Christopher Sumby

Professor Christopher Sumby

Professor and Interim Head of School

School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Christopher Sumby is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Adelaide where he undertakes research into the synthesis and properties of nanomaterials to address energy, environmental and industrial challenges. Prof. Sumby has been awarded various fellowships and awards, including an ARC Future Fellowship (2009), a South Australian Young Tall Poppy Award (2009) and a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science International Invitational Fellowship (2014). Prof. Sumby is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials at the University of Adelaide where key research themes include Chemical and Electrical Energy Storage; Energy Waste Management; Heterogeneous Catalysis; and Nanoporous materials for Gas Separations. Prof. Sumby also directs the Bragg Crystallography Facility, the X-ray diffraction centre at the University of Adelaide.

Research Areas

research overview

MOF Catalysis

The synthesis of nearly all industrial chemicals involves some sort of catalyst. MOFs are promising materials for heterogeneous catalysis (where the catalyst is in a different phase to the reactants) and our research team is investigating how particular structural motifs can be incorporated into the design of MOFs to develop new or more efficient catalysts.  This work extends from garnering new fundamental insight into MOF supported catalysts through to making new MOF catalysts. Techniques such as post-synthetic metalation (see our review of this area) are important to preparing catalysts and we have also developed purpose-built catalytic testing facilities for examining gas phase catalysis. Some projects include:

MOF structure and the reaction catalysed by the MOF

Biomolecule Protection in MOF biocomposites

Another research area utilises MOFs to protect biomolecules from inhospitable conditions. This processes, coined biomimetic mineralisation, is a rapid, easy to use coating procedure that uses the biomolecule to seed growth of a protective coating. This approach has been used to protect enzymes from harsh environments within a biomimetically mineralised MOF coating. In the past 2 years we have established a robust protocol for this chemistry, demonstrated the importance of protein surface chemistry and charge, and identified that the hydrophilicity of the MOF coating is essential for activity.

Gas storage and separations

Gas separations are important in clean energy technologies or in the separation of chemical feedstocks. Examples of our research activity is the design of a MOF that is flexible in the 'as-synthesised' form but upon activation – the process of desolvation that yields the adsorbing material – converts to a rigid 3D material.  This material has the second highest CO2/N2 separation performance of any MOF material. See: Post-synthetic structural processing in a metal-organic framework material as a mechanism for exceptional CO₂/N₂ selectivity, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2013, 135, 10441-10448.

A schematic of the MOF and evidence for its flexibility

Collaborative research with CSIRO on incorporation of molecular porous materials into mixed matrix membranes is another area of activity and two invited reviews on this topic have been published recently. See:

Synthesis and characterisation of porous materials 

A significant part of my research focuses on the synthesis and characterisation of porous materials.  These contributions include: the synthesis of flexible MOF materials, novel solution-processable porous materials, and MOFs that enable structural characterisation of 'guest' metal complexes by single crystal X-ray crystallography.  This experimental activity relies heavily on our in-house X-ray diffraction facilities for small molecule X-ray crystallography and powder X-ray diffraction.

For MOFs to be applied as components of real-world systems, precise control over and optimisation of the physical form of the material is required. In this respect we are examining modulation of the crystal size and morphology (changes at the nanoscale) and how the application dictates the internal organisation of the solid and overall external shape of the composite (changes at the macroscale).  This work is done in collaboration with Dr Kenji Sumida (ARC DECRA fellow, School of Physical Sciences, UoA).  See: Particle size effects in the kinetic trapping of a structurally-locked form of a flexible metal-organic framework, CrystEngComm, 2016, 18, 4172-4179.

Research Funding

Project Funding


Professor Christian Doonan; Professor Christopher Sumby; Dr Kenji Sumida. Metal-organic Framework (MOF) Superstructure Catalysts. ARC DP220101774

The development of new catalyst technology is crucial to uncovering energy-efficient strategies for valorising chemicals. Although the designable pore networks of Metal-organic Frameworks (MOFs) provide a highly favourable environment for heterogeneous catalysis, most stable MOF materials are microporous - possessing pores less than 2 nm - which hinders mass transport. This research will develop novel, hierarchically porous MOF superstructures that will overcome these limitations and serve as platform materials for the development of new catalysts. This research will address future challenges in industrial catalysis and realise an important step towards the commercial application of MOF catalysis for valoriation of chemical feedstocks.


CRC Future Fuels Project “Hydrogen Production from a Photo-Electrochemical Reactor under Solar Radiation”.

Professor Christian Doonan; Professor Christopher Sumby; Dr Stephen Bell; Associate Professor Michael Beard; Professor Paolo Falcaro, Advancing the Chemistry of Metal-organic Frameworks for Biotechnology. ARC DP200102411

This research will advance the fundamental chemical science required for the emerging field of Metal-organic Framework (MOF) biocomposites. A significant challenge to the commercial use of enzymes (biocatalysis), proteins (protein-based therapeutics) and virus-based vaccines is their instability to elevated temperatures and/or non-biological media. MOFs can encapsulate and protect biomolecules, thereby overcoming this limitation. This project will develop fundamental parameters that govern the formation, stability and activity of these biocomposites, expanding the scope of MOF materials available for bioprotection, and enable new developments in the areas of industrial biocatalysis and protein/virus-based therapeutics.


Prof. Christian Doonan; Prof. Christopher Sumby; Dr Kenji Sumida, Examining small molecule activation in metal-organic framework pores. ARC DP190101402

This project aims to uncover important chemical knowledge regarding small molecule activation by reactive metal species that are site-isolated and stabilised within the pores of metal-organic frameworks. These insights will lead to the development of new materials that are able to activate small molecules, such as carbon dioxide and methane, and facilitate their conversion to commodity chemicals and fuels. Uncovering energy-efficient strategies for valorising abundant small molecules is a key challenge for future energy sustainability. The outcomes of this project will inform the design of the next-generation catalysts for conversion of methane to methanol, a potential fuel, and facilitate the transition to a clean energy future.


Prof. Christian Doonan; Prof. Christopher Sumby; Dr Stephen Bell; Professor Paolo Falcaro, Metal-organic frameworks at the biointerface. ARC DP170103531

Project Summary: This project aims to understand the chemistry that governs the crystallisation of metal-organic frameworks (MOF) around functional biomacromolecules and explore these bio-composites’ uses. Functional biomacromolecules, such as proteins, could be applied to biotechnology and Industrial biocatalysis. The project will develop MOF-encapsulated biocatalytic platform materials that allow inherently fragile biomacromolecules to remain active in conditions needed for industrial processes. This project could advance the widespread commercial application of biocatalysts and biosensors.


Doonan, C. J., Sumby, C. J., Huang, D. M., Champness, N. R.; X-ray snapshots of chemical transformations in open framework materials, ARC DP160103234.

Project summary: The aim of this project is to unearth structural insights into the chemistry of coordinatively unsaturated metal complexes – reactive species lacking their full complement of binding groups – by isolating them within a carefully designed metal-organic framework and examining them via single crystal X-ray diffraction. Such intrinsically reactive species play an important role in metal-based catalysis, but their definitive structural characterisation remains a significant challenge. This project aims to facilitate a detailed understanding of how these species bind and activate substrates and thus provide important first steps towards developing novel adsorbents for separations and efficient catalysts.

Prior to 2016

Kepert, C. J. and others, Solving the energy waste roadblock, Science Industry Endowment Fund

Doonan, C. J., Sumby, C. J., Long, J. R., Metal-organic frameworks as heterogeneous catalytic systems, ARC DP110103741.

Monro, T. M., Sumby, C. J., Ebendorff-Heidepriem, H., Hoffmann, P., Abell, A. D.; Disruptive approaches to biological sensing, ARC FS100100039.

Sumby, C. J.; Internally decorated discrete Metallo-supramolecular Assemblies and infinite Metal-Organic Frameworks as molecular containers; ARC FT0991910.

Sumby, C.J.; Anion Binding and Sensing With Self-Assembled Metallo-Supramolecular Assemblies; ARC DP0773011.

Industry Projects

PETRONAS Research Sdn Bhd, MOFs for Hydrogen Storage and Transport, 2022.

CRC Future Fuels Project number: RP1.3-04: Efficient conversion of hydrogen into alternative future fuels, 2021.

PETRONAS Research Sdn Bhd, Technology Readiness Level (TRL) enhancement of MOF-based catalysts for CO2 hydrogenation into methanol, 2021.

PETRONAS Research Sdn Bhd, Development of MOFbased catalysts for CO2 hydrogenation into methanol, 2020. 

Infrastructure Funding

Professor Christopher Sumby; Dr John Bruning; Associate Professor Sally Plush; Professor Vincent Bulone; Professor Christian Doonan; Associate Professor Martin Johnston; Professor Dr Volker Hessel; Professor Shudong Wang; Associate Professor Michael Perkins; Professor Deborah White; Professor Mats Andersson; Dr Peter Elliott; Dr Ruben Arrua; Associate Professor Henrietta Venter; Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, Structure Determination Pipeline Capabilities for South Australia. ARC LE210100163

This project aims to complete a high-throughput, automated pipeline for biomolecule crystallisation and provide enhanced X-ray structure determination capabilities for all sample types. This is critical because X-ray crystallography remains the primary technique for achieving molecular level insights to help solve cutting-edge problems in life, materials, chemical, earth and agricultural sciences. The diverse researcher community in South Australia will benefit from a more rapid structure determination pipeline from molecular sample to structure. The infrastructure will drive research findings in energy and resources, food, soil and water security, advanced manufacturing and life sciences and lead to economic and technological impacts.

Gerson, A., Sumby, C. J. and others, Microdiffraction: Advanced capabilities for spatial resolution, trace phase detection and solid object analysis, ARC LE140100122.

Sumby, C. J. and 9 others, Enhanced Powder Diffraction Facilities for SA, ARC LE120000012.

Murray, K. S., Spiccia, L., Deacon, G. B., Batten, S. R., Boskovic, C., Gahan, L. R., Hanson, G. R., Sumby, C. J., Schenk, G., Abrahams, B. F., National magnetochemical facility; ARC LE100100197.

Monro, T. M., Ebendorff-Heidepriem, H., Tan, H. H., Dell, J. M., Madden, S., Sumby, C. J., Ottaway, D. J., Harris, H. H.; Capability for the fabrication and characterisation of mid-infrared photonic materials; ARC LE100100104.

Sumby, C.J., Carver, J.A., Wallace, J.C., Hrmova, M., Pring, A. Abell, A.D., Booker, G.W., Bruce, M.I., Brugger, J., Ford, C.M., Harris, H.H., Morris, J.C., Paton, J.C., Peet, D.J., Pyke, S.M., Shearwin, K.E., Menz, R.I., Abbott, C.A., Anderson, P.A., Brown, M.H., Johnston, M.R., Schuller, K.A., Lopez, A.F., Pitson, S.M., Lincoln, S.F., McKinnon, R.A.; The South Australian Facility for Small and Large Molecule X-Ray Diffraction Structure Determination (The Bragg Crystallography Facility); ARC LE0989336.

Chemistry IA - Coordination Chemistry

Foundations of Chemistry IB - Redox chemistry and main group chemistry

Environmental & Analytical Chemistry II - Atmospheric Chemistry

Inorganic Chemistry III - X-ray Crystallography

Advanced Synthetic Methods III - Organometallic Chemistry


  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 Co-Supervisor Radiomercury Theranostics Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Meaghan Louise Ashton
    2022 Co-Supervisor Photocatalytic degradation of persistent organic pollutants Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Mabel Lily Day
    2022 Principal Supervisor Metal-organic Framework (MOF) Superstructure Catalysts Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Mei Tieng Yong
    2021 Principal Supervisor Structuralised Metal-organic Frameworks (MOFs) as Supports for Catalysis Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Josephine Frances Smernik
    2021 Co-Supervisor Exploring how porous frameworks can be applied to encapsulate and protect biomolecules from environments, e.g. elevated temperature, that would typically lead to their decomposition Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Joe Richard Ian Milne
    2021 Principal Supervisor Efficient conversion of hydrogen to future fuels Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Thomas Edward Anthony
    2020 Principal Supervisor Synthesis and modification of Metal Organic Frameworks for catalysis and gas separation applications. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Pol Gimeno I Fonquernie
    2019 Principal Supervisor Metal Organic Cages in Polymer Synthesis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Matthew Luke Schneider
    2018 Co-Supervisor Development of novel antimicrobial nanomaterials for surface elimination of persistent bacteria Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Afshin Karami
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2020 - 2022 Co-Supervisor METAL-ORGANIC FRAMEWORKS AS SUPPORTS FOR FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Steven Tsoukatos
    2018 - 2021 Co-Supervisor Photophysical and electronic properties of pyrene-based 3D coordination polymers. Master of Philosophy Master Part Time Mr Christopher Norman Coleman
    2018 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Biomolecule encapsulation in biocompatible metal-organic frameworks Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Tania Michelle Pullin
    2017 - 2022 Co-Supervisor Synthesis and Biological Interactions of Ruthenium Supramolecular Assemblies Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Kate Louisa Flint
    2017 - 2021 Principal Supervisor Reactivity of Metals Tethered to Metal-Organic Frameworks Doctor of Philosophy under a Jointly-awarded Degree Agreement with Doctorate Full Time Miss Rosemary Jane Young
    2017 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Investigation of the Mechanism of Multiple Cytochrome P450-catalysed Reactions Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Matthew Podgorski
    2017 - 2021 Co-Supervisor Engineering site-isolated reactive metal complexes within a Metal-organic Framework Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Ricardo Atahualpa Peralta
    2016 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Influencing Metal-organic Framework Catalysis through Nanoscale Structuralisation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Oliver Michael Linder-Patton
    2016 - 2020 Co-Supervisor An investigation of the chemistry of silver in biological systems, and the development of silver-containing materials for use as antibacterial agents Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Harley Dwane Betts
    2015 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Incorporation of N-Heterocyclic Carbenes and their Precursors into Metal-Organic Frameworks Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Patrick Keith Capon
    2015 - 2019 Co-Supervisor Studying Transition Metal Chemistry inside a Metal-Organic Framework Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Michael Thomas Huxley
    2014 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Metal-Organic Frameworks as Templates for Highly Active Heterogeneous
    Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Renata Lippi
    2012 - 2015 Principal Supervisor Simulations of Molecular and Extended Porous Materials Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Jack Evans
    2012 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Studies of Metal-Organic Polyhedra: Synthesis and Applications in Gas Storage and Separation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Jesse Miah Teo
    2011 - 2016 Principal Supervisor Biomimetic Synthesis of Marine Sponge Derived Natural Products Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Kevin Kuan
    2011 - 2016 Principal Supervisor Metal-Organic Frameworks Containing Dihydroxy Motifs: Control of Phase Formation and Pore Environments Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Damien Rankine
    2011 - 2012 Co-Supervisor Oxidative Activation of Iron- and Ruthenium- Alkynyl Complexes: Toward Square-Shaped Molecules with Four Redox-Active Metal Centres Doctor of Philosophy under a Cotutelle Agreement with Doctorate Full Time Dr Alexandre Burgun
    2010 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Engineering Flexible Metal-Organic Frameworks from Methylene-hinged Ligands Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Witold Marek Bloch
    2010 - 2013 Co-Supervisor The Combined Application of XAS and XFM Techniques to the Problem of Selenium Speciation in Biological Systems Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Claire Weekley
    2009 - 2015 Principal Supervisor An investigation of transition metal complex chemistry: enzyme mimicry and Zn(II) detection. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Hilary Coleman
    2009 - 2010 Co-Supervisor Supramolecular Chemistry of Beta- and Gamma- Cyclodextrin Dimers Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Huy Ngo
    2009 - 2014 Co-Supervisor Optical Fibre Sensors with Surface-immobilised Fluoroionophores Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Herbert Tze Cheung Foo
    2008 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Studies of Hexaaryl[3]radialene Ligands: Synthesis, Coordination Chemistry and Anion Interactions Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Courtney Hollis
    2008 - 2012 Principal Supervisor Synthesis and Coordination Chemistry of Polypyridyl Amide Ligands Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Maisara Abdul Kadir
    2008 - 2010 Co-Supervisor Polarised Alkynyl Ruthenium Complexes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Christian Parker
    2008 - 2008 Co-Supervisor New Methods for the Synthesis of Diynyl, Diyndiyl and Bis(diyndiyl) Ruthenium(II) Complexes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Nancy Talavera
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2021 - ongoing Member Society of Crystallographers in Australia and New Zealand Council Society of Crystallographers in Australia and New Zealand Australia
    2020 - 2022 Representative SA Branch of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Royal Australian Chemical Institute Australia
    2020 - ongoing Member MX3 Beamline Advisory Panel Australian Synchrotron Australia
    2018 - 2020 President SA Branch of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Royal Australian Chemical Institute Australia
    2017 - 2017 Chair Program Chair for Crystal 31 - -
    2017 - 2017 Member SCANZ Council - -
    2017 - 2018 Vice-President SA Branch of the RACI RACI Australia
    2015 - ongoing Co-Chair User Advisory Committee, Macromolecular crystallography (MX) PAC. Australian Synchrotron -
    2013 - 2016 Member User Advisory Committee, Macromolecular crystallography (MX) PAC Australian Synchrotron Australia
    2013 - ongoing Member Tall Poppy Selection Panel Committee The Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) Australia
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2015 - ongoing Member American Chemical Society United States
    2015 - ongoing Member Royal Australian Chemistry Institute (MRACI CChem) Australia
    2015 - ongoing Member Society of Crystallographers in Australia and New Zealand (SCANZ) Australia
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2021 - ongoing Associate Editor IUCr Newsletter IUCr United Kingdom
    2016 - 2019 Board Member Journal of Coordination Chemistry - -
  • Position: Professor and Interim Head of School
  • Phone: 83137406
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Badger, floor 1
  • Org Unit: School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

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