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Position: Associate Professor, Head of Nanomaterials Research Group, and a Principal Investigator, Field: Nanotechnology, Organisation: Victoria University of Wellington, Nanomaterials Research Group, The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Dr Richard Tilley is a senior lecturer in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington. He also heads a Nanomaterials Research Group, and is a Principal Investigator for the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. A large part of Richard’s job is running the electron microscope facility of the MacDiarmid Institute.

Like many nanotechnologists, Richard did not start out in that field. He first trained and worked as a chemist. He now works with nanoparticles and their applications, so he is a nanotechnologist, but still sees himself as a chemist as well.

Chemistry and nanotechnology are very complex subjects, but Richard thinks that his enjoyment of them has some very simple origins. He likes making things, and he is a very ‘visual’ person. As a nanotechnologist, Richard is continually making things, normally at a very small scale. “Really being the first person to make something, to me, is still a tremendous achievement and feeling, and that is really a strong driver for me.”

With the electron microscope, essentially, what you are doing is seeing atoms, and you’re seeing how atoms are joining together, and that still gives me a tremendous rush and a buzz, each time I am really looking at atoms.

As a ‘visual’ person, Richard still gets enjoyment out of seeing the colours of different nanoparticles in solution and of seeing his quantum dots emitting coloured light. His work with microscopes gives him new ways of seeing things.

This article is based on information current in 2008.

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Listen to this audio from Te Papa and delve into the fascinating world of nanotechnology – the science of the ultra-small – with Dr Richard Tilley of Victoria University.

    Published 23 June 2008