Group name Nanoarchitectured inorganic materials group

Group leader Yusuke Yamauchi 

Location Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and School of Chemical Engineering/ University of Queensland

Further information

Professor Yusuke Yamauchi.
Professor Yusuke Yamauchi.
Professor Yamauchi’s group at work.
Professor Yamauchi’s group at work.
Professor Yamauchi’s group at work.
Professor Yamauchi’s group at work.

With the right knowledge and ideas, chemistry can build anything out of ‘nothing’, believes Yusuke Yamauchi. A self-described ‘nano-architect’, he has dedicated his career to designing novel one-, two- and three-dimensional nanomaterials, particularly nanoporous materials, for applications ranging from biosensors to energy generation and storage.

He is currently a senior group leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and a professor at the School of Chemical Engineering, both of which are based at the University of Queensland’s St. Lucia Campus. He received his BSc, Masters and PhD degrees from Waseda University in Japan and is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2016/2017/2018 Highly Cited Researcher (Chemistry), 2016 NISTEP Award from the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy and the Chemical Society of Japan’s Award for Young Chemists in 2014.

Yusuke talked to Materials Today about his current research and future plans.

How long has your group been running?

The group at AIBN is just recently established, and I have been running the group for a year and a half.

How many staff currently makes up your group?

I have a group of about 30 individuals made up of eight graduate students, four internship students, 10 PhD students, and eight post-doctoral associates and visiting scientists.

What are the major themes of research in your group?

My group has a research focus on nanoarchitectured design of nanocrystals and nanoporous materials with controlled compositions and morphologies with a view to practical applications including batteries, fuel cells, solar cells, chemical sensors, field emitters, and photonic devices.

Specifically, nanoporous metals with metallic frameworks are produced using surfactant-based synthesis with electrochemical methods. Owing to their metallic frameworks, nanoporous metals with high electroconductivity and high surface area hold promise for a wide range of electrochemical applications.

Furthermore, we have developed several approaches for orientation control of tubular nanochannels. The macroscopic-scale controls of nanochannels are important for innovative applications such as molecular-scale devices and electrodes with enhanced diffusion of guest species.

How and why did you come to work in these areas?

Serendipity plays an important role in the creation of unexpected innovations. Currently, we feel that ‘inorganic material chemistry’, especially for inorganic nanomaterials, is far from the concept of ‘total synthesis’ that is often used in synthetic organic chemistry (the artificial synthesis of target molecules from the smallest unit of raw chemicals). Moreover, there is no guarantee that the materials we have struggled to synthesize are the most suitable for the intended applications.

We plan to establish a strong platform for the preparation of inorganic nanomaterials and hybrid materials, while maintaining a high academic level. To conduct practical inorganic synthetic chemistry, I would like to introduce the concept of ‘total synthesis’ in inorganic chemistry, especially for nanomaterials.

What facilities and equipment does your lab have?

In our lab, we have facilities for electrochemical analysis, nanofabrication, cell culture, spin coating, freeze drying, sonication, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy (UV-Vis), as well as a muffle furnace and magnetic stirrer. 

However, all this expensive equipment is useless without motivated and curious students. I often encourage my students to modify commercial equipment and construct simple devices by themselves. In chemistry, many times you don't need expensive facilities, sometimes you just need a simple chemistry kit and the most important tool of all, the brain.

Do you have a favorite piece of kit or equipment?

For me, it is a magnetic stirrer – simple but essential. The beauty of chemistry lies in its simplicity. With the right knowledge and ideas, you really can build anything out of ‘nothing’, and for that you don’t need very expensive equipment.

What do you think has been your most influential work to date?

It is very difficult to distinguish the most influential work when we have more than 700 published articles, which have been cited over 30,000 times. But to pick out a few highlights:

  • The discovery of new conductive nanoporous/mesoporous metals by soft-chemical approaches, which was a breakthrough in porous materials.
  • Discovery of new porous carbons from metal-organic frameworks (via direct carbonization). Professor Xu at AIST proposed this concept before our report, but we developed an alternative approach via simple direct carbonization.
  • Discovery of shape-controlled synthesis for porous materials through controlled self-assembly.

What is the key to running a successful group?

The most important thing in a group is the people and creating a good, friendly working environment. As a group leader, I have to familiarize with my own people and support them at all times. It is very important to create certain goals for one’s own research and I always advise my students not to drift away from their main goal.

It is important to note that many of our scientific papers are co-authored internationally. Such international collaboration is very important to me because it leads to the exchange of different ideas (brainstorming) and different approaches to solving problems. I am very happy and rich man in that respect, because I have many established scientific collaborations (and friendships) with world-leading researchers at NIMS, Waseda University, University of Tokyo, and University of Kyoto in Japan; National Taiwan University; Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Chinese Academy of Science in China; University of Cambridge in the UK; Stockholm University in Sweden; and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, for example.

How do you plan to develop your group in the future?

I plan to continue exploring different nanomaterials for biomedical applications such as a drug delivery and expand some of these studies to include new 2D materials for batteries and supercapacitor. We will continue our current projects on the synthesis of new nanoporous materials with high electroconductivity and high surface area for electrochemical applications.

Despite recent and significant advances in inorganic nanomaterials of different dimensionalities, we are still making substantial efforts to develop new nanomaterials to solve energy-related issues. We are fully aware of the serious limitations of currently available materials’ designs. Instead, we propose a new conceptual paradigm, materials space-tectonics, for the creation of unprecedented inorganic nanosolids containing nanospace [Nature 567 (2019) S12]. We also hope to develop new methodologies for their integration with the aim of exploiting their functionality.

We are also designing a new educational environment for young researchers and PhD or master students. Queensland University is one of the top 50 universities in the world rankings and I am currently quite active in promoting Japanese-Australian collaboration in research, supported by Rio Tinto and the University of Tokyo ( By adopting the same model, we hope to grow the exchange of Japanese and English-speaking students and researchers, providing not only more opportunities for research, cultural exchange and developing links, but also improving English proficiency.

Key publications

  1. C. Li, Ö. Dag, T. D. Dao, T. Nagao, Y. Sakamoto, T. Kimura, O. Terasaki, Y. Yamauchi. Electrochemical synthesis of mesoporous gold films toward mesospace-stimulated optical properties. Nature Communications 6 (2015) 6608
  2. J. Tang and Y. Yamauchi. MOF morphologies in control. Nature Chemistry, 8, (2016) 638-639
  3. B. Jiang, C. Li, Ö. Dag, H. Abe, T. Takei, T. Imai, Md. S. A. Hossain, Md. T. Islam, K. Wood, J. Henzie, Y. Yamauchi. Mesoporous metallic rhodium nanoparticles. Nature communications 8 (2017) 15581
  4. B. Jiang, Y. Guo, J. Kim, A. E. Whitten, K. Wood, K. Kani, A. E. Rowan, J. Henzie, Y. Yamauchi. Mesoporous Metallic Iridium Nanosheets. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 140, (2018) 12434-12441
  5. J. Wang, J. Tang, B. Ding, V. Malgras, Z. Chang, X. Hao, Y. Wang, H. Dou, X. Zhang, Y. Yamauchi. Hierarchical porous carbons with layer-by-layer motif architectures from confined soft-template self-assembly in layered materials. Nature communications 8 (2017) 15717