Anisotropic nanoparticle interactions in advanced coatings

Project Leader: Ray Dagastine
Sponsors: Australian Research Council
Primary Contact: Ray Dagastine (
Keywords: complex fluids; drops and bubbles; nanofabrication; nanostructured surface; surface forces
Disciplines: Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences
Research Centre: Particulate Fluids Processing Centre (PFPC)

This project involves studying the diffusion and assembly of nanoparticles relevant to a number of industrial processes. Engineering materials with deliberately tuned properties by controlling their structure at the nanoscale have the potential to unlock an enormous number of applications in medical, computing, renewable energy, food and chemical processing industries. For example, structurally aggregated zinc oxide rods or carbon nanotubes may be used in the “bottom-up” fabrication of solar cells, and nanoelectronic and photonic devices. A major obstacle to the widespread adoption of "bottom-up" nanofabrication in industrial processes is a lack of understanding about how complex colloidal particles, like carbon nanotubes, move and fit together to form a film.

Traditional optical microscopes are unable to resolve the nanoscale interactions between anisotropic nanoparticles and the substrate for film formation, often limited to larger particles of spherical particle geometries.  Making direct observations of these interactions is critical to improving particle based coatings, but there is currently a lack of methods to quantify these interactions. Using a laser-microscopy technique developed very recently by the Dagastine group, we are able to bypass the optical diffraction limit to perform measurements of particle position and orientation on millisecond timescales. The first measurements arising from the use of our instrument have been reported in late 2016. This project will be among the very first users of this new kind of microscope, and it is expected that this project will contribute to its ongoing development as a research tool.

The initial focus of the project will involve fabricating bespoke anisotropic particles via a nanofabrication process to make nano-rods, Janus particles, or plat-like particles. These will then be used to further develop the theory and instrumentation required to apply this new technique to a wide range of systems (e.g. both commercial particles, carbon nanotubes, ZnO crystals, viruses, as well as fabricated particle systems). The overarching objective of this work is to derive/validate a general physical theory for nanoparticle interactions that takes into account the effects of shape and composition, and apply this in in film formation for specific systems.

Note: Some of this work will be carried out at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication.

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