Usaid Azhar

PhD research student at IT Sligo

Research Topic:

Bio-inspired supramolecular polymers for multifunctional coatings

Polymer coatings have become a particularly important part of daily life, and examples can be found everywhere. They are commonly used in your home/office for protecting furniture, electrical wires and cars, to high-tech industries such as aerospace, marine (such as protection of marine structures against biofouling), electronics and healthcare (for example in medical devices). The basic purpose of applying such coatings is to protect the substrate and improve corrosion resistance, barrier properties (resistance against atmospheric elements such as water vapour, oxygen and carbon dioxide), biocompatibility and antifouling.   


As a PhD researcher in the PEM Centre, Usaid currently attempts to synthesize a range of polymers for marine and biomedical antifouling coating applications. His PhD title is “Bio-inspired supramolecular polymers for multifunctional coatings”, and it involves: 

Chemistry: Design and synthesis of several mussel-inspired oligomers and polymers. Optimising the solution concerning the reagent concentration.

Material Science: Deposition of polymer coating via dip-coating technique, and characterisation & assessment of coatings. Development of structure-property relationships.

Advanced Characterisation: Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Raman and FTIR Spectroscopy, Differential Scanning Calorimetry, Thermogravimetric Analysis, mechanical properties, water contact angle measurements. 

A graphical representation of various steps of my research of marine antifouling coatings is given below:

Figure 1: A graphical representation of mussel-inspired coating for the applications of marine antifouling

Usaid Azhar comes from Lahore, Pakistan and completed his BSc and MSc degrees in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering from the College of Engineering and Emerging Technology, University of the Punjab, Pakistan.


Before joining IT Sligo, he worked for 4 years as a research associate in the Research Centre in Biomedical Materials (IRCBM), COMSATS University Islamabad, Lahore campus, Pakistan in bio-medical materials research. During this time, he worked on multiple bio-degradable and biocompatible materials such as bio-ceramics (e.g. hydroxyapatite), mesoporous materials (e.g. SBA-15 and MCM-41) and polymer/ceramics composite materials for application in bone and skin tissue engineering.


Usaid also fabricated osteoinductive porous scaffolds composed of well-known biopolymers (gelatin and chitosan) and hydroxyapatite (HA) by a simple freeze-drying method for bone tissue engineering applications. The demand for these materials is extremely high worldwide due to increasing prevalence of diseases and life expectancy (ageing). Therefore, the main idea was to develop safe and effective biomedical products to meet the real needs of patients. Under this research objective, Usaid has been able to publish good quality papers in high standard international journals (e.g. Journal of Molecular Liquids), and one book chapter on “Carbonated Substituted hydroxyapatite” in Handbook of Ionic Substituted Hydroxyapatites.


Apart from chemical and material synthesis, Usaid has hands-on experience in different characterisation instruments such as metallurgical microscopes and SEM for the surface imaging of materials, FTIR spectroscopy (identify molecular composition), fatigue testing machine (FTS) and universal testing machine (UTM) to determine the mechanical properties of materials. 


Usaid mentioned “PEM Centre at the Institute of Technology Sligo has given me a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge and expand my research in a new direction. Sligo is a great place to live especially for students because it is affordable and very friendly. I would like to recognize my supervisor Dr. Ioannis Manolakis, who is always available with support and motivation.”

Usaid's publications can be found in the links below:

1.         Manolakis I, Azhar U: Recent Advances in Mussel-Inspired Synthetic Polymers as Marine Antifouling Coatings. Coatings 2020, 10:653.

2.         Siddiqi SA, Azhar U: Carbonate substituted hydroxyapatite. In Handbook of Ionic Substituted Hydroxyapatites. Elsevier; 2020: 149-173

3.         Tariq S, Rahim A, Muhammad N, Rahman SU, Azhar U, Sultana K, Sharif F, Siddiqi SA, Zaman M, Rehman F: Controllable delivery from gentamicin loaded polycaprolactone/grafted silica nanoparticles composite mats. Journal of Molecular Liquids 2019, 290:111205.

4.         Rehman F, Ahmed K, Rahim A, Muhammad N, Tariq S, Azhar U, Khan AJ, us Sama Z, Volpe PL, Airoldi C: Organo-bridged silsesquioxane incorporated mesoporous silica as a carrier for the controlled delivery of ibuprofen and fluorouracil. Journal of Molecular Liquids 2018, 258:319-326

5.         Siddiqi S, Azhar U, Manzoor F, Jamal A, Tariq M, Saleem M, Chaudhry A, Rehman I: Fabrication of Biocompatible Nano-carbonated Hydroxyapatite/polymer Spongy Scaffolds. Digest Journal of Nanomaterials & Biostructures (DJNB) 2018, 13(2), 439-450.

6.         Kamran M, Ahmad T, Azhar U, Wahjoedi BB, Ahmad R, Hussain F: A Comparative Study of Different Electrolytes on Anodizing of 2024 Aluminum Alloy and Electrochemical Behavior of Anodized Film. Journal of the Pakistan Institute of Chemical Engineers 2016, 44:29-40.