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 foron-siteandon-demandproduction 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.


Marine Geophysics

Prof Peter Ridd, Dr James Whinney, Michael Santarossa, Dr Rachael Macdonald

This group focuses on the physical conditions in coastal waters and especially the effect of sediment on the Great Barrier Reef. The group is a engaged in developing advanced instrumentation and the measurement of the effects of sediment from dredging operations. Much of the work carried out is either commercial or research consultancy and includes the sale and rental of in-house built current meters, turbidity sensors, sediment deposition sensors and other equipment.

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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, anesthetic 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 novofragment based and ligand based designs. Within the new Science Place building, the group occupies modern laboratories for organic synthesis, separation/purification and molecular characterization.


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.


Tropical Meteorology

Dr Hakeem Shaik, Prof Peter Ridd

Meteorological conditions in the tropics, in particularly the deep convection associated with thunderstorms and cyclones, is the engine that drive the entire earth weather systems. Using both GCM models the group is studying the development of cyclonic systems and the factors that determine if a low pressure system will form a cyclone or not. In addition the group is also working on the analytical models of the Atmospheric Heat Engine and the way it may alter, or otherwise, due to increased CO2 concentrations.


Weed Killing Robotics

Prof Peter Ridd, Alex Olsen, Dr Owen Kenny, Dr Bronson Philippa, Prof Wei Xiang

Introduced weeds affect enormous areas of Australia and are by any measure the greatest threat the country’s environment. Weeds such as Prickly acacia are also having a large, and ever increasing, impact on the productivity of rangeland grazing industry. In this group robotic methods are being developed with the final aim to automatically kill weeds. Advanced image analysis methods are being used to allow future robots to “see” and recognize weeds of interest.