Family Tree of Carbon

Irene Suarez-Martinez

Senior Lecturer

Curtin University


Please explain your research in simple words

I am a materials scientists who specializes in carbon materials. I have worked in almost every known carbon material: graphite, diamond, carbon nanoforms, amorphous carbon. I mainly do atomistic models, predicting how materials behave under different circumstances, but in the last few years I have also done some work on ultra-high temperature experiments.

Not sure about a schedule yet. I will introduce myself on the first day. I think I will talk about different carbon nanoforms, hopefully with pretty pictures. When I was in France I made a series of videos about carbon nanostructures and I will probably link those too

I am passionate about supporting Early and mid-career researchers and women in science so I think I will also sprinkle some of that through the week

What can the followers expect in your curation week?

How did you end up in your current research field?

I always hated organic chemistry so it is ironic that almost I do know is carbon (BUT INORGANIC!). My PhD project was on graphite and it was funded by nuclear industry (they use graphite in the core of some reactors to slow down the neutrons). My supervisor also told me about nanotubes (this is before the hype of graphene) and I thought it was interesting. Ever since then I have been in the field of carbon materials because it is rich enough to have a tons of different aspects and materials.

I jump from bulk to nano and back to bulk often. What is graphite but a bunch of graphene on top of each other?

How and where does your research fall in the domain of materials/nano science?

Which research project are you most proud of and could you explain it in simple words in the section we call #InOtherwords?

I am very proud of what I call the “family tree of carbon” where related all carbon nanostructures to each other with graphene as the “mother/father”. It is like a periodic table of carbon structures.

Wish 1: That PhD training is more value by industry. I would love to see more fluidity in career paths in and out of academia Wish 2: stop the glorification of working 24/7 and all “in your life has to be science” attitude to success. Wish 3: Better metrics in academia. It is a systemic problem! We need to value more than just the number of papers, we need to value the impact, the career paths, the research and performance relative to opportunities. Paper counting just feeds into a depredatory publishing circle between publisher and researchers.

If you had 3 wishes to improve your research experience, what would you ask for (not promising anything here!)?

What are you most looking forward to in the next 3 months?

Given the state of the world, I am looking forward to overcome the pandemic and maybe the research sector, and hopefully the world, revaluating who we operate. I am optimistic we will see more online conference, more flexibility in workplace….

I think 10-15 years ago nano had a very reputation in the media, and the public was scared of the health hazard (in particular in carbon I think the nanotubes comparison with asbestos didnt help, obviously). I think we are now moving to a better place and communicate there are pollutants of all sizes.

I have been very pleased to see some commercialization of nano materials into the market. In particular for carbon, I think we have a problem with nomenclature, for example, when a supplier says “graphene”, do they mean single layers? or in nanotubes, what length/defect level/diameter/number of walls….?

Which challenges/questions is the nano/materials science field facing at the moment?

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