A/Prof. Rob Atkin
|Work Phone||(02) 4921 7107|
|Fax||(02) 4921 5472|
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
The University of Newcastle, Australia
My research is focused on understanding the fundamental properties of room temperature Ionic Liquids. Room temperature ionic liquids (ILs), or molten salts, are unusual substances whose physical properties have so far been vastly under-exploited. The aim of my work is to understand the structure and properties of solid-, liquid- and gas- IL interfaces, and to investigate the use of surface-active molecules to modify and control these properties. This is of immediate importance for several important applications including lubrication, catalysis, in various electrochemical processes, as surface coatings, as storage media for gas transport, and in dye sensitised solar cells where the mobility of interfacial ions plays a key role in determining current.
- PhD, University of Newcastle, 2003
- Bachelor of Science, University of Newcastle, 1998
- Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Newcastle, 1998
- Atomic Force Microscope
- Ionic Liquids
- Neutron Scattering
- Polymer Adsorption
- Surfactant Adsorption
- X-ray Scattering
My PhD made significant contributions in the area of interfacial adsorption, particularly concerning the kinetics and mechanism of ionic surfactant adsorption at the solid-aqueous solution interface. The primary instrument used for determining adsorption rates was optical reflectometry. I spent some time optimising this technique, greatly increasing the quality of the data obtained, which led the instruments pioneering users (Prof Luuk Koopal and Prof Martien Cohen-Stuart) to state his data sets the standard for what can be achieved with this technique in the field of surfactant adsorption. As optical reflectometry yields no structural information, soft-contact atomic force microscopy was used to determine the topography of the adsorbed surfactant layer, as well as the layer thickness. My PhD culminated with the writing of a major review article for Advances in Colloid and Interface Science in 2003.
My work at Bristol University dealt with the preparation of polymer microcapsules for controlled release applications. I contributed to the development of a novel method that allows the thickness of the polymer shell to be accurately controlled, which allows manipulation of the release profile of the encapsulated material. Two Langmuir papers and one Macromolecules paper resulted from this work. Another method for coating particles with a polymer layer that swells and de-swells in response to variation in pH was also developed and published in Soft Matter.
As an APD at the University of Sydney (DP0556126) I completed a comprehensive study of microemulsion phase behaviour and nanostructure of ethylammonium nitrate microemulsions. A follow up investigation examined surfactant micelle, liquid crystal and microemulsion phase behaviour and structure in propylammonium nitrate, and I initiated a study using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to show the presence of self assembled surfactant aggregates at the graphite ionic liquid interface. However, the two studies that were most critical dealt with pure ionic liquids. Firstly, I used AFM to study the interfacial structure of a variety of ionic liquids on several different solid substrates. Secondly, I used small angle neutron scattering to show that protic ionic liquids have a bulk sponge-like nanostructure; although these ionic liquids had been studied for over 100 years, bulk structure was never suspected. In a subsequent book chapter I rationalised the relationship between bulk and interfacial ionic liquid structure. These two key results set the course for future research, and formed the foundation of Australian Research Council Discovery project (DP0986194) Adsorption and Structure at Ionic Liquid Interfaces.
I have developed upon these results since moving to the University of Newcastle in June 2007. My group has examined the influence of temperature and molecular structure on protic and aprotic ionic liquid interfacial structure. We have found that this interfacial structure is sufficiently strong to prevent particle aggregation in ionic liquids despite the extremely high ionic strength, and found that in some cases particles settled many times faster than predicted by the Stokes equation.
I have developed a collaboration with Professor Frank Endres (Clausthal University, Germany) dealing with the influence of ionic liquid molecular structure on electrochemical behaviour. I have completed a study concerning the self assembly of Pluronic polymers in bulk ionic liquids and at the silica ionic liquid interface; adsorbed self assembled aggregates were identified at the interface between an ionic liquid and a charged surface for the first time. In collaboration with Professor Mark Rutland (KTH, Sweden) I have examined the structure of the ethylammonium nitrate-air interface and of surfactants adsorbed at this interface. I have also identified remarkable increases in the thermal stability and activity of lysozyme in water ionic liquid mixtures.
Fields of Research
|Macromolecular And Materials Chemistry Not Elsewhere Classified(030399)||65|
|Physical Chemistry Not Elsewhere Classified(030699)||30|
|Condensed Matter Physics Not Elsewhere Classified(020499)||5|
Centres and Groups
- PRC - Priority Research Centre for Advanced Particle Processing and Transport
- PRC - Priority Research Centre for Organic Electronics
- PRC - Priority Research Centre for Organic Electronics
- Environmental Chemistry
- Physical Chemistry
1. Introductory Chemistry II (CHEM1020)
2. Physical Chemistry (CHEM2410)
3. Environmental Chemistry (CHEM 2610)
4. Energy and Structure (CHEM3410)
5. Polymers and Colloids (CHEM3580)
Dr Oliver Werzer 2009 2011.
Project Title: Bulk and Interfacial Structure of PEO and PPO in Ethylammonium
Deborah Wakeham 2008 2011. Surfactant Adsorption and Structure at Ionic
Jacob Smith 2010-13. Interfacial Forces in Ionic Liquids.
Robert Hayes 2010-13. Nanostructure in Ionic Liquids.
Honours Students (all have received Honours Class 1)
Robert Hayes 2009. Structure of Ethylammonium Nitrate in Bulk and at an
Philip Marquet 2009. Interfacial Structure in Dye Solar Cells.
Jacob Smith 2009. Particle Stability in Protic Ionic Liquids.
4Th Year Project Students
Paul Davies 2004. Water Core Polymer Shell Microcapsules.
Jason Mann 2008. Thermal Stability of Lysozyme in Alkylammonium Formate
Jasons thesis received the highest grade in his year.
Summer Research Scholarship Students
Connie Lui 2005. Polymer Solubility in Ionic liquids.
Lisa-Maree De Fina 2006, Phase Behaviour of P65 in Ethylammonium Nitrate.
Robert Hayes 2007 & 2008. Interfacial Structure in Alkylammonium Formate Ionic
Samuel Turner 2007. Effect of Impurity on the Surface Tension of SDBS.
Jason Mann 2007. Thermal Stability of Lysozyme in Alkylammonium Formate
Oliver Coleman 2008. Ion Adsorption at the Calcite Water Interface.
Timothy Murdoch 2010. Interface Characterisation in Dye Solar Cells
Emma Saville 2010. Effect of Ionic Liquids on the Stability of Glucose Oxidase