Thin Film Coatings Group

What is advanced manufacturing

The Thin Film Coatings group focuses on bridging the gap between the fundamental materials science and applied surface engineering to produce high-tech devices and products for use in the real world. The aim of the group is to create usable end products that benefit the greater society by reducing energy consumption, improving safety for the user, and/or simplifying their manufacture.

Two areas of interest worth noting are based upon (i) plasma deposition of materials for optical applications, and (ii) vacuum deposition of conducting polymers for opto-electronic applications.


Recent investigations have resulted in the development of nanocomposite thin film coatings comprised of transition metal alloys for use in the automotive industry.These nanocomposite films are in the order of 40 to 100 nm in thickness, and possess the desirable properties to form the abrasion resistant reflective layer in the world’s first plastic automotive mirror, a joint project between the Mawson Institute, Ian Wark Research Institute and SMR Automotive. Control of the films structure on the atomic scale allows for the films properties to be tuned to display the right perceived colour and provide abrasion resistance [doi:10.1016/j.surfcoat.2012.03.014 anddoi:10.1016/j.surfcoat.2012.03.023].

With respect to opto-electronic devices, the ability to engineer highly conductive polymers is of great interest.  Not only do these polymers allow for flexible electronic devices to be constructed, if the conductivity is high enough they can act as replacements for the relatively expensive inorganic Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), which is used in almost every touch and flat panel display in the world.  Fundamental studies on the formation mechanism of these polymers, namely PEDOT, using the deposition technique of Vapour Phase Polymerisation [doi:10.1021/cm302899v] has yielded the most conductive air-stable polymer to date.  The conductivity of the PEDOT rivals that of commercially available ITO [Patent Title: “Structure directed vapour phase polymerisation of conductive polymers” Australian provisional number: 2011904163].

All aspects of thin film coatings on plastic substrates are covered in our research, from the fundamental materials science to understanding the deposition technique through to quantifying the device performance for real world applications.

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Areas of study and research

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