Research

Our research on optoelectronic materials spans the fields of organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry, polymer science, and nanomaterials. We develop new technologies for applications such as energy-efficient displays, fluorescent bioimaging probes, and organic photocatalysts. Our mission is to provide a collaborative environment where creativity is encouraged, and trainees have the freedom to challenge themselves and break new ground.

Students in the group learn techniques for air-sensitive chemical synthesis, spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and nanoscience. We work with other reseachers in chemistry, engineering, and the life sciences to bring our discoveries to life in functional devices, fluorescent analyses or new chemical transformations. We also collaborate with both large companies and disruptive start-ups to to apply our discoveries to important problems in materials science.

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New Materials for Optoelectronics

Artificial lighting accounts for 19% of global energy demand. Solid-state lighting based on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) can be used to produce efficient lighting sources, and give displays with high resolution and vibrant colours.

Our group develops new materials with improved luminescent and charge-transporting properties for optoelectronics. We use organic, organometallic, and polymer chemistry to synthesize light-emitting materials, and characterize them by fluorescence spectroscopy and electrochemistry. We then work with materials engineers to demonstrate these technologies in functional devices.

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Luminescent Probes for Bioimaging

Sensitive and selective probes for bioanalysis are urgently needed for the detection and treatment of disease. Where healthcare resources are limited, diagnostic tools should also be inexpensive and, ideally, not require sophisticated lab equipment.

Our group develops fluorescent polymer nanoparticles – termed polymer dots, or Pdots – for fluoresence-based assays. In collaboration with Prof. Russ Algar at UBC, we synthesizes new chromophores for use in Pdots, develop multifunctional Pdot probes, and work to unlock their potential as diagnostic tools. We have reported Pdots capable of selectively labeling breast cancer cells, and delivering targeted drug payloads with high specificity.

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Nanoelectronics from Soft Matter

Though Nature routinely constructs complex structures with impressive control, laboratory-based synthetic methods are only beginning to reach similar levels of precision nanoscale synthesis.

Advances in soft matter nanoscience have recently enabled the preparation of complex nanoscale objects with multiple distinct domains. Our group prepares polymer nanomaterials with intrinsic functionality, such as luminescence, conductivity, or sensing ability. We then study the unique photophysical properties that can be unlocked on this length scale, and apply these materials in nanoscale electronics, diagnostics, and encoding technology.

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Sustainable Synthesis

Many methods for making organic semiconductors involve modest yields, elevated temperatures, or substantial waste. This is of particular concern when the building blocks of these materials are expensive and difficult to purify, as is often the case for organic electronics.

We develop simple polymerization reactions for organic semiconductors using inexpensive and easy-to-remove catalysts like copper wire. We target reactions that can be run at room temperature with high yields and minimal waste. We use this philosophy to create new materials across our research program, spanning bioimaging, nanoscale electronics, and display technology.

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