School of Chemistry researchers have been awarded 8 ARC Discovery Grants

Congratulations to Professor Spas Kolev, Dr Anastasios Polyzos, Associate Professor Alessandro Soncini, Dr Jegadesan Subbiah, Dr Georgina Such, and Professor Spencer Williams (2 grants) for being awarded ARC Discovery grants.

The application summaries for each successful grant are included below:

Polymer Inclusion Membranes for Electrokinetic Sampling and Separation

Prof Michael Breadmore (University of Tasmania) and Prof Spas Kolev

This proposal aims to understand the chemical and physical properties governing the transport of ions into and within advanced extracting polymeric materials, known as polymer inclusion membranes, under the influence of an applied voltage. These membranes are dry-to-touch and represent a new and potentially powerful analytical platform for environmental, medical and industry sample preparation. By understanding the transport mechanism, new membranes will be developed, capable of purifying and concentrating diverse targets chemicals from liquid and solid samples. These processes can take place during sample transportation to a centralised laboratory thus simplifying and streamlining analysis upon arrival to decrease drastically its costs.

Hydrogen atom abstraction and addition via proton coupled electron transfer

Dr David Lupton (Monash) and Dr Tash Polyzos

To prepare new chemicals for the challenges of today, and those in the future, new ways to build materials are needed. These need to deliver maximum complexity (necessary for increasingly sophisticated applications) with minimal economic and environmental cost. In this proposal a family of reactions that are possible using light mediated chemistry will be developed. This approach will allow technologies to be discovered that will enhance the scientific communities ability to deliver materials designed for a wide array of functions from medicinal chemistry, through to materials science.

Nano-fibrous structure for high-performance organic photovoltaic thin films.

A/Prof Jingliang Li (Deakin Uni): Dr Jegadesan Subbiah; Prof Richard Evans (CSIRO, Clayton)

This project aims to create nano-fibrous active thin films with high charge mobility for organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices, using a method inspired by molecular gelation. The significance of this project is that it addresses a major bottleneck, i.e. poor charge generation and transport, that limits the efficiency of OPV devices. The outcomes will provide insights into the crucial factors that affect the self-assembly of organic semiconducting materials, and the influences of nano-fibrous structure on the charge mobility and efficiency of an OPV device. The outcomes will greatly facilitate the development of highly efficient, lightweight and low-cost solar energy harvesting devices to reduce our carbon footprint.

Next generation enzymes  using stimuli responsive protein/polymer hybrids

Dr Georgina Such

Improved stability and control over activity are key to unlocking the full potential of enzymes. Advanced polymer synthesis and synthetic biology will be combined to engineer stable, bioresponsive enzyme/polymer hybrids. This study will: 1: Develop a rapid screening method to identify the optimal sites for polymer-to-enzyme attachment 2: Evaluate the stability and bioresponsive activity of enzyme/polymer hybrids 3: Formulate enzyme/polymer hybrids into a targeted nanoparticle delivery system This project will examine the performance of polymer-enzyme hybrids with cells, however these innovations will also have significant applications in other fields using enzymatic processes, such as food processing, biofuel production, and agriculture.

Extracting the 4f-wavefunction of rare earth magnets from X-ray diffraction. 

A/Prof Alessandro Soncini (University of Melbourne), Dr Jacob Overgaard (Aarhus University, Denmark)

The project aims to develop a new combined computational quantum chemistry and experimental X-ray diffraction protocol to extract the 4f electron wavefunction in lanthanide magnetic materials. Results will be significant for the design and screening of efficient molecule-based magnets. Expected outcomes include detailed understanding of the influence of the chemical and crystal environment on single-molecule magnet properties, and benchmarking and development of new computational methods. Significant benefits include focused strategies to design and identify commercially viable lanthanide-based molecular memories, and advance our understanding of the quantum mechanics of strongly correlated 4f electron systems.

Dissecting a major sulfur cycling pathway: sulfoglycolysis

Prof Spencer Williams and Prof Gideon Davies (University of York, UK)

This project will elucidate the molecular details of sulfoglycolysis, a group of metabolic pathways through which the sulfur-containing sugar sulfoquinovose is catabolized. The project will employ an integrated metabolomic, chemical, biochemical and structural approach to dissect how various sulfoglycolytic organisms degrade sulfoquinovose. This project will deliver a deeper understanding of this major biochemical pathway and develop new chemical and metabolic approaches to manipulate sulfur cycling in the environment. Benefits will include biotechnology applications of newly discovered proteins, and sustainable approaches to reduce our dependence on agricultural fertilisers.

Control of immune recognition and response by microbial metabolites

Prof Spencer Williams

This project aims to study immune recognition of microbial metabolites and develop reagents to control immune responses. Chemical synthesis will be used to develop new antigens for unconventional T cells and the first soluble agonists and antagonists of a glycolipid-sensing immune receptor. Expected outcomes include the discovery of new immune effectors, broadening our knowledge of the repertoire of small molecules that can be sensed by the immune system, and developing chemical approaches to promote or dampen immune responses. Major benefits include research training in chemical biology, strengthened international linkages and fundamental insights into the chemical basis of immune recognition and response.

Bioprogramming the behaviour of nanoparticles in live cells by nanoscopy

Dr Francesca Cavalieri (RMIT University); Dr Marc-Antoine Sani; Dr Christina Cortez-Jugo; Associate Professor Nitin Mantri (RMIT University)

The project aims to develop safer materials that are sustainably sourced from sweet corn, and investigate using advanced imaging technologies, how these materials are processed in biological systems, including human and plant cells. This project expects to generate new knowledge in the optimal design of materials that can be used safely and effectively in biological applications in medicine and in agriculture. Expected outcomes of this multidisciplinary project include a library of highly biocompatible nanomaterials and expanded knowledge on imaging technologies and structure-function relationship of nanomaterials in biological cells. This should provide significant benefits, such as improved crop yields and safer transfection agents.