There has been much interest in the construction of soft nanomaterials in solution due to a desire to emulate the exquisite structure and function of Nature’s equivalents (e.g. enzymes, viruses, proteins and DNA). A major challenge this area faces is the reliable, accurate and in-depth analysis of these materials. Hence, work in the O’Reilly group focuses on the development and application of diverse characterisation methods for the analysis of soft nanomaterials (including polymers, conjugates and biomolecules) in solution. We primarily are interested in using scattering and microscopic techniques.
We have been developing insitu analysis methods to probe the dynamics, reorganisation and morphological transition in polymeric constructs. We are especially interested in the utilisation of small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) methods to probe micellar reorganisation (through the use of stimuli responsive polymers which can induce a morphology change) coupled with light scattering analysis. A key aspect of our work is the utilisation of complementary methods of analysis to fully probe the micellar constructs to enable a more full understanding of their dynamics and function.
In particular, we have been interested in the development of new supports for improved imaging of low contrast samples. We have been working with the Wilson group in Warwick Physics to explore graphene oxide as a support for microscopy and also developed new analysis methods to allow for improved resolution and enhanced contrast (exit wave reconstruction methods). We have also been wqorking with the Sommerdijk group in Eindhoven to demonstrate the use of graphene oxide single sheets as supports for the formation of 10 nm thin films during cryogenic sample preparation. This approach avoids overlap of objects in the film and leads to a decrease in background scattering and an increase in contrast.