Professor George Simon

Professor George Simon

Emeritus Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Room 218, 20 Research Way, Clayton

Nanoparticles: microscopic size, huge potential

Professor George Simon says microscopically small nanoparticles have a potential well beyond their size. He is looking to modify their diverse functional properties to make plastics and other exciting applications. He is also interested in their incorporation into polymers to make nanocomposites, as well as related areas, such as biomimetics (bringing methods found in nature to modern technology) and self-healing materials. You can define a nanomaterial as a nanoparticle if at least one of its dimensions is the size-scale of a nanometre: around 10 atoms thick. Nanoclay is an example and is one of the materials that George has had a long interest in. Nanoclays are one nanometre-thick platelets with the ability to make plastics tougher and more gas or solvent-impermeable. George says these and related materials are of much interest in the aerospace and automotive industries. These industries use composite materials – or materials comprising plastic and another component – and George thinks adding further nanoparticles to toughen their composites would be very useful. ‘Some work in nanoclay and epoxy adhesives produced materials which were rigid and strong, but also tough. This was a good result, because making materials rigid usually makes them brittle,’ George says. ‘The nanoclay also helped them become more flame-retardant. If you use nanoclays with other composites, such as glass or carbon fibre, we found that the clay, which sits between the fibres, can also toughen the composites.’

George has also moved into the area of functional nanoparticles. Carbon nanotubes are a particular area of interest, as only low concentrations of these are required for conductivity. A carbon nanotube is a chicken wire-shaped arrangement of carbon atoms, rolled into a cylindrical shape. They have strong thermal, mechanical and electrical properties and are ideal for a variety of applications. George has studied the electron emission of nanotubes as a potential way to develop lower energy lighting. George is also increasingly using electrospinning, a technique that uses a high-voltage electrical charge to break down a drop of polymer solution and stretch the molecules into a nanometre-diameter fibre. George says this has had benefits in the medical industry; he and a number of his department colleagues have been using it for a range of regenerative medicine applications. In collaboration with ANU, he used it to produced improve hip implant surfaces. ‘Electrospinning can be used to make scaffolds for tissue engineering applications,’ George says. ‘You tend to use biodegradable matrices, because if these nanofibre mesh networks are placed in the body, you want them to biodegrade while the cells proliferate. We’re also looking at other ways to make useful nanofibres that don’t need high voltages.’

George’s decade of nanomaterials research follows 20 years of work with plastics and polymer blends. He was recently involved in researching starch-based polymers to make biodegradable plastics. ‘My Research Fellow and I were involved with colleagues from CRC for Polymers and RMIT on a project with Plantic, an Australian company that uses starch from things such as corn to make plastics,’ George says. ‘These plastics come from renewable resources and are fully biodegradable, and we were looking to improve their properties. You can use these materials to make a plastic that you can form into shapes using conventional plastic processing equipment.’ He currently has a project with the CSIRO looking at making fully biodegradable nanocomposites using nanofibres of cellulose grown by microbes.


  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Chemistry/Materials Eng.
  • BSc Chemistry, BSc(Hons), Chemistry/Materials.
  • Dip. Met. Bureau of Meteorology, Monash University

Research Interests

Professor Simon’s research interests include the following:

Polymer Nanocomposites. New materials which involve blends or mixtures of nano-sized ceramic units, nanoparticles and nanotubes with plastics (thermoset, thermoplastic and elastomer) are also being investigated. This is usually via the melt blending, in situ polymerization or solution blending methods. Modification of the nanotubes is also being undertaken. Such materials are useful in medical applications, opto-electronic devices, in gas separation membranes and to toughen thermosets. Our focus at the moment is particularly on functional nanocomposites using magnetic nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes for properties such as electrical conductivity and electron emission. We are also producing nanostructured materials using electropolymerisation for similar reasons. We are also looking at novel nanocomposites, particularly using sustainable polymers, and ionic liquids which can be classified as “green” solvents.

Dendritic Materials. Both dendrimers and hyperbranched materials are being investigated in terms of their homopolymer structure-property relationships and in combination with other thermoplastic and thermoset materials as processing aids and toughening agents, and in nanocomposites

Polymer Blends. Properties of polymer blends and their interfaces are being studied in a number of ways such as with regard to their dielectric mobility and free volume properties. Blends include those of plastics, blends with liquid crystalline polymers and with ceramics, often for biomedical applications.

Thermosets and Their Toughening. Research is continuing into cure monitoring (such as by infrared and dielectric relaxation) of crosslinked polymers. They are being toughened by addition of thermoplastic phases and core-shell particles – for ultimate use as aerospace materials.

Electrospinning of Nanofibers . The technique of electrospinning is looking at making new nano-dimensional functional materials for a range of applications from mechanical to biomedical, using a range of materials and techniques. In particular, we are interested in biomimetic (bimimicry) types of stuctures with multiple layers of material (polymer and nanoparticles) to produce enhanced mechanical and biomaterials properties.

Research Projects

Not started projects

The Use of Contrast Variation in Small Angle Neutron Scattering to Determine the Domain Sizes Associated With Sorbed Water in Cellulosic Fibres

CRC for Polymers

Current projects

ARC Research Hub for Processing Lignocellulosics into High Value Products

The Hub aims to convert renewable and readily-available biomass material and waste streams from the Australian Pulp, Paper and Forest Industry into new, high-value products that are in high demand in existing and developing markets. The Hub will leverage world-leading Australian and international research capabilities in chemistry, materials science, and engineering to create new materials, chemicals, companies and jobs in an emerging and newly diversified Australian bio-economy. Research will identify new applications and products derived from lignocellulose and will feed the pharmaceutical, chemicals, plastics and food packaging industries.

Non-polyamide-based polymer composite membranes for water processing

This proposal aims to develop an innovative two-dimensional nanosheets scaffold directed polymerisation technique for the fabrication of advanced membranes to address the key issues faced in the current polyamide membranes. The expected outcomes of the project include new membrane fabrication technology and nonpolyamide-based polymer membranes with outstanding oxidation tolerance and separation properties, thereby significantly simplifying membrane processes, and improving water processing efficiency in various industries such as wastewater treatment for power generation and clean drinking water production.

Structurally-bridged crystalline molecular sieve-polymer membranes

This project aims to produce an innovative membrane platform technology for highly efficient and cost effective separation in a range of important applications such as natural gas processing, using highly effective crystalline sieve materials. It will address the key current issue of the mismatch of mechanical properties between crystalline molecular sieve materials (zeolites and metal organic frameworks) and polymers, as well as the existence of coating flaws which limit their use as gas separation membranes. Nano-reinforcement will be created in the coating and polymer substrate, with nano-bridges between them. The resulting membranes will be mechanically tough and show superior separation performance compared to existing membranes.

New Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Membranes Using Graphene as a Multifunctional Scaffold

We propose the development of a new type of polymer membrane, in which stimuli-responsive polymers are confined between graphene sheets using the simple process of filtration. The graphene acts as the structural element, whilst also introducing functionality in the final membrane. This process allows the production of largescale, robust and defect-free membranes. Such membranes are increasingly important in areas related to biomedicine, energy and other industrial processes. Whilst we will study the relationship between morphology and permeability of ions and molecules in solvent, we view the membranes as a platform technology, which will find much utility in other applications, such as gas barrier and separation.

BioProcessing Advanced Manufacturing Initiative (BAMI)

BAMI will develop: 1) functional materials to maximize the value of forest resources 2) green chemistry & energy solutions for bioprocessing industries. Lignocellulosic streams will be converted into a complement of marketable materials, chemicals and energy products. Examples include new polymers and composites, smart packaging, chemical intermediates, fuel, green energy and nanocellulose and cellulosic fibre applications. These will drive advances in chemical engineering, materials and green chemistry for the full conversion of lignocellulosics. BAMI will complement research developments with short courses and a problem-based Masters in BioProcess Engineering to keep industry workers up to date with evolving science and technology.

Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) Facility for Advanced Materials Processing

Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) is a novel materials processing technique with a unique combination of a high amperage and a high pressure in sintering. It is used for densification of powdered metal alloys, intermetallics, ceramics and composites in a very rapid manner (within a few minutes) and at significantly reduced temperature, thus it is especially useful for manufacturing nanostructured materials. The lack of this facility has severely restricted the research capability and creativity of Australian researchers. This proposal seeks to establish the first SPS facility in the country to meet the increasing demands by research organisations and companies nationwide for the development of advanced materials.

Development of a Unique Annihilation Lifetime Spectroscopy Facility At Monash University

Present Invited Paper At the 1st International Conference on Polymer Modification, Degradation & Stabilisation , Italy.

ARC Link APAI 2000 - Prof G Simon E02003 Ref No: C00002279 (APAI Only)

ARC Large 1997 - Dr G Simon

Development And Testing Of A Polymer Coating For Caustic Corrosion Resistance

Rigid and Tough Aerospace Epoxy Resin Composites Using Clay Nanoparticles

Past projects

Macromolecular characterisation and purification facility

The in-depth characterisation of (bio)macromolecules and nanomaterials is fundamental to understanding their properties and application to advanced materials and technologies. The proposed facility will introduce the most advanced instruments for macromolecular characterisation and purification, providing essential resources for polymer/materials research and enhance the research capabilities and profiles of all institutes involved. This facility will underpin resarch by leading researchers at the Uni. of Melbourne, Deakin Uni. and Monash Uni., leading to an overall increase in the quality and quantity of the research outcomes and promote collaborative efforts between researchers in polymer chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology.

Biomaterials characterisation facility

The nanoscale engineering of materials for biological application is an area of burgeoning global interest. Key challenges in this field are to elucidate and optimise the interactions of such materials with biological systems. We propose the establishment of a Biomaterials Characterisation Facility, which will comprise cutting edge instrumentation to probe the biological interactions of nanoengineered materials from the sub-cellular level through to the tissue level. This facility will underpin research by leading researchers at the Univeristy of Melbourne and Monash Univeristy and will contribute significantly to the design of the next generation mateials for applications in the theapeutic delivery and implant devices.

Real Time Dielectric Monitoring of the Polymerisation Reaction of Toughened Aerospace Epoxy Composites

Nanostructured Polymer Processing Network

Advanced Macromolecular Materials Characterisation Facility (AMMCF)

The proposed facility will allow precise characterization of (bio)macromloecular materials, from chemical structures and composition as a function of size or biodistribution, to film thickness in multi-layer materials, to material hydrophobicity and permeability. Novel information derived from these state-of-the-art instruments are highly valuable in understanding structure-property relationships, which are crucial for the development of the next generation of advanced materials with applications in electronics, optics, sensors, membranes, nanocoatings, biomaterials and polymer therapeutics. This facility underpins the efforts of the participating institutes in increasing the quality and quantity of research outcomes.

Switching the light on cartilage repair

This proposal aims to develop a totally new type of matrix, which is hierarchical and tuneable, that will assist stem cell treatments for cartilage repair. Our approach incorporates a hydrogel that can be induced to degrade using near infrared light, allowing ‘on-demand’ delivery of cytokines and even cells at the site of cartilage defects. The biocompatible matrix can be delivered via a minimally invasive injection, and also contains nanofibres that mimic the physical and chemical characteristics of native cartilage. The technology developed in this proposal will help our Australian consortium to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy.

Surface Spectroscopy and Microstructure Analysis

Polymers for water and food security: segragating functional additives for paints

Fast Stimuli-responsive Polymer Hydrogels as a New Class of Draw Agent for Forward Osmosis Desalination

This project proposes for the first time to use hydrogel particles as the draw agent in the emerging forward osmosis water desalination technology. The chemistry and morphology of the hydrogel particles will be strategically-designed to rapidly draw pure water through the membrane from the saline reservoir. The particles will also be made stimuli-responsive to allow rapid release of the water from the swollen hydrogels. This new technology will significantly reduce the energy consumption in desalination, and lead to captured water of higher purity. Forward osmosis itself is more efficient and incurs less membrane fouling than currently-used reverse osmosis.

Facility for innovation in structural biomaterials engineering

The fabrication of smart biomaterials requires a thorough understanding of the intricate interactions at the interface with the biological system. This proposal aims to provide state-of-the-art, high speed microfabrication and characterisation instrumentation specifically targeted at the development of biomaterial structures. The facility will provide a platform for cross-disciplinary teams to undertake a broad range of research programs with applications in tissue engineering, diagnostic devices, drug delivery, stem cell technologies and biological corrosion. The facility will help attract leading researchers to Australia and enhance the national competitiveness on a global stage.

Confronting the Challenges in Modern Spectroscopy of Polymers

Polymers and nanocomposites are increasingly being used in new, high value applications as diverse as medicine, structural engineering, optics and electronics. In order to control and understand polymer performance, a detailed knowledge of the chemical structure at all stages in their lifecycle is required – in the liquid, rubber and solid states and during degradation. This application seeks to establish a coordinated Polymer Spectroscopy Network using new forms of infrared and NMR spectroscopy to probe samples (usually of an non-planar geometry) in a range of configurations. These will be used simultaneously with other techniques such as rheology or thermogravimetry, and will produce capabilities unique in Australia.

Self Assembling Polymers for Novel Packaging Products

This project will develop and test novel polymer systems as additives for the manufacture of a new generation of paper products with superior strength, especially under high moisture and wet conditions. The challenge is to produce very strong paper packagings made of recycled fibres resisting frequent moisture changes and that remain fully recyclable. Fundamental understanding of the assembling and morphology of polyelectrolyte and polyelectrolyte/nanoparticle complexes in aqueous solution as a function of polymer/nanoparticle chemistry, ionic strength and shear will be developed. The effect of the polymer and polymer complexes on the paper mechanical properties will be modeled under cyclic humidity conditions.

A Facility for Probing Nanostructure in Polymers

The properties of a polymer are only partly determined by its molecular structure. It is now clear that the organization of molecular structure and phase morphology on a nano-scale has an equally important role in determining material behaviour. Increasingly this can be manipulated by judicious choice of formulation and processing variables. The polymer of Nano-Structure Facility will bring together Australia’s principal polymer experts in this area of structure-property relations and provide them with shared access to the appropriate, modern analytical tools required to probethe nano-structure of such new materials with enhanced properties.

Novel Cellulosic Products and Sustainable Bioresource Engineering

This grant proposes a portfolio of linked projects to transform the Australian paper industry. Methods will be developed to assess industry and product sustainability and compare with competing materials. Chemical and treatment technologies will be developed to improve to radically reduce fresh water requirements for production. Innovative new products will be developed by controlling cellulose interaction with water to resist atmospheric and liquid water penetration, while reducing sheet density. Nano-structured zeolite-paper composites for greenhouse gas adsorption and storage and filtering applications will be developed and deployed for water use reduction. Innovative models will be developed relating structure to performance.

Effect of Processing on Novel Polymer Morphology

Polymer Characterisation Facility (PCF)

The proposed facility will include state-of-the-art equipment enabling the execution of cutting-edge research by internationally renowned researchers at the UMelb, MU and CSIRO. Such research will facilitate the development of advanced materials for a diverse range of applications, including polymer therapeutics, tissue engineering, coatings, optical devices and fuild modifiers. The facility will enable Australian scientists to maintain their position at the forefront of advancing macromolecular, nano- and bio-technology and advanced material sciences. The multi-user facility will enable inter-disciplinary collaboration with researchers in academia and industry, and will be vital in training the next generation of Australian scientists.

Invited Plenary Speaker, 5th Arab International Conference on Polymer Science & Techn, Luxor/aswan, Egypt

New Multi-component Thermosets for Improved Processing and Properties - Irex Award

New, Ordered Electroluminescent Hybrid Materials Via Self-assembly

Stanford Ps350 High Voltage Power Supply

Advanced Surface Characterisation Facility

An automated X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) instrument will be acquired, the first of its typ in Australia, to facilitate world-class research on the nature and behaviour of chemical, semiconductor, environmental, biological and industrial materials. The new instrument will provide state-of-the art surface characterisation resources for broad and well established collaborative research partnership extending across Australia and overseas,w ill strengthen current collaborations and attract new partners, and will be used by a range of commercial clients. The theme of surface characterisation draws together a diversity of projects being undertaken by the team comprising around 30 research grougs and commercial entities.

Hyphenated techniques in polymer science and engineering

The structure, morphology and mobility of a polymer controls its properties and applications, and the performance and life of the product. The evolution of the structure is dependent on the occurrence of chemical reactions between the components, the miscibility of the components and the effect of processing and the external environment. All of these factors interact with one another. The requested hyphenated equipment will be shared between two research groups who have ongoing collaborations. The equipment will allow the simultaneous measurements of several structural and relaxational parameters simultaneously during photopolymerization and flow which will provide much richer information than can be obtained by sequential measurements.

Victorian Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Network

New Electron Field Emission Films Based on Aligned Carbon Nanotube Guests in Liquid Crystalline Polymer Hosts

This project seeks to develop a new class of electron field emitting nanocomposite consisting of nanotubes in liquid crystalline polymers. Electron emitting materials are in much demand in x-ray and microwave generation, computer displays and low-energy lighting. We utilise the ready alignability of liquid crystalline units in magnetic fields to cause realignment of incorporated carbon nanotubes, followed by polymer solidification to maintain orientation. It involves low temperature processing, contrasting very favourably with current problematic, high temperature processes. This allows materials to be cast on flexible polymer substrates, potentially enabling construction of cathode tubes to replace existing mercury-containing fluorescent lighting.

New Epoxy Fibre Composite Materials Involving the Incorporation of Silicate Nanoparticles

New Biomimetic Nanostructured Coatings for Hip Implants

We will develop new, tough biomimetic coatings for rigid biomaterials applications such as hip implants, with an aim to improving mechanical and bone fixation properties. The coating microstructure is based on bone, with a combination of degradable polymer, biologically-active nanoparticles and growth factors able to be readily applied to the implant at room temperature. The coatings will posses a number of processing, mechanical and biochemical advantages over those currently used to encourage bone in-growth. The electrospinning technique proposed offers flexibility in manipulating functionalities of the coating and coating properties as a function of depth. Detailed in vitro and cell toxicity studies will also be undertaken.

Analysis of the Chemical Effects Within Polymers During Oxygen Plasma Surface Activation - Apai

CRC Polymers

Advanced Surface Imagign and Spectroscopy Facility

The aim of this proposal is to build a cooperative grouping of materials and surface science resources to facilitate world-class research on the nature and behaviour of chemical, semiconductor, environmental, biological and industrial materials. The new Facility will provide state-of-the-art infrastructure necessary for the participating groups to maintain their international reputations, will build stronger research collaborations between the partners, will attract researchers from overseas and will be used by a range of commercial clients. The theme of surface characterisation draws together a great diversity of projects being undertaken by the collaborating group comprising around 30 research groups and commercial entities.

New Ophthalmic Lenses from Organic-inorganic Nanocomposites - Collab

The polymer pharmaceutical/drug charactrization and processing facility

Polymers are extensively used in medicine, pharmarcy and the biomaterials industry in applications ranging from slow release hydrogels, polymer scaffolds, biodegradable prostheses, implants and drug encapsulation devices. The processing of polymers into the appropriate forms is critical to their use. Of equal importance is the ability to monitor in real time the release of drugs. In this application, a group of collaborating researchers request support for the acquisition of equipment which can be used to process polymers, to characterize their final structures and ultimately the kinetics of drug release. Outcomes will include an improved understanding of the manufacture of drug-delivery formulations and biomaterials.

Dielectric Analysis and Plotting Software for Rlc Dielectric Bridge

The Use of Contrast Variation in Small Angle Neutron Scattering to Determine the Domain Sizes Associated With Sorbed Water in Cellulosic Fibres

Micromet Electrodes for In-situ Measurement of Paint Film Formation

Improved properties by control of nanometer and molecular structure of crosslinked polymers

Processing and In-situ Cure Monitoring of a New Class of Crosslinked Polymer - Liquid Crystalline Epoxy Resins

New types of Biomimetic Nanostructured Adhesives

We will develop new adhesives based on the extraordinary sticking properties of the nanofibrillar gecko foot. The adhesives should have high adhesion strength on any material, be self-cleaning and removable by peeling (and reusable). Recent attempts to produce synthetic gecko feet use slow lithographic techniques and cover very limited areas. Our robust method involves carbon or polymer nanotube alignment, allows coating of large areas on flexible substrates and mimics the hierarchical nature of gecko nanofibrils. They could be used in desert or dirty industrial environments and in high tech electronic, optical and computer industries. Control of fibrillar morphology will provide insight into key adhesive structure-property relationships.

Effect of Polymer Architecture on the Alignment Stability of a Versatile Nonlinear Optical Chromophore

New Materials Based on Blends of Hyperbranched Polymers With Thermoplastics

New Transparent Polymer Nanocomposite Coatings Using Multireactive Inorganic Cages

New polymeric nanocomposite coatings are proposed with enhanced abrasion resistance, toughness and optical functionality, suitable for the coating of optical plastic substrates. These composites contain inorganic cages, dispersed and chemically-coupled within the crosslinked organic matrix. In addition to good mechanical behaviour, high value properties such as colorisation on exposure to light and resistance to damage from high energy lasers will be achieved by attachment to the cages of chemical units with optical activity. These cages are of nanometre size and an important aspect of the project involves probing the resultant structure at the molecular level, using advanced characterisation techniques.

Establishment of a Thermal Analysis Facility

A New Concept in Fire-resistant Materials - Ceramifiable Polymer Blends

Research articles, papers & publications

See George’s research contributions through published book chapters, articles, journal papers and in the media.

Last modified: 19/01/2021