Research

Research Overview

Our research group is interested in the design, synthesis and application of luminescent metal complexes. Our projects include the preparation of phosphorescent transition metal complexes of Re(I), Ir(III), and Pt(II) as well as lanthanide coordination complexes with emission in the visible (e.g. Eu(III) and Tb(III)) and near-infrared spectral region (e.g. Yb(III), Nd(III), and Er(III)). We have available a suite of photophsyical characterisation techniques including steady-state and time-resolved spectroscopy with temperature controlled capability (between 77 and 373 K) as well as visible and near-infrared detection (up to 1,400 nm).

Luminescent metal complexes prepared and characterised in our research group are assessed for their potential application in materials and life science.

Luminescent Transition Metal Complexes in Life Science

We are interested in gaining fundamental understanding on structure-activity relationship of transition metal complexes that are devoid of bioconjugation. In particular, we are focussing on studying cell-penetration, toxicity and organelle localisation of metal tetrazolato complexes. We have prepared several libraries of complexes using rhenium(I) tricarbonyl species and well as cyclometallated Ir(III) and Pt(II) species. We have studied in details the effect of the various tetrazole ligands in modulating the photophysical as well as biological properties of the complexes.

We have made significant progress towards the development of a new family of optical markers for live cell imaging based on rhenium(I) tetrazolato species. These new markers have shown a strong affinity for polar lipids and therefore represent a unique class of compounds suitable for the study of this important class of biological molecules. In fact, our platform of markers (ReZolve-L1TM) has allowed for the first time the direct visualisation of polar lipid trafficking in live cells. We have also extended our library of markers to further classes of complexes, including Ir(III) and Pt(II) tetrazolato species. Our first set of molecular probes is now commercially available through the Curtin-UniSA joint start-up company ReZolve Scientific (www.rezolvescientific.com).

An overview of our research in the synthesis of complexes for Life Science can be found in the feature article “Metal Markers” appeared in the themed issue Reshaping Research of International Innovation. You can access and download for free a pdf version of the article through the link above.

Luminescent Lanthanide Complexes in Materials Science

We are furthering our investigation on the recently discovered class of tetranuclear lanthanoid/alkaline metals assemblies. These molecular species, possessing Na+, K+ and Rb+ cations, have already demonstrated quite remarkable emission in the near-infrared region. We have initiated an extensive study of their underlying photophysical mechanisms in order to uncover the less understood pathway of lanthanoid sensitisation. Furthermore, we have extended our studies into the incorporation of Cs+ cations, which resulted in the formation of new polymeric structures with unique photophysical properties. These assemblies have already proven useful precursors for active materials in Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs). In fact, we were able to fabricate a near-infrared emitting device using a Yb(III)/Kspecies possessing a remarkably bright emission.

Recent Research Funding

2017 ARC Discovery Project DP170101895: “Illuminating Hidden Processes in Luminescent Lanthanoid Complexes”. Chief Investigators: E. Moore, M. Massi, M. Ogden. Total funds awarded: $474,500.

2014 BioSA: “Methods and Materials for Staining Lipids”. Chief Investigators: D. Brooks, S. Plush, M. Massi. Total funds awarded: $175,000.

2014 ITEK Catalyst Grant: “Molecular Probes for Imaging in Cell Biology and Disease”. Chief Investigators: D. Brooks, S. Plush, M. Massi. Total funds awarded: $105,000.

2013 ARC Future Fellowship FT130100033: “Accessing the therapeutic potential of carbon monoxide”. Chief Investigator: M. Massi. Total funds awarded: $705,120.

2013 ARC Linkage Infrastructure LE130100052: “Western Australian advanced fluorescence and phosphorescence characterisation facility”. Chief Investigators: M. Massi, C. -Z. Li, K. A. Stubbs, M. A. Buntine, G. Koutsantonis, K. L. Linge, D. S. Silvester, G. E. Poinern. Total funds awarded: $170,000.

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