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Dr K. H. Aaron Lau


Pure and Applied Chemistry

Personal statement

Lau Laboratory for Bioinspired Interfaces and Nanomaterials

I seek inspiration from biological systems to develop new classes of macromolecular and nano materials with superior molecular and interfacial functionalities. In this rapidly developing area of bioinspired materials research, my group focuses on convenient peptidomimetic polymers and physical chemistry principles for incorporating high degrees of chemical information and spatial organisation, to create information-rich, highly functional materials. These materials will have broad applications in healthcare, biocatalysis and sustainable technologies.


Has expertise in:

    General Areas of Expertise

    • Biointerfaces, Cell-Surface and Protein-Surface Interactions
    • Nanopores: Transport/Diffusion of Macromolecules
    • Polymer Brushes and Hydrogels
    • Surface Modification
    • Protein and Enzyme Assays, Peptide Characterization

    Material Systems under Investigation

    • Peptoids: Poly(N-Substituted Glycines)
    • Nanoporous Alumina
    • Polymer Surface Grafting and Polymerisation
    • Polyphenolic/Polycatecholic Coatings

    Technical Expertise

    • Solid Phase Synthesis
    • Macromolecular Self-Assembly
    • Anodisation
    • Radical Polymerisation
    • Surface Plasmon Resonance, Ellipsometry, and Related Surface Optical Measurements
    • AFM, XPS, SEM

Prizes and awards

Delegate to Scottish Crucible 2015
Researcher Mobility Fellowship

more prizes and awards


Superhydrophobic structures on 316L stainless steel surfaces machined by nanosecond pulsed laser
Cai Yukui, Chang Wenlong, Luo Xichun, Sousa Ana M.L., Lau King Hang Aaron, Qin Yi
Precision Engineering Vol 52, pp. 266-275, (2018)
Biocatalytic self-assembly on magnetic nanoparticles
Conte Maria P., Sahoo Jugal Kishore, Abul-Haija Yousef M., Lau K. H. Aaron, Ulijn Rein V.
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces Vol 10, pp. 3069-3075, (2018)
Size control and fluorescence labeling of polydopamine melanin-mimetic nanoparticles for intracellular imaging
Amin Devang R., Sugnaux Caroline, Lau K. H. Aaron, Messersmith P. B.
Biomimetics Vol 2, (2017)
Fabrication of hydrophobic structures by nanosecond pulse laser
Cai Yukui, Sousa Ana M. L., Lau King Hang Aaron, Chang Wenlong, Luo Xichun
15th International Conference on Manufacturing Research, (2017)
Self-assembly of ultra-small micelles from amphiphilic lipopeptoids
Lau King Hang Aaron, Castelletto Valeria, Kendall Thomas, Sefcik Jan, Hamley Ian W., Reza Mehedi, Ruokolainen Janne
Chemical Communications Vol 53, pp. 2178-2181, (2017)
Biocatalytic self-assembly using reversible and irreversible enzyme immobilization
Conte M. P., Lau K. H. A., Ulijn R. V.
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces Vol 9, pp. 3266-3271, (2017)

more publications

Professional activities

External Evaluation of PhD Thesis
External Examiner
Explorathon at Kelvingrove: Chemistry of Cupcakes
EPSRC NetworkPlus Understanding the Physics of Life Compartmentalisation & Confinement in Biological Systems
Bioinspired Biointerfaces: from Peptoids to Nanopores
Invited speaker
250th ACS National Meeting
9th Peptoid Summit
Invited speaker

more professional activities


An advanced integrated process for the treatment of sewage plant effluent using bio-based antimicrobial metal biosorbents and photocatalytic materials
Lau, K. H. Aaron (Principal Investigator) Ivaturi, Aruna (Co-investigator)
Period 01-Apr-2018 - 31-Mar-2020
Bioinspired control of protein transport through polymer decorated nanopores
Lau, K. H. Aaron (Principal Investigator)
"This project will initiate a research programme in nanopore protein separation that is inspired by the nuclear pore complex (NPC).

NPCs are complex, giant assemblies constituted from more than 400 proteins that define nanoscale pores (i.e. nanopores) ~40 nm in diameter. Each NPC spans the nuclear membrane which separates the cell nucleus and the rest of the cell. NPCs are the only conduits in and out of the cell nucleus in all eukaryotic cells and they allow only a small set of specific proteins and genetic material related to the functioning of the cell nucleus to pass through. All the other thousands of species of unrelated but similar molecules in the cell are rejected.

Convenient separation of biomolecules is an enabling technology. NPC-studded nuclear membranes are effectively a highly specific and efficient molecular separation and purification membrane. They are capable of sorting through more than 1 kg of specific biomolecules in a human body per minute, far surpassing the performance of current technology. The creation of NPC-mimetic nanoporous membranes would benefit diverse biotechnology and biomedical applications, ranging from purification of protein disease markers for bedside medical diagnosis to continuous manufacturing of enzymes and protein therapeutics. Understanding the science underlying NPC function will help us achieve these applications and help us meet our 21st century challenges in healthcare and advanced manufacturing.

The immediate goal of this project is to establish the design rules for enabling the basic function of the NPC - the sorting of proteins according to size using nanopores with a virtual size cut off and which, unlike current technology, are not clogged by random interactions with proteins. The pore size of the NPC is virtual because it has a physical diameter much larger than the size of the protein. A random protein cannot however pass through because each NPC nanopore is filled with a semi-porous polymer plug with an as yet unidentified structure that specifically repels proteins, except for those proteins specific to nuclear function.

Biologists studying the NPC have proposed two leading theories to explain how the plug works: i) the virtual gate polymer brush model, and ii) the
selective phase meshwork model. This project will create artificial nanopores that are decorated with synthetic polymers as simplified models to mimic these two theoretical structures. Experiments will be conducted to verify whether either of the theories is in fact feasible.

The ultimate goal is to exploit these design rules for further development of the nanoporous membrane platform that incorporate increasingly advanced polymers for decorating the nanopores. This will create NPC-inspired nanoporous membranes with separation efficiency and selectivity that matches, and may eventually even surpass, native NPC function."
Period 01-Jul-2017 - 30-Apr-2019
Bioinspired control of protein diffusion through nanopores
Lau, K. H. Aaron (Principal Investigator)
Period 31-Mar-2016 - 30-Mar-2017
Dynamic peptoid biomaterial for stem cell delivery
Lau, K. H. Aaron (Principal Investigator)
Period 15-Jan-2016 - 14-Apr-2017
Controlled Protein Entry into Nanopores Characterized by Surface Optical Spectroscopies
Lau, K. H. Aaron (Principal Investigator)
This project aims to directly observe the entry/exclusion of proteins into polymer brush-functionalised nanopores using in situ optical waveguide spectroscopy. It forms one component of a larger project that aims to develop bioinspired synthetic materials that can control biomolecular transport through nanopores, and hence enable novel strategies for a range of applications, from chemical separation to drug encapsulation and delivery.
Period 23-Oct-2014 - 04-Apr-2015
Peptoid Biomaterials
Lau, K. H. Aaron (Principal Investigator)
Poly(N-substituted glycine) “peptoids” are a novel class of synthetic sequence-controlled, peptidomimetic polymers that are structural isomers of peptides with sidechains connected to the amide nitrogens. They were originally developed as a synthetically convenient combinatorial drug discovery platform, and many bioactive sequences have been discovered. This research will develop peptoids as functional biomaterials with properties that can be conveniently tuned by the peptoid residue sequence and that can direct the behaviour of cells cultured on them.
Period 28-Oct-2013

more projects


Pure and Applied Chemistry
Technology Innovation Centre

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