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The University of Southampton

Research project: Attard: Synthesis of Nanostructured Materials In Liquid Crystalline Phases

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The conventional processing of ceramics involves firing a formed powder at high temperatures. A considerable disadvantage of this process is that it affords little or no control over the nanometre scale organization of the material. We have recently discovered that the rich variety of liquid crystal phases formed by lyotropic liquid crystals provides a range of templates for the synthesis of oxide ceramics and metals with well-defined periodic porous architectures at the nanometre level.

In this process, which is conducted at ambient or moderate temperatures, the structure of the liquid crystalline phase in effect acts as a mould, and the formation of inorganic oxides or metals proceeds within the aqueous domains of the mesophase. We have also discovered that a wide range of nanostructured mesoporous metals can be electrodeposited as thin adherent films by using electroplating mixtures that are in a liquid crystalline phase. Our research, which involves extensive collaborations with colleagues in Chemistry and in other departments, encompasses the synthesis of new nanostructured materials (e.g. semiconductors), characterisation of the physical properties of nanostructured metals (e.g. magnetic and superconducting properties and studies of the technological potential of these new materials in catalysis, chemical separation, fuel cell, battery, and sensor applications.

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