School of Chemistry


Materials science is an interdisciplinary field involving studying the properties of matter and its applications to various areas of science and engineering. With significant attention to nanoscience and nanotechnology in the recent years, materials science has been propelled to the forefront of research advances through discovery of new materials and exploiting their properties. The new materials are required to advance technology and to improve living standards in a sustainable fashion. They are used to manufacture devices like rechargeable batteries, light emitting diodes and touch screens, and they provide ways to catalyse chemical reactions, to deliver drugs to the body and to capture the gases produced by power stations. The research efforts in materials science involve gaining understanding of how the microscopic structure of materials, at the atomic or molecular level, influences their macroscopic chemical, mechanical, electronic, optical or thermal properties. Ultimately, this understanding determines the way materials can be used and progress in turn leads to new discoveries.



Our Research

The Materials Research Theme at Nottingham brings together researchers who synthesize, characterize and model a wide range of materials. An important strand of our work involves designing and synthesizing new materials, such as biocompatible polymers for drug delivery, molecular materials for optoelectronics and porous nanomaterials for gas capture, as well as new devices, like rechargeable batteries and fuel cells. We are also interested in how materials from biology and geology can be harnessed to help technological developments, as well as in the chemical processes which underpin manufacturing and synthesis, such as molecular self-assembly and the behaviour of molecules at interfaces. We use new characterization techniques like dynamic nuclear polarization enhanced solid-state NMR spectroscopy and ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to study the impact of a material’s structure on its function. We also perform mathematical and computational modelling of materials at the length scales ranging from the smaller realms of atomistic and electronic calculations to the larger scales of engineering interest.

Hydrogen Storage Materials from Cigarette Butts

Discarded cigarette butts are a major waste disposal and environmental pollution hazard. However, Professor Robert Mokaya has discovered that a carbon-based porous material made from non-biodegradable cellulose acetate in discarded cigarette butts has an extremely high surface area, leading to an unprecedented capacity for storing hydrogen gas. As part of the drive towards the Hydrogen Economy, in which hydrogen is used as a low-carbon energy source, this technique could be developed to replace gasoline as a fuel for transport or natural gas for heating. The research was carried out by Troy Scott Blankenship, an undergraduate project student, and has been published in the academic journal Energy and Environmental Science

Watch this report by BBC East Midlands.


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Molecular Organic Networks: a Step Beyond Flatland

Non-covalent interactions can organize planar molecules into two-dimensional arrays adsorbed on surfaces via spontaneous self-assembly. This is a convenient strategy for the manufacture of technologically useful periodic structures, such as networks featuring atomically precise dimensions on the sub-5-nm scale. Until now, these supramolecular assemblies have been restricted to single layers of molecules and the assembly of multi-layered structures has proved challenging, especially where each layer consists of different components. However, it has now been shown in a combined experimental and computational stud that such arrays can be combined at the solid–liquid interface into bi-layered heterostructures. Writing in the academic journal Nature Chemistry, Elena Besley, Peter Beton and co-workers describe how they built such a heterostructure at the solid–liquid interface by the epitaxial assembly of a hydrogen- bonded monomolecular layer on top of a hydrogen-bonded bimolecular network.



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Solid-state NMR Reveals Structures of Thousand-year-old Glasses

Writing in Chemistry a European Journal Jeremy Titman, along with Julian Henderson from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Archaeology, has recently described silicon-29 solid-state NMR measurements on the technological materials of a thousand years ago. These are samples of glass manufactured in large furnaces during the Islamic Golden Age some 1200 years ago and recently excavated from archaeological sites across the Middle East. The results show for the first time that it is possible to establish the distribution of silicon environments in ancient glass by silicon-29 NMR, so long as the concentrations of magnetic impurities are low. Solid-state NMR is the only technique which can provide this detailed structural information. From an archaeological point of view the experiments reveal structural differences between glasses from different locations which might indicate the use of different heat treatments during manufacturing at different sites and during different periods in history.


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Recent Publications

Electrostatic self-assembly: Understanding the significance of the solvent
Lindgren, E. B.; Derbenev, I.; Khachatourian, A.; Chan, H.-K.; Stace, A. J.; Besley, E. 
J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2018 14, 905-915 

Supramolecular materials 
Amabilino D. B.; Smith D. K.; Steed J. W.
Chem. Soc. Rev. 2017 46(9), 2404-2420

Microscale coiling in bis-imidazolium supramolecular hydrogel fibres induced by the release of a cationic serine protease inhibitor
Limon D.; Jimenez-Newman C. Calpena A. C.; Gonzalez-Campo A.; Amabilino D. B.; Perez-Garcia L
Chem. Comm. 2017 53(32), 4509-4512

Phenol-Catalyzed Discharge in the Aprotic Lithium-Oxygen Battery
Gao X.; Jovanov Zarko P.; Chen Y.; Johnson L. R.; Bruce P. G.
Angewandte Chemie (International Edition) 2017, 56(23), 6539-6543 

A rechargeable lithium-oxygen battery with dual mediators stabilizing the carbon cathode 
Gao X.; Chen Y.; Johnson L. R.; Jovanov Zarko P.; Bruce P. G.
Nature Energy 2017, 2(9), 17118

Iron(II)-Catalyzed Hydrophosphination of Isocyanates 
Sharpe H. R.; Geer A. M.; Lewis W.; Blake A.; Kays D.
Angewandte Chemie (International Edition) 2017, 56(17), 4845-4848

Biomass to porous carbon in one step: directly activated biomass for high performance CO2 storage
Balahmar N.; Al-Jumialy A. S.; Mokaya R.
J. Mat. Chem A. 2017 5(24), 12330-12339

A Multi-Redox Responsive Cyanometalate-Based Metallogel 
Mitsumoto K.; Cameron J. M.; Wei R.-J., Nishikawa H.; Shiga T.; Nihei M.; Newton G. N.; Oshio H.
Chem. Eur. J. 2017, 23, 1502–1506

Structure of Ancient Glass by 29Si Magic Angle Spinning NMR Spectroscopy 
Bradford H.; Ryder A.; Henderson J.; Titman J. J. 
Chem. Eur. J., in press (2018).

Closed Bipolar Electrodes for Spatial Separation of H2 and O2 Evolution during Water Electrolysis and the Development of High-Voltage Fuel Cells
Goodwin S.; Walsh D.A.
ACS applied materials & interfaces. 2017 9(28), 23654

Acceleration of dolomitization by zinc in saline waters
Vandeginste, V.; Snell, O.; Hall, M.R.; Steer, E.; Vandeginste, A. 
Nature Communications. 2019 10, 1851.



Postgraduate research

We are interested in the recruitment of talented and enthusiastic students with a passion for creative research.

How to apply




School of Chemistry

University Park Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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