Nanotechnology for Advanced Materials

Graphene, advanced woven material, yellow advanced polymer

Theme Overview

Advanced materials are engineered to have dramatically improved functionalities. They can be smart polymers, often derived from sustainable sources, that respond to external stimuli such as heat, light, electric and magnetic fields etc. They can be smart polymers that are easily recycled to support a circular economy and reduce environmental impacts. They can be high-performance membranes for selective separations, or they can be thin films and other 2D materials for a multitude of applications. These are only a few examples of many advanced materials discovered in our laboratories, the synthesis and characterization of which are made possible by advances in nanotechnology. 

Professor Xianshe Feng

Dr. Xianshe Feng

Professor Xianshe Feng is an expert in the field of membrane science and technology. Feng’s expertise lies in membrane fabrication, module design, and process development. He uses functional materials and advanced techniques to design and fabricate high performance membranes. He also specializes in adsorption-based separation for niche applications.

Membrane separation has a broad range of applications, from wastewater treatment, greenhouse gas emission control, to product recovery and purification in food processing and biochemical processes. The membrane allows certain components in a mixture to be filtered out while others are retained. Some of the technologies Feng developed are being exploited for commercial applications.

Professor Milad Kamkar

Dr. Milad Kamkar

Professor Milad Kamkar, Director of the Multiscale Materials Design Lab, engineers advanced materials across scales, from nanoscale chemistry to macroscale manufacturing. His team precisely controls surface chemistry and geometry on the nanoscale using molecular engineering, enabling control over the microscale assembly of materials like graphene oxide, MXene, cellulose nanocrystals, and polymers. These tailored nano and microscale features yield advanced products with versatile rheological properties, ready for diverse applications such as sensors, electromagnetic shielding, and environmental remediation. Based on their rheological features, the Kamkar group employs advanced manufacturing methods like 3D printing and interfacial assembly to bring these innovations to fruition.

Professor Yuning Li

Dr. Yuning Li

In the Printable Electronic Materials Lab Professor Yuning Li leads cutting-edge research on advanced materials for electronic and electrical devices. Through his focus on functional polymers and nanomaterials, his innovative work actively contributes to the development of next-generation electronics for the Internet of Things (IoTs), wearable electronics, artificial intelligence, and sustainable energy technologies.

One of Professor Yuning Li's areas of expertise lies in creating conductive and semi-conductive polymers and nanomaterials specifically designed for printed electronics. Unlike traditional electronics that heavily rely on brittle and expensive-to-process silicon, which may not be suitable for emerging applications, Li develops polymers and nanomaterials that enable the printing of flexible electronics, solar cells, and sensors. These materials possess a wide range of advantages, including cost-effectiveness, mechanical flexibility, lightweightness, and the capability for high-speed manufacturing.

Professor Tizazu Mekonnen

Dr. Tizazu Mekonnen

Professor Tizazu Mekonnen’s team is advancing comprehensive strategies to discover innovative platforms for the development of sustainable multiphase and multifunctional plastics. The team’s work encompasses the development of novel routes and modification chemistries for the conversion of renewable feedstock chemicals, such as sugars, lignin, plant oils, and other naturally sourced starting materials into sustainable plastics. His team envisages a rational design of polymers that combine functionality, product performance and low cost while having negligible environmental impact and tangible societal benefits.

Professor Alex Penlidis

Dr. Alex Penlidis

Professor Alex Penlidis has expertise in polymer reaction engineering. His research group uses mathematical modelling to predict the behaviour and properties of polymerization reactors (and polymeric materials). Penlidis works closely with industry. He tailors molecules for specific industrial applications. His research group explores the behaviour and microstructure of polymer molecules.

Another of Penlidis’ research interests is designing and modifying materials to enhance environmental stress crack resistance in pipes, in collaboration with Civil Engineering (Professor Marianna Polak).

Professor Michael Pope

Dr. Michael Pope

Professor Michael Pope is the Director of the 2D Materials and Electrochemical Devices Lab. His focus in advanced materials is on improving the production and processing of 2D nanomaterials. Pope works with a group of materials which are graphene-based. Graphene-based materials have many unique features such as a high surface area, and distinctive electronic properties such as high mobility. Pope’s research group is interested in exploring ways to manipulate the properties of graphene-based materials to customize them for specific applications.

Pope also works with other materials such as hexagonal boron nitride and molybdenum disulphide as building blocks to make different advanced materials such as electronic, optoelectronic, and energy storage materials. His research group focuses on scale-up and making these materials more cost-effective for industry. He also makes these materials into composites using other materials and interfacial engineering to couple these 2D materials with polymers, ionic liquids and surfactants to make improved energy storage devices.

Professor Elisabeth Prince

Dr Elisabeth Prince

Professor Elisabeth Prince, Director of the Prince Polymer Materials Lab is developing new approaches for recycling rubbers and thermosets, which are plastics that are not recyclable by currently available methods. Her group is adding thermally cleavable bonds into the backbone of these materials, allowing them to be remolded and recycled at high temperatures. The results of these projects will help address the global plastic waste crisis.

Professor Hamed Shahsavan

Dr. Hamed Shahsavan

Professor Hamed Shahsavan is designing novel smart polymers that are programable. By stimulating the materials through an external cue such as heat, light, electricity, electrical field, or magnetic field, these advanced polymers change their size and shape. Shahsavan, Director of the SMART-Lab: Smart Materials for Advanced Robotic Technologies also works on the theoretical aspects and modelling of programmable soft materials engineers to predict their response to external cues. His research group utilizes molecular engineering to alter the mechanical properties of the materials at the micro- to mesoscale. The advanced materials Shahsavan is designing are mainly for use in medical robotic applications that mainly focus on shape change to help them function.

Professor David Simakov

Dr. David Simakov

Professor David Simakov’s research group designs emerging catalytic materials for applications in green reaction engineering. The research is at the interface between materials engineering, physical chemistry, and chemical reaction engineering.

Professor Simakov’s research group aims to develop highly efficient catalytic materials for CO2 conversion, focusing on emerging materials such as transition metal carbides. This goal is being achieved through rational materials design, nanotechnology, and novel synthesis methods that allow for controlling materials morphology at nanoscale. The focus is on thermocatalytic materials, the materials which are used for CO2 conversion at high temperatures.

Professor Michael Tam

Dr. Michael Tam

Professor Michael Tam’s research interests are in cellulose nanomaterials, functional colloids, self-assembly systems, polymer-surfactant interactions, and air/water purification systems. These nanomaterials are then functionalized or chemically modified to impart properties that are pertinent for specific applications. The Tam Lab is developing solutions by harnessing the power of natural resources that satisfy the net-zero economy. Examples of some applications on which his group is working are sustainable packaging systems, novel antimicrobial compounds, and low-energy dehumidification technologies.

Professor Ting Tsui

Dr. Ting Tsui

Professor Ting Tsui has expertise in nano-mechanics, biophysics, and nanoscale fabrication. He has over ten years of semi-conductor industrial research experience. His research interests include developing new materials for integrated circuits (IC), BEOL reliability of IC, and the impacts of external cues on biological cell behavior.  He researches the mechanical aspect of these materials, including thin film channel cracking and delamination. Tsui also focuses on the influences of metal ions and engineered nano-topographic features on cell behaviors. He is the director of the Nanotechnology Engineering Program at the University of Waterloo.

Professor Costas Tzoganakis

Dr. Costas Tzoganakis

Professor Costas Tzoganakis has expertise in polymer processing, polymer modification through reactive extrusion and rubber devulcanization. His start-up Tyromer Inc. converts scrap tire rubber into a tire-derived polymer that is used as feedstock to create new tires contributing to the creation of a circular economy. Tzoganakis also has research interests in biobased polymers and composites.

Professor Evelyn Yim

Dr. Evelyn Yim

Professor Evelyn Yim has expertise in working with a variety of advanced materials, including polymers. Yim, Director of the Regenerative Nanomedicine Lab, modifies the structure shape and form of the materials using nanotopography. Yim’s research group uses nanoscale structures to design materials for bioengineering. She uses these techniques and materials in her research to create vascular grafts to improve outcomes for bypass patients. She also uses a nano-structured substrate in her research on cornea reconstruction.

Professor Aiping Yu

Dr. Aiping Yu

Professor Aiping Yu is working with carbon nanomaterials specifically focusing on advanced 2D materials including graphene. Yu, Director of the Applied Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory, also works with layered metal oxides, Mxenes,  layered double hydroxides and more. Yu applies engineering control on these materials including chemical functionalization, (adding chemical groups to the 2D materials),  morphology control, and porosity control to increase the surface area of the materials.  Yu utilizes the above engineering controls to add additional functionality to the designed materials.

Dr. Boxin Zhao

Dr. Boxin Zhao

Professor Boxin Zhao designs polymer composites to be multifunctional for chemical, biomedical and mechanical applications. He studies the component interactions inside the composite material with the aim of exploring the synergy between the components adding high value and high performance to the material. Zhao designs these materials to be sustainable to minimize the environmental impact and to make the material recyclable.

Zhao, Director of the Surface Science and Bio-nanomaterials Laboratory, utilizes nanotechnology engineering and surface engineering technologies on the polymers he designs to create advanced smart materials. Zhao synthesizes new nanoparticles to study the dispersion and enhanced properties of nanofiller/polymer composites.  Zhao creates advanced materials that can interact with light for a smart window application or with electrical current or heat for soft robotics  and other applications.

Professor Boxin Zhao

Remote video URL

Professor Boxin Zhao's research group has designed a novel type of wound dressing using advanced polymers. His research group has made significant strides in developing intelligent hydrogel materials for use as a reusable wound dressing. The video demonstrates the multi-thermal aspects of the wound dressing.

Professor Milad Kamkar

Remote video URL

Professor Milad Kamkar and his research group have developed a new 3D printing technique for conducting polymers. The video shows continuous filament formation of PEDOT: PSS-based ink that creates free-standing PSS printed structures. The video also demonstrates LED testing of 3D-printed PEDOT: PSS-based free-standing structures.

Professor Elisabeth Prince Research Interests

Remote video URL