Emerging SCPS innovators win KiwiNet funding

Adding to the already impressive list of innovative talent in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, two researchers with a close connection to the school have recently been awarded $25,000 each from KiwiNet’s Emerging Innovator Fund.

SCPS emerging researchers funded by KiwiNet

Dr Andreas Zeller and Dr Tim Brox (left and right of picture shown) have both secured the funding designed to help early stage career scientists build a prototype of their exciting new inventions and enable them to explore markets for those products or services.

Working within the magnetic resonance space, Tim Brox's research focuses on developing new nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to study the rheological behaviour of materials (Rheo-NMR). Rheology is the study of how all materials flow and deform when force is applied.

Along with his thesis supervisor, Dr Petrik Galvosas from Victoria’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, and support from Viclink, Tim manufactured in-house and sold a number of Rheo-NMR enabling instruments to a niche market last year.  

Using the KiwiNet funding to build on that knowledge and intellectual property, Tim is now looking to produce a world-first prototype that enables full rheological measurements to be done in an NMR setting.  As well as having its own commercial value, the prototype will serve as a founding platform for the development of a broad range of Rheo-NMR products in the future.  

“Being able to take a high-precision research tool down the commercialisation path is really neat,” says Tim, who has just taken on the role of Product Development Manager for Viclink to advance the Rheo-NMR technology. “I’ll also be able to use what I’ve learnt during my own experience with commercialisation and apply it to other projects.”  

The second recipient of the $25,000 Emerging Innovator Fund within SCPS is Dr Andreas Zeller, a research and development scientist working at the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology in Professor Thomas Nann’s group. A chemical engineer by training, it was during his PhD at Victoria that he discovered new methods for the synthesis of nanocrystals. 

“Nanocrystals have unique features such as their ability to create colour effects or kill microorganisms,” says Andreas, “so I began to think about how I could use them to enhance other materials.”  

He subsequently developed simple, quick and scalable ways to combine nanocrystals into silicone-based polymers to create ‘smart polymers’—which have the commercial potential to be widely used across industry and home, depending on the type of nanomaterial incorporated, as Andreas explains. “For example, if we apply an antibacterial coating (through the incorporation of silver) to the silicone used in catheters, we could potentially inhibit the bladder infections that often occur, or, if we incorporate the nanocrystals’ colour effect properties with quantum dots we could create 3D holographic display screens.” 

Andreas says he’s excited by the potential his research has for real-world applications, and will use the KiwiNet funding to test various markets before developing a prototype and refining an IP strategy with Viclink’s help.