also has key projects in the applied research areas such as crystal growth modifiers and hydrogelators for the mining and food industries.A growing research theme in the Department of Chemistry is at the interface between biology and chemistry, looking at the interaction between biological molecules and small molecules or surfaces. This research focuses on applications for medicine and agriculture with an emphasis on the development of new biomedical diagnostic methods and rational drug design.

Synthetic

  • Coordination and Organometallic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Lanthanoid Chemistry
  • Development of New Synthetic Methods (including Catalysis)
  • Supramolecular chemistry
  • Luminescent compounds

Medicinal and Biological

  • Biological Electrochemistry
  • Rational Drug Design
  • Phosphorescent Cellular Labels and Optical Diagnostic Agents