Physical Sciences Research Themes

JCU has many world-renowned researchers who undertake cutting-edge research in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. The following research themes are just some of the areas of expertise within our group.

Continuous-Flow Chemistry

A/Prof Michael Oelgemöller, Dr Mark Robertson

Continuous-flow chemistry has recently transformed chemical manufacturing as it allows for on-site and on-demand production of chemical products. The continuous generation of small quantities furthermore enables the safe operation of potentially hazardous reactions like photochemistry. The JCU team has pioneered this emerging technology and has constructed several novel flow reactors. These advanced devices are subsequently implemented in preparative (photo)chemistry. Bundling of flow reactors furthermore allows for rapid, resource- and space-efficient reaction optimization, scale-up and parallel synthesis. Likewise, the group is conducting one-flow multistep reactions that combine photochemical and thermal reaction steps utilizing several flow reactors in series. The continuous-flow group runs a variety of flow reactors and operates state-of-the art automated purification systems.

Medicinal Chemistry – Synthesis of Bioactive Compounds

A/Prof Michael Oelgemöller, Dr Mark Robertson

This research includes the synthesis of bioactive molecules as well as enabling technologies in order to facilitate this synthesis. The medicinal chemistry team is developing synthetic pathways to novel antibiotic, anti-epileptic, anthelminthic, antimalarial, cardiovascular, anaesthetic and anticancer target molecules. The enabling technologies examined include microwave assisted synthesis, flow chemistry, photochemistry and parallel synthesis. The team is furthermore experienced in computer aided drug design with expertise in molecular dynamics, docking studies and inspection based, de novo fragment-based and ligand-based designs. Within the new Science Place building, the group occupies modern laboratories for organic synthesis, separation/purification and molecular characterisation.

Solar Conversion of Biomass-Derived Chemicals

A/Prof Michael Oelgemöller, Dr Mark Robertson

This research area builds on both of tropical North Queensland’s abundant natural resources, renewable biomass and sunlight, and utilizes these for the production of commercially relevant chemicals. The research allows for product diversification and value addition of existing agricultural or essential oil productions. Solar photochemistry is used for the large-scale synthesis of fragrances, herbicides, pharmaceutical building blocks and antimalarial compounds. Likewise, solar thermal chemistry produces potential pharmaceutically active compounds or insect repellents from local agricultural waste or essential oils. The solar chemistry group operates several trough, dish and flatbed reactors for experiments on laboratory to demonstration scales.