Goals and philosophy

COPE is an interdisciplinary centre combing both physics and chemistry. We take a holistic approach combining synthesis, materials and device characterisation, molecular modelling and condensed matter theory. COPE is a broad church, with activities ranging across the gamut of photonics and electronics in organic materials and beyond. Some of our core research activities are described the articles listed below.

 'Organic photonics and electronics' by Paul Burn

'New materials for next-generation organic solar cells' by Paul Meredith

'Synthetic routes to new physics' by Ben Powell

'Dendrimers: a promising new class of macromolecules for organic light emitting
diodes' by Shih-Chun (Lawrence) Lo

And in the summaries below.

Strongly correlated electrons

In the materials found in your laptop or mobile phone the interactions between the electrons are relatively small; this greatly simplifies the task of describing their behaviour. Technically, one says that the electrons in these materials are ‘weakly correlated’. Over the past few decades many new materials have been found which cannot be described within the weakly correlated paradigm. These materials, which are referred to as ‘strongly correlated’ and include cuprates [Lee], manganites [Milward] and organic charge transfer salts [Powell, Seo], have a wide variety of potential applications including catalysis [Shelef], energy applications [Fleming], and display technologies [Lo]. However, our lack of fundamental understanding of strongly correlated materials greatly hampers materials development for such applications.


Organic Solar Cells

Man-made global warming is a scientific fact creating arguably our biggest challenge now and in the coming decades. A key component of slowing and ultimately halting climate change is the provision of clean (non-fossil fuel) energy. The conversion of solar energy directly into electricity [photovoltaics (PV)] will play a major role in the future energy mix. On average 1 kJ of solar energy falls on the Earth's surface per m2 per second of every daylight hour. Capturing a proportion of this massive and reliable resource would make a dramatic effect on the world's energy use and supply. However, to realize this goal it will be necessary to produce large area, efficient solar cells cheaply. Solution processing techniques are ideal for manufacturing large area PV devices and this gives critical momentum to the development of solar cells based on solution processible organic semiconducting materials. At COPE we draw the complementary fields of synthetic chemistry and condensed matter physics together to develop new materials and device structures suitable for the preparation of solution processed, efficient, stable, large area plastic solar cells. The materials theme that underpins the program is the use of dendritic (branched macromolecular) materials and we are using these in dye sensitised and bulk heterojunction solar cells.

Organic Superconductors

These materials show a wide range of novel physical effects due to the strong interactions between the conduction electrons. These phenomena are unconventional superconductivity, the Mott transition, spin liquids, unconventional metals, and valence bond solid. In COPE we work on both the theory of these materials as well as synthesising them and measuring their properites.


The melanins are a class of functional bio-macromolecule found throughout nature. In humans they serve as our primary photoprotectants and pigment. As a biomolecule class they possess a number of intriguing physico-chemical properties including: broad band monotonic absorbance in the UV and visible; condensed phase electrical and photoconductivity; extremely efficient non-radiative relaxation of photoexcited electronic states (melanins have radiative quantum yields <1%); and free radical scavenging and anti-oxidant behaviour.

Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs)

OLEDs are an exciting new technology for flat panel displays that may even lead to roll up television screens. Light-emitting dendrimers consist of surface groups, dendrons (branched units) and cores. Dendrimers have a number of potential advantages over existing OLED materials (small molecules and polymers) including a modular approach to synthesis leading to dendrimer libraries and disconnection of the electronic and processing properties.