Prof. Gilbert Walker

Department of Chemistry
Director, University of Toronto Nanotechnology Network

Phone: (416) 946-8401


Aquatic Materials: Protecting the oceans, and delivering better healthcare.

These challenges can require salty solutions. We focus on two sticky maritime problems: first, how to keep ship hulls free of fouling organisms, and thereby use dramatically less energy in transportation; second, how to keep aquaculture nets clean, to safely reduce the costs of farming fish. Currently, both of these problems have imperfect solutions, typically involving toxic metals. We are developing non-toxic methods involving copolymers and related materials, which safely inhibit undesired marine fouling. In parallel, we study the marine organisms that contact these surfaces, to better understand how they are affected by our materials. We make test samples that can be many square meters in area. These are designed to control the settlement of macrofoulers like alga, barnacles, mussels and hydroids, as well as the biofilms composed of mostly single cell organisms that are early colonizers. We also develop cell surface technologies for biomedical diagnostics. We aim to improve the number of distinct cell surface markers (proteins) that can be simultaneously detected, thereby improving leukemia and lung cancer cell detection and patient prognosis. We create detection platforms based on nanoparticles as well as components of lab-on-chip devices that analyze blood and tissue samples, addressing challenges similar to those we encounter when assaying our marine coatings. To design better materials, we also need to understand how their structure controls their function. We routinely develop novel characterization methods, especially focused on nanoscale surface mechanics and adhesion. To understand hydrophobic hydration, the dark shadow cast over much of aquatic materials chemistry, we have even gone so far as to study molecules one at a time.

Electrical and Photo-Voltaic Materials:. We are making energetic materials based on boron nitride and block copolymers. We are examining how the interface between charge transport molecules and their environments influences transport properties.

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