Chemistry David Miller-Shakesby Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry PHD DSC01899

Chemistry for Smart Materials

The research within this theme covers catalysis, photonic/electronic materials, biomaterials, nanomaterials, energy materials, structure-property relationships, colloids, polymers, composites and liquid crystals.

Our work is relevant to many industries including food, agrochemical, oilfield chemical, and pharmaceutical.

Picture_Georg Mehl
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Professor Georg Mehl
Professor of Organic and Materials Chemistry

The Challenge

Chemistry is at the heart of collaborative research to create smart materials with a range of properties for applications in modern technologies.

Use of non-toxic biosourced microcapsules to replace petroleum-based chemicals and materials

Discovering the limits of stability and reactivity for small molecules.

The Approach

The approach is a collaborative research with Chemistry at the heart of all activities. Chemistry is the vital discipline thanks to which new materials with a range of properties are created and can be tested for applications in every-day activities.



Examples of smart materials created within this research theme include (but are not limited to) new materials for fast switching devices, new catalysts for the synthesis of vitamin E, smart soaps, artificial leaf devices for hydrogen generation from surface-immobilised microalgae.



Fundamentals of liquid crystals and their applications

Liquid crystal – metal nanocomposites and their functions (Mehl)


EU Interreg, Sullied Sediments

Rotchell (PI), with Boa, Lorch, Pamme in Chemistry as co-Is, plus multiple European partners


Fundamental studies of bonding and stability of highly reactive species

Application of spectroscopy to structural problems in materials and biosciences. (Young)

View all projects
  • Palladium alloys and intermetallics as catalysts for semi-hydrogenation. Ended 2018 Ibhadon (Chemical Engineering) - Francesconi

  • Novel nanocatalysts for hydrogen transfer reactions Ibhadon (Chemical Engineering) – Francesconi.







JACS 2015, 137, 12736; Phys Rev. Lett. 2016, 116, 217801; Nano Lett. 2017, 17, 7515; Mater. Horizon 2019, 6, 1905; J. Mater. Chem. C, 2014, 2, 8179; Mehl
ACS Appl. Mater. Interf., 2017, 9,44152; Langmuir, 2018, 34, 442 Paunov

Adv. Colloid Interf. Sci., 2017, 249, 134; ACS Appl. Mater. Interf., 2019, 11, 12232 and 38519; Nanoscale Adv. 2019, 1, 2323; Paunov, Horozov

J. Colloid Interface Sci., in press (2020); J. Mater. Sci., in press (2020); Langmuir, in press (2020); Green Chem., 22, 5470-5475 (2020); Appl. Catal. B: Environmental, 254, 452-462 (2019); Angew. Chemie Int. Ed. x5, Nature Commun. 2018, 9, 3546, and J. Amer. Chem. Soc Binks

Appl. Catal., A, 2017, 544; ChemCatChem 2019, 11, 2909; Lab on a Chip, 2015, 15, 3154 Francesconi

Chem. Eur. J. 2018, 24, 17915 Efremova

J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 12989 Chin

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 1690 Evans

‘Increase of Direct C−C Coupling Reaction Yield by Identifying Structural and Electronic Properties of High-Spin Iron Tetraazamacrocyclic Complexes.’ S. M. Brewer, K. R. Wilson, D. G. Jones, E. W. Reinheimer, S. J. Archibald, T. J. Prior, M. A. Ayala, A. L. Foster, T. J. Hubin, K. N. Green, Inorganic Chemistry, 2018, 57, 8890-8902.

‘Simultaneous differential scanning calorimetry-synchrotron X‑ray powder diffraction: a powerful technique for physical form characterization in pharmaceutical materials.’ A. Clout, A. B. M. Buanz, T. J. Prior, C. Reinhard, Y.Wu, D. O’Hare, G. R. Williams, S. Gaisford, Analytical Chemistry, 2016, 88, 10111-10117.

Mater. Horiz. 2017, 4, 1196, Paunov

Mehl (2020)
H. Yu, C. Welch, C. P. J. Schubert, W. Qu, G. Siligardi, F. Liu, G. H. Mehl, Chirality enhancement in macro-chiral liquid crystal nanoparticles, Materials Horizons, 2020, 7, 3021 – 3027; DOI: 10.1039/D0MH01274B; open access.
X. Wang, J. A. J. Fells, Y. Shi, T. Ali, C. Welch, G. H. Mehl, T. D. Wilkinson, M. J. Booth, S. M. Morris, S. J. Elston, A compact full 2π flexoelectro-optic liquid crystal phase modulator; Adv. Mater. Technol. 2020, 2000589; DOI: 10.1002/admt.202000589; open access.
V. Krishnasamy, W. Qu, C. Chen, H. Huo, K. Ramanagul, V. Gothandapani, G. H. Mehl, Q. Zhang, F. Liu; Self-assembly and Temperature-driven Chirality Inversion of Cholesteryl-based Block Copolymers; Macromoleucles, 2020, 53, 4193–4203; DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.9b02264.
W. D. Stevenson, X. B. Zeng, C. Welch, A. Thakur, G. Ungar, G. H. Mehl, Circular Dichroism Confirms Global Chirality of Low-Temperature Nematic Phase in Bent Dimers, J. Mater. Chem C. 2020, 8, 1041-1047 DOI: 10.1039/C9TC05061B.

1. Sporopollenin as an Efficient Green Support for Covalent Immobilization of a Lipase, S.P. de Souza, J. Bassut, H. M. Alvarez, I.I. Junior, L.S.M. Miranda, Y. Huang, G. Mackenzie, A.N. Boa, R.O.M.A. de Souza, Catal. Sci. Technol. 2015, 5, 3130-3136. doi: 10.1039/c4cy01682c
2. Sporopollenin, the least known yet toughest natural biopolymer, G. Mackenzie, A.N. Boa, A. Diego Taboada, S.L. Atkin and T. Sathyapalan, Front. Mater. 2015, 2:66. doi: 10.3389/fmats.2015.00066
3. Sulfonated Sporopollenin as an Efficient and Recyclable Heterogeneous Catalyst for Dehydration of D-Xylose and Xylan into Furfural, Y. Wang, T. Len, Y. Huang, A. Diego Taboada, A.N. Boa, C. Ceballos, F. Delbecq, G. Mackenzie, and C. Len, ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2017, 5, 392-398. doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.6b01780
4. Sporopollenin exine capsules (SpECs) derived from Lycopodium clavatum provide practical antioxidant properties by retarding rancidification of an ω-3 oil, M. J. Thomasson, A. Diego-Taboada, S. Barrier, J. Martin-Guyout, E. Amedjou, S. L. Atkin, Y. Queneau, A. N. Boa, and Grahame Mackenzie, Ind. Crop Prod. 2020, 154, 112714. doi: 10.1016/j.indcrop.2020.112714

1. Searching for Monomeric Nickel Tetrafluoride: Unravelling Infrared Matrix Isolation Spectra of Higher Nickel Fluorides, L. Li, A. K. Sakr, T. Schlöder, S. Klein, H. Beckers, M.-P. Kitsaras, H. V. Snelling, N. A. Young, D. Andrae and S. Riedel, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2020, in the press, doi: 10.1002/anie.202015501 and 10.1002/ange.202015501.

2. How Inert, Perturbing, or Interacting Are Cryogenic Matrices? A Combined Spectroscopic (Infrared, Electronic, and X-ray Absorption) and DFT Investigation of Matrix-Isolated Iron, Cobalt, Nickel, and Zinc Dibromides, O. M. Wilkin, N. Harris, J. F. Rooms, E. L. Dixon, A. J. Bridgeman and N. A. Young, J. Phys. Chem. A, 2018, 122, 1994-2029, doi: 10.1021/acs.jpca.7b09734.

3. X-ray absorption study of platinum and palladium atoms in argon matrices: Evidence for platinum in a substitutional site and a short PdAr interaction, N. Harris, A. K. Sakr, H. V. Snelling and N. A. Young, J. Mol. Struct., 2018, 1172, 80-88, doi:

4. Structure and Electronic Properties of the Quasi-One-Dimensional Ba2Co1–xZnxS3 Series, M. R. Harrison, A. Maignan, V. Hardy, O. I. Lebedev, N. A. Young and M. G. Francesconi, Inorg. Chem., 2017, 56, 213-223, doi: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.6b02014.

5. A Matrix Isolation and Computational Study of Molecular Palladium Fluorides: Does PdF6 Exist?, A. V. Wilson, T. Nguyen, F. Brosi, X. Wang, L. Andrews, S. Riedel, A. J. Bridgeman and N. A. Young, Inorg. Chem., 2016, 55, 1108-1123, doi: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.5b02273.

6. The application of synchrotron radiation and in particular X-ray absorption spectroscopy to matrix isolated species, N. A. Young, Coord. Chem. Rev., 2014, 277, 224-274, doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2014.05.010.

7. Spectroscopic and computational insight into the activation of O2 by the mononuclear Cu center in polysaccharide monooxygenases, C. H. Kjaergaard, M. F. Qayyum, S. D. Wong, F. Xu, G. R. Hemsworth, D. J. Walton, N. A. Young, G. J. Davies, P. H. Walton, K. S. Johansen, K. O. Hodgson, B. Hedman and E. I. Solomon, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 2014, 111, 8797-8802, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1408115111.

8. How does iron interact with sporopollenin exine capsules? An X-ray absorption study including microfocus XANES and XRF imaging, S. J. Archibald, S. L. Atkin, W. Bras, A. Diego-Taboada, G. Mackenzie, J. F. W. Mosselmans, S. Nikitenko, P. D. Quinn, M. F. Thomas and N. A. Young, J. Mat. Chem. B, 2014, 2, 945-959, doi: 10.1039/c3tb21523g.

9. Main group coordination chemistry at low temperatures: A review of matrix isolated Group 12 to Group 18 complexes, N. A. Young, Coord. Chem. Rev., 2013, 257, 956-1010, doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2012.10.013.




Inorganic Materials for C Capture (with D. Benoit) PhD ended in 2018

Pd-based catalysts for the synthesis of food and pharmaceuticals (Ibhadon and Francesconi) PhD ended in 2018

Non-noble metal Nanocatalysts for the hydrogenation of substituted nitroarenes (Ibhadon and Francesconi) PhD, ends in 2021



Enhanced oil recovery, funded by American oilfield chemical company, PhD studentship, 3.5 yrs. HOSEIN REZVANI

Catalysis in particle-stabilised emulsions, funded by EU entitled One-Flow, Postdoctoral assistant, 4 yrs. ANA MARIA BAGO-RODRIGUEZ

Oil foams stabilised by surfactant crystals, funded by CSC, PhD studentship, 4 yrs. YU LIU

Oil-oil emulsions stabilised by surfactant crystals, funded by Nanjing University (China), Visiting scholar, 1 yr. YUE ZHOU

Whipped oil formulations for skin treatment, funded by Israeli foam company, Postdoctoral assistant, 2 yrs. BADRI VISHAL

Stabilisation and destabilisation of Pickering emulsions, funded by CSC, PhD studentship, 4 yrs. RAOJUN ZHENG

Pour point depressant in crude oil, funded by American lubricating oil company, PhD studentship, 3.5 yrs. CONNOR HOLMES

Anti-bacterial surfactant hand wash, funded by UK company, Postdoctoral assistant, 6 months ANA MARIA BAGO-RODRIGUEZ



Exploration of liquid crystalline quantum dots ( PhD, funding KSA.ongoing) Haifa Ojaym

Chirality in liquid crystal gold nano-composites (PhD, CSC, completed in 2020) Huanan Yu

The investigation of emerging chirality in chemically non-chiral systems (PhD, CSC, ongoing) Wanhe Jiang

Photo-active liquid crystal systems (PhD, ongoing) Stephan Conopo Holyoake



3D and 4D printing of metal-organic frameworks (Ellis Marshall, PhD, completed 2019)


Aimilia Meichanetzoglou

Use of Sporopollenin capsules for waste water remdiation

(co-supervisor, Prof J. Rotchell, Biological and Marine Sciences)



Ahmed Sakr, Transition metal halides and main group Lewis-acid base complexes (completed 2018)

Fatmah Alkhatib, Spectroscopic and imaging investigation of sporopollenin-metal interactions (completed 2017)


Our research impacts the world. Come and join us.

Be part of a vibrant research community at the University of Hull.

Find out more