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Staff Profile

Prof. Karl S. Coleman, (Head of Department)

Head of Department in the Department of Chemistry
Travel Approver, Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42116
Member of the Durham X-ray Centre

(email at k.s.coleman@durham.ac.uk)

Research Interests

The group’s research interests are in the field of nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the science of creating structures or materials on a nanometre (one millionth of a millimetre) scale. Interestingly, the fundamental physical and chemical properties of materials are altered as they are decreased to the nanometre scale. Therefore, nanostructured materials offer great potential in the development of new electronic devices, bio-sensors and high strength composites. Our work in this area involves, amongst others, the synthesis and chemistry of graphene and carbon nanotubes as well as nanolithography (the patterning of surfaces).

Synthetic procedures within the group often involve sensitive materials which are handled using inert atmosphere glove-box or Schlenk line techniques. As well as making use of the more routine analytical techniques to characterise the materials, such as NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, the group makes extensive use of scanning probe microscopy (SPM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). An outline of some of our interests are given below.

Graphene

Graphene is single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a continuous honeycomb network and is the latest addition to the nanocarbon family. This 2D nanostructure, best visualised as single layer of graphite, shares the exciting properties of other carbon nanomaterials. Like carbon nanotubes, which can be considered to be a rolled up sheet of graphene, the material has exceptional electrical, thermal and mechanical properties. As a result various applications in materials science including polymer nanocomposites, energy storage materials, transparent thin film electrodes and nanoelectronic components have been envisaged. It has even been suggested that graphene could outperform carbon nanotubes in some of these applications.

One of the problems in graphene research is the availability of the material and the difficulties involved with its synthesis. These issues need to be solved if the applications listed above are to be made viable. Our interests lie in the synthesis of graphene using a variety of methodologies that are scalable and selective for the formation of graphene or few-layer graphene. The figure, above right, shows a filtered high-resolution transmission electron micrograph of a graphene sheet produced in our laboratory.

We recently formed a University spinout company Durham Graphene Science, now renamed Applied Graphene Materials plc (http://www.appliedgraphenematerials.com) to commercialise some aspects of this work. Applied Graphene Materials plc is now listed on the FTSE AIM market.

 

We also work on the chemical modification of graphene and the use of graphene or modified graphene in polymer composites, sensors and energy storage. Some of the composite work is funded through a large 4 year EPSRC funded project (EP/K016784/1) which involves P&G and Dyson. (http://www.dur.ac.uk/grapol)

Chemistry of Carbon Nanotubes

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) have attracted interest and excitement across a broad spectrum of sciences from engineering, materials, chemistry, biology to medicine. Single-walled carbon nanotubes can simply be thought of as a rolled up single sheet of graphite joined at the edges. They are immensely strong with a strength similar to that of steel and can be metallic or semi-conducting depending on their structure. Such impressive mechanical and electronic properties have opened the way for the development of new technologies. However, many possible applications of nanotubes, from use as components in electronics to chemical and biological sensors, can only be realized through chemical control.

We are currently investigating methods of chemically functionalising the carbon nanotubes to:

  • improve dispersion in aqueous and non-aqueous solvents.
  • control their electronic properties for nanoelectronics.
  • enhance their interaction with a range of polymer matrices to form new generation nanocomposites.
  • improve and tailor the bio- compatibility of the nanotube surface to selectively adsorb biological materials for nanoscale biosensors.
  • translocate into cells for imaging and drug delivery.

Nano- Patterned Functional Surfaces

In recent years the generation of nano-patterned surfaces has attracted considerable attention. The ability to selectively engineer chemical composition and structure on such a small scale is of great potential application, particularly in the fields of nanoelectronics, biotechnology and sensing. Methods such as microcontact printing, mechanical spotting and nanoimprint lithography have proved useful in the development and fabrication of DNA, protein and glyco arrays. More recently, nanolithography methods, based on scanning probe technology [atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM)] have been developed, taking advantage of the nanometre sized dimensions of the probes and strong localised tip-surface interactions.

We are currently investigating methods to:

  • generate chemically distinct and spatially controlled nanometre scale patterns in multi-layer films using nano-displacement methodology.
  • use chemically modified AFM probes to induce spatially controlled surface reactions.
  • use chemically distinct patterned regions to selectively adsorb or bind biomolecules.
  • use patterned region as a template for directed nanoparticle assembly.

Nanodisplacement strategy to induce site specific changes in a multilayer film generating a hydrophobic pocket capable of selectively binding biomolecules.

Key References

  1. Extrinsic Wrinkling and Single Exfoliated Sheets of Graphene Oxide in Polymer Composites. M. P. Weir, D. W. Johnson, S. C. Boothroyd, R. C. Savage, R. L. Thompson, S. R. Parnell, A. J. Parnell, S. M. King, S. E. Rogers, K. S. Coleman and N. Clarke. Chemistry of Materials 2016, 28, 1698.
  2. A Manufacturing Perspective on Graphene Dispersions. D. W. Johnson, B. P. Dobson and K. S. Coleman. Current Opinion in Colloid & Interface Science 2015, 20, 367.
  3. Graphene Film Growth on Polycrystalline Metals. R. S. Edwards and K. S. Coleman. Accounts of Chemical Research 201346, 23.
  4. Graphene synthesis: relationship to applications. R. S. Edwards and K. S. Coleman. Nanoscale 2013, 5, 38.
  5. Unweaving the rainbow: a review of the relationship between single-walled carbon nanotube molecular structures and their chemical reactivity. S. A. Hodge, M. K. Bayazit, K. S. Coleman and M. S. P. Shaffer. Chemical Society Reviews 2012, 41, 4409.
  6. Simple and scalable route for the 'bottom-up' synthesis of few-layer graphene platelets and thin films. C. R. Herron, R. S. Edwards, K. S. Coleman, B. Mendis, Journal of Materials Chemistry 2011, 21, 3378.
  7. Pyridine-functionalized single-Walled carbon nanotubes as gelators for poly(acrylic acid) hydrogels. M. K. Bayazit, L. S. Clarke, N. Clarke, K. S. Coleman, Journal of the American Chemical Society 2010, 132, 15814.
  8. Fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotubes following the 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of pyridinium ylides. M. K. Bayazit, K. S. Coleman. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2009, 131, 10670.
  9. A facile, solvent-free, noncovalent, and nondisruptive route to functionalize single-wall carbon nanotubes using tertiary phosphines. A. Suri, A. K. Chakraborty, K. S. Coleman. Chemistry of Materials 2008, 20, 1705.
  10. A new route to the production and nanoscale patterning of highly smooth, ultrathin zirconium oxide films. S. M. D. Watson, K. S. Coleman, A. K. Chakraborty. ACS Nano 2008, 2, 643.

Research Groups

Department of Chemistry

  • Functional Molecules and Materials
  • Soft Matter and Interfaces

Research Interests

  • Graphene
  • Carbon Nanotubes
  • Nanomaterials
  • Nanotechnology

Teaching Areas

  • Functional Materials - Nanomaterials (6 hours/year.)
  • Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms (8 hours/year.)
  • Nanotechnology and Metals in Medicine (9 hours/year.)

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Coleman, Karl S. (2009). Nanotubes. In ANNUAL REPORTS ON THE PROGRESS OF CHEMISTRY, VOL 105, SECTION A: INORGANIC CHEMISTRY. Berry, FJ & Hope, EG THOMAS GRAHAM HOUSE, SCIENCE PARK, CAMBRIDGE CB4 4WF, CAMBS, ENGLAND: ROYAL SOC CHEMISTRY. 105: 382-396.
  • Coleman, Karl S. (2007). Nanotubes. In ANNUAL REPORTS ON THE PROGRESS OF CHEMISTRY, VOL 103, SECTION A: INORGANIC CHEMISTRY. Berry, FJ & Hope, EG THOMAS GRAHAM HOUSE, SCIENCE PARK, CAMBRIDGE CB4 4WF, CAMBS, ENGLAND: ROYAL SOC CHEMISTRY. 103: 392-406.

Journal Article

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Structure, Property and Function: Carbon Nanotubes, Nanosciences and Nanotechnology

Supervises