Dr Cheng Zhang

ARC DECRA

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
c.zhang3@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 63849

Overview

Dr Cheng Zhang is an innovative Research Fellow supported by both ARC and NHMRC. He has an outstanding track record in the fields of fluoropolymers, polymer chemistry and materials science. He has made significant contributions to these fields of research through innovative chemistry to build precise fluoropolymer structures and subsequent molecular-level characterisation to understand the structure-property relationship for specific applications including from energy materials e.g. solid electrolytes, sorbent materials for environmental PFAS remediation, to functional biomaterials e.g. imaging and therapeutic agents.

Research Interests

  • Fluorinated compounds
  • Polymeric biomaterials for disease detection and treatment
  • NMR and MRI of polymers
  • Solid fluoropolymer electrolytes
  • PFAS remediation

Research Impacts

Dr Zhang's research aims to promote polymer chemistry and its value to society by understanding structure-property relationships to develop novel functional polymeric platforms rapidly. An important way for achieving such a vision is to deliver academic excellence toward social engagement and global impact through industrial collaborations. Over the past five years, he has initiated and maintained great industrial connections with world-leading companies and local city councils, for example, working with Chemours and the City of Gold Coast to advance PFAS capture technologies, and collaborating with Lyndra Therapeutics Inc. to develop new oral drugs for facilitating PFAS elimination from humans. He has successfully secured over $2.5 M in external grants to support his research in related fields.

His research has achieved positive impacts on the community and has led to commercial, environmental and industrial benefits. He is the inventor and key driver of developing novel fluorinated polymeric devices for removing PFAS from environments (capture of fluorinated carbon compounds, WO2020160626A1). The invention delivers an easy-to-use and reusable highly fluorinated polymer-based device for efficient and selective removal of all classes of PFAS from various contaminated sources. In addition to patent protection, a commercialisation strategy for the invention is currently being developed together with Chemours and UniQuest. In 2021, he has been awarded the Fresh scientist to broadcast my PFAS research to the general public. This provides a great pathway for me to introduce PFAS to the community and builds public awareness of the links between adverse health effects and PFAS.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Master Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of highly persistent chemicals that are linked to a number of human diseases, however existing approaches for removal of PFAS are highly inefficient. This project aims to develop and evaluate novel, reusable polymer sorbents for effective PFAS removal. The polymer sorbents will enable efficient, selective and continuous sorption of PFAS, while maintaining excellent environmental stability for long-term implementation in practical devices. The project will develop novel polymer sorbents to revolutionize the remediation of PFAS with high technical, economic and environmental feasibility, creating a pathway to a PFAS-free world, and ultimately protecting the natural environment.

  • The design and development of new agents that enable or enhance the passage of drugs and probes across biological barriers is a goal of unsurpassed significance in the search for improved imaging molecules, diagnostics and therapies. However, the development of highly-effective molecular transporters is hindered by current synthetic strategies. As such, it is critical to be able to prepare novel monodisperse molecular transporters (Ð=1) with precise structures, compositions, and function, which are essential for their special and unique transport properties. In this project, a versatile and scalable strategy for the preparation of discrete (monodisperse) materials will be developed. This approach enables the combination of facile polymerization procedures and ubiquitous purification processes. Different types of well-defined oligomers with different charges will be synthesized and their interaction and internalization with cells will be further demonstrated.

  • The aim of this project is to develop new magnetic resonance (MR) molecular imaging strategies that will enable the in vivo monitoring of biological processes. Specifically, we will develop novel fluorinated polymers for imaging of early markers of diseases such as melanoma, prostate cancer, malignant glioma and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the project involves the synthesis of new partly-fluorinated polymers having controlled architecture for the rapidly developing field of 19F MRI. Other imaging modalities, drugs and targeting ligands will be conjugated. The project aims to relate the structure of the macromolecules, determined carefully using advanced techniques such as NMR, light scattering, GPC, AFM and electron microscopy, to the performance as imaging agents. The agents will be tested in small animal (mouse) models of disease already developed by this group and our collaborators.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of highly persistent chemicals that are linked to a number of human diseases, however existing approaches for removal of PFAS are highly inefficient. This project aims to develop and evaluate novel, reusable polymer sorbents for effective PFAS removal. The polymer sorbents will enable efficient, selective and continuous sorption of PFAS, while maintaining excellent environmental stability for long-term implementation in practical devices. The project will develop novel polymer sorbents to revolutionize the remediation of PFAS with high technical, economic and environmental feasibility, creating a pathway to a PFAS-free world, and ultimately protecting the natural environment.

  • The design and development of new agents that enable or enhance the passage of drugs and probes across biological barriers is a goal of unsurpassed significance in the search for improved imaging molecules, diagnostics and therapies. However, the development of highly-effective molecular transporters is hindered by current synthetic strategies. As such, it is critical to be able to prepare novel monodisperse molecular transporters (Ð=1) with precise structures, compositions, and function, which are essential for their special and unique transport properties. In this project, a versatile and scalable strategy for the preparation of discrete (monodisperse) materials will be developed. This approach enables the combination of facile polymerization procedures and ubiquitous purification processes. Different types of well-defined oligomers with different charges will be synthesized and their interaction and internalization with cells will be further demonstrated.

  • The aim of this project is to develop new magnetic resonance (MR) molecular imaging strategies that will enable the in vivo monitoring of biological processes. Specifically, we will develop novel fluorinated polymers for imaging of early markers of diseases such as melanoma, prostate cancer, malignant glioma and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the project involves the synthesis of new partly-fluorinated polymers having controlled architecture for the rapidly developing field of 19F MRI. Other imaging modalities, drugs and targeting ligands will be conjugated. The project aims to relate the structure of the macromolecules, determined carefully using advanced techniques such as NMR, light scattering, GPC, AFM and electron microscopy, to the performance as imaging agents. The agents will be tested in small animal (mouse) models of disease already developed by this group and our collaborators.

  • This project aims to advance the development of long-lasting sustainable batteries by innovating new polymer electrolyte additives and incorporating new imaging techniques. The use of polymer additives is one of the most economical approaches for improving battery performance. However, polymers prepared using modern techniques have a broad range of physical properties and chemical structures, obscuring how their design principles are understood. This project expects to tackle these challenges by developing a new method for producing truly discrete new polymers. The expected outcomes are new knowledge in polymer electrolytes and imaging which will result in more efficient and reliable batteries. This provides significant benefits to polymer science and Australia’s renewable battery industry.