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Materials Research Group

The Materials Research Group conducts research in the following key areas of interdisciplinary material research: design, synthesis and advanced characterisation of materials; mechanical behaviour and deformation mechanisms; light-weight alloys and their composites; functional nanomaterials for water treatment; biomaterials and composites; corrosion behaviour.

The Group uses advanced tools and techniques to characterise and understand materials properties and performance. The Group uses many advanced characterisation techniques for research, such as transmission electron microscopy, atom probe tomography, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, thermal analysis, mechanical testing (mechanical  properties evaluation, fatigue and three point bending test) and corrosion resistance. The Group has highly specialised facilities, such as PANalytical X-ray diffractometer, JEOL scanning electron microscope, Instron mechanical testing machines (5569 static and 8801 dynamic), nanoindentation system, UV-Vis spectrometer and Princeton PARSTAT 2273 advanced electrochemical system. We encourage enquiries from students and researchers wishing to pursue research activities in our research group. We also welcome enquiries from industry seeking solutions or collaborations in relevant research areas through research and development.

Research Themes

3D Print of metallic materials

Traditional subtractive manufacturing processes are basically a material removal process and controlled by removing undesirable layers of a material in order to form a product with favourable shape. Unlike subtractive manufacturing processes, emerging advanced additive manufacturing (i.e. 3D print) technologies facilitate the manufacture of parts with almost no geometric constraints and is economically feasible down to a batch size of one. 3D print is a powder-based, layer-additive manufacturing technology, whereby parts are built by melting selected areas of a powder layer using high intensity laser beam. Three dimensional parts are then manufactured by sequential production of these two dimensional layers. The Group is one of several well-known pioneering research teams in the field of 3D printing, which conducts extensive researches on the processing, microstructure, mechanical properties and corrosion behaviors of different metallic materials (mainly with titanium and aluminium) alloys manufactured by two popular 3D print technologies, i.e. selective laser melting and electron beam melting.

Biomedical titanium alloys and composites

As the number of older people increases rapidly in many countries, the demand for replacing dysfunctional hard tissues with artificial components such as hip and knee implants is also increasing. Titanium alloys are receiving a great deal of attention in both medical and dental applications. One of the significant drawbacks of the traditional biomedical titanium alloys (such as Ti-6Al-4V) is that they have a modulus 10 times that of bone. Mismatch of the moduli between the implant and surrounding bone can cause stress shielding in bone. This eventually leads to bone resorption, and is one of the primary causes of implant loosening, which requires painful revision surgery. Low-modulus beta titanium alloys comprising non-toxic and non- allergic elements are currently being developed for the next generation of metallic implant material. The Group has  been developing low-modulus and non-toxic biomedical
titanium alloys.

Nanocrystalline light-weight alloys

There have been considerable interests in the development of nanostructured and ultrafine-grained metals and alloys for structural applications, because they exhibit remarkable improvement in strength. The superior high strength creates the possibility of weight and energy savings, therefore, these fine-grained metallic materials are expected to have many potential applications. The Group has been investigating high strength fine-grained metallic materials (mainly with titanium alloys and aluminium alloys) with large plasticity.

Nanomaterials for water treatment

The entire world is heading for a very serious water shortage. The demand of water for consumption and industrial purposes has been increasing significantly in the last two decades due to rapid population growth and industrialisation. The Group has been developing many novel types of nanomaterials to degrade the waste water.


If you are interested in applying to ECU and want to discuss a specific project proposal in materials engineering, contact:

Associate Professor Laichang Zhang
T: (61 8) 6304 2322     E:

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