MacDiarmid Investigators success with 2012 Rutherford Discovery Fellowships

MacDiarmid Investigators success with 2012 Rutherford Discovery Fellowships

Congratulations to MacDiarmid Principal Investigators, Dr Geoff Willmott (IRL) and Dr Martin Allen (CU), who have been awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, two of only ten this year. 

The Fellowships are designed to help develop their research careers in New Zealand and will provide financial support of $160,000 per annum to them over a five-year period.  With this scheme, the New Zealand Government is supporting the development of excellence and has moved to fill a major gap in career opportunities for the most talented early- to mid-career researchers.  The Fellowships are aimed at developing and fostering the future leaders in the New Zealand science and innovation system.  It is intended that the Fellowships will attract and retain New Zealand’s most talented early- to mid career researchers and encourage their career development.

Dr Martin Allen

University of Canterbury, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ultraviolet Vision – New Frontiers in Health and Technology

Dr Allen’s research is concerned with the properties and applications of transparent metal oxide semiconductors for use in solid-state lighting, next-generation optical displays and public health applications.

The output of the sun defines our physiology. Human vision is tuned to the visible spectrum, infrared radiation provides life-giving warmth, while ultraviolet (UV) light has a contradictory nature that is not fully understood. UV radiation attacks the upper layers of our skin through collagen and DNA damage causing premature skin aging and melanoma, while at the same time providing our primary means of vitamin D synthesis. The importance of vitamin D to our general well-being has only recently been fully recognised with vitamin D deficiency being linked to increased risks of multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, bowel cancer and heart disease. Understanding and harnessing the UV spectrum from health and technology perspectives requires new semiconductor materials such as zinc oxide and the oxides of gallium, indium, tin and magnesium. This research program will explore the properties and device opportunities of these exciting materials that possess the rare combination of high mobility conduction and transparency, much sought after for applications such as optical displays, smart windows, electronic paper and transparent electrodes for wide-area solar cells. There is a particular focus on delivering the next generation of epidemiological tools to help provide answers to key health questions concerning the risks and benefits of UV radiation to human health.

Dr Geoff Willmott

Industrial Research Ltd, Nano and Micro Fluidics Group

The Nanofluidic Plumber: Submicron Transport in Liquids

Nanofluidics is the study and application of fluid flow in and around nanoscale structures.  It is a highly topical field, inspired by microfluidics, nanoscience and biotechnology.  At present, the range of tools available to researchers who wish to manipulate fluids at the nanoscale are limited; microfluidic devices are commonplace, but the next steps towards the nanoscale naturally meets technological roadblocks.  This project will use theory and experimentation to develop novel tools for harnessing nanofluidic transport.  One avenue of research involves tunable nanopores.  A tunable nanopore can be used to sense nanoparticles suspended in a solution, and to accurately measure their concentration, size and surface charge. This project will use these pores to analyse a wide range of particle types, including gold and magnetic nanoparticles, viruses, platelets, and large biomolecules.  A second experimental system will focus on the dynamic motion of phase boundaries and water droplets. It has recently been demonstrated that small drops enhance the capillary-driven uptake of liquid into a tube when compared with uptake from a large reservoir.  Drop-enhanced uptake proceeds more quickly, and uptake is even possible when the liquid and tube are ‘non-wetting’ (e.g. water and Teflon).  The research undertaken by Dr Willmott could lead to the development of new instruments and methods with potential to contribute strongly to New Zealand’s push for science-led prosperity.