Dr Carol Crean

Reader in Physical Chemistry
+44 (0)1483 686640
30 AZ 03
08:15 - 17:00 (Mon-Thurs) 08:15 - 14.15 (Fri)

Academic and research departments

Department of Chemistry.


University roles and responsibilities

  • Senior Professional Training Tutor


    Research interests

    Research collaborations


    Postgraduate research supervision

    Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised

    My teaching

    Courses I teach on


    My publications


    M Schulz, C Crean, R Brinkhuis, R.P Sear, J.L Keddie (2021)Determination of parameters for self-stratification in bimodal colloidal coatings using Raman depth profiling, In: Progress in Organic Coatings157106272 Elsevier B.V

    In waterborne mixtures of colloidal particles with differing sizes, the spontaneous stratification of one species of particle in a coating – driven by diffusiophoresis - offers the possibility to tailor the surface properties. However, despite strong research interest in stratification in recent years, the acceptable range of experimental parameters has not been fully explored, and the extent of stratification that is achievable has not yet been quantified. Here, we study the stratification of bimodal mixtures of waterborne polyurethane particles mixed with larger acrylic particles. We use ultra-low angle microtoming to prepare cross-sections of coating samples and analyse compositions quantitatively with Raman mapping. We use this method to obtain high-resolution depth profiles of the polyurethane phase in the coating with spacing between measurements corresponding to a few tens of nm. We experimentally test a model of diffusiophoresis and observe stratification when the processing parameters (evaporation rates, film thickness, and volume fraction of small particles) fall within the required range. Samples that exhibit stratification have top layer thicknesses on the order of tens of μm, which is a significant depth for exploitation in coatings aiming to modify surface properties. To guide the design of coatings in applications, we draw on the model to define the range of parameters in which self-stratification is expected. Our results provide a fundamental understanding that will enable the fabrication of tailored coatings in which the properties of the surface differ from the bulk material.

    Mona N. Sweilam, Sarah F. Cordery, Stella Totti, Eirini G. Velliou, Paola Campagnolo, John R. Varcoe, M. Begoña Delgado-Charro, Carol Crean (2020)Textile-based non-invasive lithium drug monitoring: a proof-of-concept study for wearable sensing, In: Biosensors and Bioelectronics150111897 Elsevier

    Flexible wearable chemical sensors are emerging tools which target diagnosis and monitoring of medical conditions. One of the potential applications of wearable chemical sensors is therapeutic drug monitoring for drugs that have a narrow therapeutic range such as lithium. We have investigated the possibility of developing a fibre-based device for non-invasive lithium drug monitoring in interstitial fluid. A flexible cotton-based lithium sensor was coupled with a carbon fibre-based reference electrode to obtain a potentiometric device. In vitro reverse iontophoresis experiments were performed to extract Li+ from under porcine skin by applying a current density of 0.4 mA cm-2 via two electrodes. Carbon fibre-based reverse iontophoresis electrodes were fabricated and used instead of a conventional silver wire-based version and comparable results were obtained. The fibre-based Li+ sensor and reference electrodes were capable of determining the Li+ concentration in samples collected via reverse iontophoresis and the results compared well to those obtained by ion chromatography. Additionally, biocompatibility of the used materials have been tested. Promising results were obtained which confirm the possibility of monitoring lithium in interstitial fluid using a wearable sensor.

    Khaled Alqurashi, James R. Kelly, Zhengpeng Wang, Carol Crean, Raj Mittra, Mohsen Khalily, Yue Gao (2020)Liquid Metal Bandwidth-Reconfigurable Antenna, In: IEEE ANTENNAS AND WIRELESS PROPAGATION LETTERS19(1)pp. 218-222 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

    This letter shows how slugs of liquid metal can be used to connect/disconnect large areas of metalization and achieve a radiation performance not possible by using conventional switches. The proposed antenna can switch its operating bandwidth between ultrawideband and narrowband by connecting/disconnecting the ground plane for the feedline from that of the radiator. This could be achieved by using conventional semiconductor switches. However, such switches provide point-like contacts. Consequently, there are gaps in electrical contact between the switches. Surface currents, flowing around these gaps, lead to significant back radiation. In this letter, the slugs of a liquid metal are used to completely fill the gaps. This significantly reduces the back radiation, increases the bore-sight gain, and produces a pattern identical to that of a conventional microstrip patch antenna. Specifically, the realized gain and total efficiency are increased by 2 dBi and 24%, respectively. The antenna has potential applications in wireless systems employing cognitive radio (CR) and spectrum aggregation.

    Rachel E. Smith, Stella Totti, Eirini Velliou, Paola Campagnolo, Suzanne M. Hingley-Wilson, Neil I. Ward, John R. Varcoe, Carol Crean (2019)Development of a novel highly conductive and flexible cotton yarn for wearable pH sensor technology, In: Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical287pp. 338-345 Elsevier

    The simple and effective approach of “dipping and drying” cotton yarn in a dispersion of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly(styrene sulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) resulted in the development of a highly conductive and flexible cotton fibres. Subsequent polyaniline (PANi) deposition yielded electrodes with significant biocompatible and antibacterial properties that could be fabricated (alongside quasi-reference electrodes) into solid-state wearable pH sensors, which achieve rapid, selective, and Nernstian responses (-61 ± 2 mV pH-1) over a wide pH range (2.0 – 12.0), even in a pH-adjusted artificial sweat matrix. This development represents an important progression towards the realisation of real-time, on-body, wearable sensors.

    Khaled Yahya Alqurashi, Carol Crean, James R. Kelly, Tim W. C. Brown, Mohsen Khalily (2019)Liquid Metal Application for Continuously Tunable Frequency Reconfigurable Antenna, In: Proceedings of the 13th European Conference on Antennas and Propagation (EuCAP 2019) Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

    This paper presents two different designs for frequency reconfigurable antennas capable of continuous tuning. The radiator, for both antenna designs, is a microstrip patch, formed from liquid metal, contained within a microfluidic channel structure. Both patch designs are aperture fed. The microfluidic channel structures are made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The microfluidic channel structure for the first design has a meander layout and incorporates rows of posts. The simulated antenna provides a frequency tuning range of approximately 118% (i.e. 4.36 GHz) over the frequency range from 1.51 GHz to 5.87 GHz. An experimental result for the fully filled case shows a resonance at 1.49 GHz (1.3% error compared with the simulation). Experienced rheological behavior of the liquid metal necessitates microfluidic channel modifications. For that reason, we modified the channel structure used to realise the radiating patch for the second design. Straight channels are implemented in the second microfluidic device. According to simulation the design yields a frequency tuning range of about 77% (i.e. 3.28 GHz) from 2.62 GHz to 5.90 GHz.

    Jose Garcia-Torres, Carol Crean (2017)Multilayered Flexible Fibers with High Performance for Wearable Supercapacitor Applications, In: Advanced Sustainable Systems2(2)1700143 Wiley

    Multilayered flexible fibers, consisting of carbon black-carbon nanotube fibers, manganese oxides and conducting polymers, were fabricated for use as electrodes in supercapacitors. Carbon-based fibers were initially prepared by wet-spinning using carbon-based nanomaterials (carbon black and carbon nanotubes) and chitosan as a matrix. Subsequent coatings with manganese oxides and conducting polymers form a multilayered structure. Different MnO2 crystalline structures (ε-MnO2, γ-MnO2) were grown onto the fibre by electrodeposition and different conducting polymers (polyethylenedioxythiophene and polypyrrole) used as a conductive wrapping. Each layer improved the performance of the fibre by adding different functionalities. While MnO2 improved the capacitance of the fibre, the presence of conducting polymers creates a conductive network increasing the capacitance further and conferring cycling stability. Capacitance values up 600 F g-1 and capacitance retention of 90% can be achieved with these multilayered hybrid fibers. A symmetric supercapacitor device, prepared from two hybrid fibres showed no significant change in properties when the device was bent, demonstrating their potential in flexible electronic devices and wearable energy systems.

    Jose Garcia-Torres, Alexander J. Roberts, Robert C.T. Slade, Carol Crean (2019)One-step wet-spinning process of CB/CNT/MnO2 nanotubes hybrid flexible fibres as electrodes for wearable supercapacitors, In: Electrochimica Acta296pp. 481-490 Elsevier

    Fibres made from different nanostructured carbons (carbon black (CB)), carbon nanotubes (CNT) and CB/CNT were successfully developed by wet-spinning. The variation of dispersion conditions (carbon nanomaterial concentration, dispersant/Carbon nanomaterial concentration ratio, CB/CNT concentration ratio, pH) resulted in different electrochemical performance for each type of fibres. Fibres with the best capacitance values (10 F g-1) and good cycling stability (89%) were obtained from fibres containing 10% carbon black and 90% carbon nanotubes. A solid-state supercapacitor was fabricated by assembling the CB/CNT fibres resulting in 9.2 F g-1 electrode capacitance. Incorporation of 0.2 wt.% birnessite-type potassium manganese oxide nanotubes dramatically increased the capacitance of the fibres up to 246 F g-1 due to the high specific capacitance of birnessite phase and the tubular nature of the nanomaterial.

    Jose Garcia-Torres, Carol Crean, Elisa Vallés (2017)Co-Ni-carbon flexible composite fibres for directional magnetic actuation, In: Materials & Design141pp. 9-16 Elsevier

    Flexible microcomponents are being widely employed in the microelectronic industry; however; they suffer from a lack of complex movement. To address this problem, we have developed flexible, electrically conductive, magnetic composite fibres showing complex motion in three dimensions with the capacity to be selectively actuated. Flexible carbon-based fibres were prepared by wet-spinning and were subsequently modified by electrodepositing Co-Ni. The high aspect ratio of the fibre (40 μm diameter, 3.5 cm length) causes a directional dependence in the magnetostatic energy, which will allow for anisotropic actuation of the composite. Thus, the application of magnetic fields allows for a precise control of the movement with high reproducibility and accuracy.

    Daniel O. Reid, Rachel Smith, Jose Garcia-Torres, John J. Watts, Carol Crean (2019)Solvent Treatment of Wet-Spun PEDOT: PSS Fibers for Fiber-Based Wearable pH Sensing, In: Sensors19(19)4213pp. 1-10 MDPI

    There is a growing desire for wearable sensors in health applications. Fibers are inherently flexible and as such can be used as the electrodes of flexible sensors. Fiber-based electrodes are an ideal format to allow incorporation into fabrics and clothing and for use in wearable devices. Electrically conducting fibers were produced from a dispersion of poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly (styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT: PSS). Fibers were wet spun from two PEDOT: PSS sources, in three fiber diameters. The effect of three different chemical treatments on the fibers were investigated and compared. Short 5 min treatment times with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) on 20 μm fibers produced from Clevios PH1000 were found to produce the best overall treatment. Up to a six-fold increase in electrical conductivity was achieved, reaching 800 S cm−1, with no loss of mechanical strength (150 MPa). With a pH-sensitive polyaniline coating, these fibers displayed a Nernstian response across a pH range of 3.0 to 7.0, which covers the physiologically critical pH range for skin. These results provide opportunities for future wearable, fiber-based sensors including real-time, on-body pH sensing to monitor skin disease.

    N Gilmartin, C Crean (2014)Nanoparticle technologies in detection science, In: RSC Detection Science2014-J(3)pp. 116-141
    C.S. Nagi, S.L. Ogin, I. Mohagheghian, C. Crean, A.D. Foreman (2018)Interlaminar Toughening of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers using Graphene / Thermoplastic Inserts, In: Proceedings of ECCM 18 - 18th European Conference on Composite Materials European Society for Composite Materials

    This paper outlines preliminary work developing graphene modified thermoplastic inserts to be used for the toughening of CFRP. The paper outlines laminate manufacture, mechanical testing and fracture analysis of graphene modified CFRP.

    José García-Torres, Carol Crean (2018)Ternary composite solid-state flexible supercapacitor based on nanocarbons/manganese dioxide/PEDOT:PSS fibres, In: Materials & Design155pp. 194-202 Elsevier

    Flexible fibre supercapacitors were fabricated by wet-spinning from carbon nanotube/carbon black dispersions, followed by straightforward surface treatments to sequentially deposit MnO2 and PEDOT:PSS to make ternary composite fibres. Dip coating the fibres after the initial wet-spinning coagulation creates a simple solution-based continuous process to produce fibre-based energy storage. Well-controlled depositions were achieved and have been optimised at each stage to yield the highest specific capacitance. A single ternary composite fibre exhibited a specific capacitance of 351 F g−1. Two ternary composite fibre electrodes were assembled together in a parallel solid-state device, with polyvinyl alcohol/H3PO4 gel used as both an electrolyte and a separator. The assembled flexible device exhibited a high specific capacitance of 51.3 F g−1 with excellent both charge-discharge cycling (84.2% capacitance retention after 1000 cycles) and deformation cycling stability (82.1% capacitance retention after 1000 bending cycles).

    Mona N. Sweilam, John R. Varcoe, Carol Crean (2018)Fabrication and Optimization of Fiber-Based Lithium Sensor: A Step towards Wearable Sensors for Lithium Drug Monitoring in Interstitial Fluid, In: ACS Sensors3(9)pp. 1802-1810 American Chemical Society

    A miniaturized, flexible fiber-based lithium sensor was fabricated from low-cost cotton using a simple, repeatable dip-coating technique. This lithium sensor is highly suited for ready-to-use wearable applications and can be used directly without the preconditioning steps normally required with traditional ion-selective electrodes. The sensor has a stable, rapid and accurate response over a wide Li+ concentration range that spans over the clinically effective and the toxic concentration limits for lithium in human serum. The sensor is selective to Li+ in human plasma even in the presence of a high concentration of Na+ ions. This novel sensor concept represents a significant advance in wearable sensor technology which will target lithium drug monitoring from under the skin.

    Emily A. M. Smith, Yuqing Liu, Chris Stirling, David J. Watson, Robert C. T. Slade, Jun Chen, Carol Crean (2019)Plasma functionalisation of few-layer graphenes and carbon nanotubes for graphene microsupercapacitors, In: Electrochimica Acta Elsevier

    Plasma processing, as a commercial and large-scale technology, was used to functionalize few-layer graphene (FLG) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) in this work. The successful functionalities of FLG and MWCNT have been confirmed by elemental microanalysis, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, acid-base titration and zeta potential measurements. With the assistance of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT/PSS), a water-dispersible and conductive polymer, a composite of functionalized FLG and MWCNT was fabricated into large-size flexible films and also interdigitated microelectrodes for microsupercapacitor application via simple and scalable techniques (i.e. doctor blading and laser-etching). When normalised by volume and area, the device made from FLG(NH3)-MWCNT(Acid) (19.9 F cm-3 at 5 mV s-1 and 12.2 F cm-3 at 200 mV s-1) and FLG-MWCNT(Acid) (19.5 mF cm-2 at 5 mV s-1 and 12.8 mF cm-2 at 200 mV s-1) show the best performing composites, respectively, indicating how effective functionalization of FLG and MWCNT is for the enhancement of electrochemical capacitance. In-situ Raman microscopy confirmed the reversible pseudo-capacitive behaviour of electrode materials and the stable electrochemical performance of the devices. The facile techniques used in this work and the good device performance show their great potential for wearable applications.

    C Crean, C Mcgeough, R O'Kennedy (2012)Wearable biosensors for medical applications, In: Biosensors for Medical Applicationspp. 301-330 Woodhead Publishing

    Over the past decade, the design and development of wearable sensors for biomedical applications has garnered considerable attention in the scientifi c community and in industry. This chapter aims to review research conducted into wearable sensors for healthcare monitoring. Acceptance of this approach in observation of physiological data depends strongly on the cost, wearability, usability and performance of such devices. An outline of body sensor network systems (and applications of wearable computing devices) is provided with a summary of electronic textiles. A synopsis of the clinical applications of this type of technology is given at the end of the chapter © 2012 Woodhead Publishing Limited All rights reserved.

    W Lee, Carol Crean, John Varcoe, Rachida Bance-Soualhi (2017)A Raman spectro-microscopic investigation of ETFE-based radiation-grafted anion-exchange membranes, In: RSC Advances7pp. 47726-47737 Royal Society of Chemistry

    This study used Raman spectro-microscopy to investigate the synthesis and degradation of radiation-grafted anion-exchange membranes (RG-AEM) made using 50 μm thick poly(ethylene-co-tetrafluoroethylene) (ETFE) films, vinylbenzyl chloride (VBC) monomer, and 1-methylpyrrolidine (MPY) amination agent. The data obtained confirmed the operation of the grafting-front mechanism. VBC grafting times of 1 and 4 h led to low degrees of grafting homogeneity, while 72 h led to extreme levels of grafting that resulted in mechanically weak RG-AEMs due to the excessive H2O contents. A grafting time of 16 h was optimal yielding a RG-AEM with an ion-exchange capacity (IEC) of 2.06 ± 0.02 mmol g-1 (n = 3). An excess of grafting was detected at the surface of this RG-AEM (at least within the first few μm of the surface). This RG-AEM was then degraded in O2-purged aqueous KOH (1.0 mol dm-3) for 14 d at 80 °C. Degradation was detected throughout the RG-AEM cross-section, where the Raman data was quantitatively consistent with the loss of IEC. A slight excess of degradation was detected at the surface of the RG-AEM. Degradation involved the loss of whole benzyl-1-methypyrrolidinium grafted units as well as the direct attack on the pendent (cationic) pyrrolidinium groups by the hydroxide anions.