Hemali Rathnayake, Ph.D.

Hemali Rathnayake, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Nanoscience

Dr. Hemali Rathnayake, Associate Professor, obtained her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. She obtained her Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), Department of Chemistry in 2007. Just after she finished her Ph.D., she was a Postdoctoral research fellow at Polymer Science & Engineering, UMass Amherst.
She started her academic career in 2009. Prior to join the Nanoscience department at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) in 2016, Dr. Rathnayake was in the Chemistry department at Western Kentucky University as an Assistant Professor and later as Associate Professor for seven years.
During her doctoral studies, she has developed series of novel organic light emitting molecules, which are nowadays using in organic light emitting diodes and flat panel displays. Dr. Rathnayake’s work has been published in highly rated peer-reviewed journals such as Nanoscale, Macromolecules, Chemistry of Materials, the Journal of Material Chemistry, RSC Advances, and the New Journal of Chemistry and She has given more than 50 invited talks to scientific and non-scientific communities including colleges and high schools.
The majority of Dr. Rathnayake’s research efforts focus on making novel nanomaterials, their self-assembly, and fabrication of energy harvesting, conversion, storage, and nanoelectronic devices. The most exciting research conducted in recent years was developing carbon-based nanomaterials and coordination polymer hybrids for NASA Space experiments with NASA Glenn Research Center. Her group was able to send these novel materials to international space station (ISS) to study their self-assembly behavior under microgravity. Her research has received ~ $6.5 million in funding in the past and recently received multiple research funding awards including the NASA NC Space grant to develop space shielding materials partnering with NASA Marshal Space Center and a major instrumentation grant from Department of Defense to acquire a high-resolution TEM.
Up to date, she has mentored more than forty undergraduates, 10 M.S. graduate students, and fifteen high school juniors (from Gatton Academy) in her materials science research program. Currently, she is mentoring 10 Ph.D. students and two M.S. students. Also, every academic semester she serves as a mentor for 3 to 5 UNCG Middle College high school students and work closely with them in the lab, providing hands-on experience in nanoscience.

  • Organic materials (OLEDs, OPVs, and OTEGs).
  • Nanomaterials and Polymer Chemistry.
  • Supramolecular Self-assembly and Patterning
  • Computational Chemistry


  • An Honoree for Faculty Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, 2019, Office of Provost, UNCG
  • UNCG 2018 College Level Teaching Excellence Award, 2018, Office of Provost, UNCG
  • An Honoree for Faculty Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, 2018, Office of Provost, UNCG
  • Nominated for the Ogden College Faculty Award for Research and Creativity, January 2015, Western Kentucky University.
  • Most Prolific Proposer Award by the College for the fiscal year 2014 from the Office of Research, December 2014, Western Kentucky University.
  • First Time Awardee Recognition for the fiscal year 2013 from the Office of Research, December 2013, Western Kentucky University
  • Most Prolific Proposer by College Award for the fiscal year 2013 from the Office of Research, December 2013, Western Kentucky University.
  • Junior Investigator Award for the fiscal year 2013 from the Office of Research, December 2013, Western Kentucky University.
  • In Recognition of Significant Progress Towards Commercialization from the Office of Research, November 2012, Western Kentucky University.
  • Nominated for the Ogden College Faculty Award for Research and Creativity, January 2012, Western Kentucky University.
  • Nominated for the Ogden College Faculty Award for student advisement, January 2010, Western Kentucky University.
  • Bucks for Bright Ideas Award from Small Business Accelerator and the Center Region Innovation and Commercialization, 2010, Bowling Green, Ky.




Recent Publications:

  1. Hemali Rathnayake, Gayani Pathiraja, and Daniel Herr”Novel approach to sub-5-nm patterning platforms: the self-assembly of metal conjugated bio-inspired molecules”, SPIE 10958, Novel Patterning Technologies for Semiconductors, MEMS/NEMS, and MOEMS 2019, 1095811, 5 June 2019;https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2518995
  2. Sheeba Dawood, Ryan Yarbrough, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Self-Assembly and Optoelectronic Properties of Isoreticular MOF Nanocrystals”, Synthetic Metals, 2019, 252, 107-112.
  3. Klinton Davis and Hemali Rathnayake, “Band Gap Engineered Zinc Oxide Nanostructures via a Sol-Gel Synthesis of Solvent Driven Shape-Controlled Crystal Growth”, RSC Advances, 2019, 9, 14638-14648.
  4. Matthew Hawkins, Sujoy Saha, Ezhakudiyan Ravindran, and Hemali Rathnayake, “A Sol-Gel Polymerization for Creating Polyimide Nanostructures as Soft Dielectric Materials, Poly.Sci. A, 2019, 57(4), 562-571, DOI: 10.1002/pola.29295.
  5. Marzieh Moradi, Bailey M Woods, Hemali Rathnayake, Stuart J Williams, and Gerold A Willing, “Effect of functionalization on the properties of silsesquioxane: a comparison to silica”, of. Colloid and Polymer Science 2019, 297 (5), 697-704.
  6. J. Ananthakrishnan, J. Strain, S. Sahare, M. Venkataramana, M. Jahan, and H. Rathnayake, “Precise Control in Photovoltaic Response of Poly(3-hexylthiophen e):Fullerene Solar Cells via Accelerated-Solvent Vapor Annealing”, Sci. Adv. Today, 2018, 4, 25279.

Peer-Reviewed Publications:

  1. John R. Bertram, Aubrey Penn, Matthew J. Nee, and Hemali Rathnayake, “A Novel n-Type Organosilane-Metal Ion Hybrid of Rhodamine B and Copper Cation for Low-Temperature Thermoelectric Materials”, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 10946-10954.
  2. Thulitha Abeywickrama, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Iron nanostructures and their metal-organic hybrids via an aqueous phase chemical reduction
    method”, Adv. Today 2017, 3, 25264.
  3. Neerudu Niharika Sreeramulu and Hemali Rathnayake, “A versatile synthesis to novel binary reactive groups functionalized silsesquioxane microparticles”, Adv. Today 2017, 3, 25266.
  4. Ananthakrishnan Soundaram, Jacob Strain, Abu Mitul, Louis McNamara, Nathan Hammer, Qiquan Qiao, and Hemali Rathnayake, “P3HT-block-Poly(anthracene-9,10-diyl) Donor-Donor polymer Dyad for Organic Photovoltaics”, Poly.Sci.A, 2016 (DOI: 10.1002/pola.28189)
  5. Thulitha Abeywickrama, Lan Xu, and Hemali Rathnayake, “A Versatile Method to Prepare Size- and Shape-Controlled Copper Nanocubes using an Aqueous Phase Green Synthesis”, RSC Advances 2016, 6, 91949.
  6. Manda Venkata Ramana, Steven Guffery, Jeremiah Sharpensteen, John Ferguson, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Enhancing Device Performance of P3HT/PDIB Donor-Acceptor System using Spray-Coating Fabrication”, ScienceJet 2015, 4, 153 (Impact Factor 1.9).
  7. Begum Fouzia, John Ferguson, Kelly McKenna, Louise McNamara, Nathan I Hammer, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Preparation of n-Type Semiconducting Polymer Nanoarrays by Covalent Synthesis Followed by Crystallization”, New Journal of Chemistry 2015, 39, 2004-2010 (Impact Factor 3.0).
  8. Paige Huzyak, John Ferguson, Jeremiah Sharpensteen, Lan Xu, Soundaram Ananthakrishnan, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Fused Arenes-Functionalized Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes as Thermoelectric Materials”, RSC Advances 2015, 5, 37859-37868 (Impact Factor 3.70).
  9. Dhamesh Patel, David Brown, Thulitha Abeywickrama, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Preparation of Semiconducting Polymer Nanorods by Base-Catalyzed Covalent Synthesis”, Science Advances Today, 2015, 1, 25221.
  10. Lan Xu, Manda Venkata Ramana, John Ferguson, Louise McNamara, Muhammad Jahan, Hemali Rathnayake, and Nathan I Hammer, “Covalent synthesis of perylenediimide-bridged silsesquioxane nanoribbons and their electrical properties RSC Advances 2014, 4 (57), 30172-30179 (Impact Factor 3.70)     
  11. K. Woods, F. Ashrafzadeh, H. Rathnayake, “Organic solar cell energy harvesting, control, optimization, and commercialization – challenges & opportunities,” Proc. of IEEE/PEDG (Power Electronics for Distributed Generation Systems), July 2013.
  1. Hemali Rathnayake, Nicholas Wright, Amar Patel, Jenna Binion, Louis E McNamara, Debra Jo Scardino, and Nathan Hammer, “Synthesis and characterization of poly(3-hexylthiophene)-functionalized siloxane nanoparticles”, Nanoscale 2013, 5, 3212-3215; (Impact Factor 6.0)
  2. Hemali Rathnayake, Jenna Binion, Aaron McKee, Debra Jo Scardino, and Nathan Hammer, “Perylenediimide functionalized bridged-siloxane nanoparticles for bulk heterojunction organic photovoltaics”, Nanoscale 2012, 4(15), 4631-4640; (Impact Factor 6.0)
  1. Aaron McKee, Jenna Binion, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Donor-Acceptor functionalized bridged siloxane nanoparticles: Synthesis, Particle morphology and Photovoltaic performance”, PMSE 2012, 108, 13.
  2. Nicholas Wright, Amar Patel, Jenna Binion, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Poly(3-hexylthiophene) functionalized siloxane nanoparticles for organic-based solar cells”, PMSE 2012, 106, 12.
  3. Christopher J. Simouth, Joseph A. Edge, Jenna Binion, and Hemali Rathnayake, “Fluorescein/FITC derivative functionalized silsesquioxane/bridge silsesquioxane nanoparticles: Synthesis, Characterization and Particle Morphology”, PMSE2010.
  4. Hemali P. Rathnayake, Todd Emrick, “Grafting-from nanoparticles using Aldol-Group Transfer Polymerization”, Macromolecules 2008, 41(09), 2969-297
  5. Hemali P. Rathnayake, Ali Cirpan, Michael Y. Odoi, Nathan I. Hammer, Michael D. Barnes, Frank E. Karasz, Paul M. Lahti, “Luminescence of Molecular and Block Copolymeric 2,7- Bis(phenylethenyl)-fluorenones: Identifying Green Band Emitter Sites in a Fluorenes Based Luminophore”, Chem. Mater. 2007, 19(13), 3265-3270.
  6. Ali Cirpan, Hemali P. Rathnayake, Frank E. Karasz and Paul M. Lahti “Luminance studies and device performance of molecular 2,7-fluorene vinylene pyrene and 2,7- fluorene phenylene vinylene pyrene derivatives”, J. Mater. Chem. 2007, 17(29), 3030-3036.
  7. Michael Y. Odoi, Nathan I. Hammer, Hemali P. Rathnayake, Paul M. Lahti and Michael D. Barnes, “Single Molecular Studies of a Model Fluorenone”, ChemPhysChem. 2007, 8(10), 1481-1486.
  8. Hemali P. Rathnayake, Ali Cirpan, Zeynep Delen, Paul M. Lahti and Frank E. Karasz, “Optimizing OLED Efficacy of 2,7- Diconjugated 9,9-Dialkylfluorenes by Variation of Periphery Substitution and Conjugation Length”, Adv.Func. Mater. 2007, 17(1), 115-122.
  9. Hemali P. Rathnayake, Ali Cirpan, Paul M. Lahti and Frank E. Karasz, “Optimizing LED Luminescent Properties in 2,7-Bis(Phenylethenyl)fluorenes”, Chem. Mater. 2006, 18, 560-566.
  10. Ali Cirpan, Hemali P. Rathnayake, Gorkem Gunbas, Frank E. Karasz and Paul M. Lahti “New conjugated materials containing cyano substituents for light-emitting diodes”, Synthetic Metals. 2006, 156, 282-286.

Book Chapters

  • Hemali Rathnayake and John Ferguson, Book Chapter on “Donor-Acceptor Functionalized Silsesquioxane Nanostructures for Organic-Based Photovoltaic devices”, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Cat/ISBN:  K22630 / 9781482229837


  1. Hemali Rathnayake, “Electronically active functionalized siloxane nanoparticles”, USA, Patent serial # 13/275,771.
  2. Hemali Rathnayake, “Process for Making Electronically Active Functionalized Silsequioxane Nanostructures of Controlled Morphology Through Covalent Synthesis”, USA, Patent serial # 14/032,650

Grants and Contracts

  1. Hemali Rathnayake (PI), “DOD HBCU/MI Instrumentation: Acquisition of a High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope for Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Educational Training”, DoD HBCU/MI – Army Research Office, 09/16/2019 – 08/30/2020, $599,000, Funded.
  2. Hemali Rathnayake (PI), “Nano Mosaic – A Novel Nano-Framework for Lithium”, NSF I Corp, 07/01/2019 – 12/31/2019, $50,000, Funded.
  3. Hemali Rathnayake (PI), “Multifunctional Metal alloy-Polyimides-Based Cellular Lattice Nanocomposites for Lightweight Spacecraft Shielding Structures”, NASA NC Space Consortium, 01/01/2018 -12/31/2019, $38,500, Funded.
  4. Hemali Rathnayake (Advisor), Nicholas Wright (Graduate student), “Molecular Motors and Rotors for space applications”, NASA NC Space Summer Graduate Fellowship, 06/01/2018 – 08/15/2018, $7,000, Funded.
  5. Hemali Rathnayake (Co-PI), Dhananjay Kumar (PI), “Development of titanium based oxynitirde nanowires for alternative energy generation and energy storage”, UNC-IPG, 09/01/2017 – 06/30/2018, $12,500, Funded.
  6. Hemali Rathnayake (PI), Kimberly Cunny (Co-PI), and Daniel Herr (Co-PI), “The INNOVATE Project – Research Learning in Pedagogical Scientific Communication Framework for Graduate Students’ Degree Success and Career Preparation”, $10,000, INNOVATE Projects for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Research Proposal, The Office of Provost, Spring 2018, UNCG, Funded.
  7. Hemali Rathnayake (PI), Mitchell Croatt (Co-PI), Kimberly Petersen (Co-PI), Dennis Lajeunesse (Co-PI), “Molecular Engineered Chemistry for Health and wellness, and Vibrant Communities”, $25,000, The Office of Provost, 01/01/2018-12/31/2018, UNCG, Funded.
  8. Hemali Rathnayake (PI), “Strategic Seed Grant – Teaching Innovation for Macromolecular and Supramolecular Chemistry (NAN 705)”, $4,000, Spring 2017, UNCG, Funded.


Dr. Rathnayake’s Research Group