Dr Karnika De Silva



Karnika is a Senior Technologist with a background in Polymer Technology with over 30 years of experience in the industry and as an academic. With expertise in the rubber, plastics, coatings, composites and sustainable manufacturing, she is working in multi-disciplinary R&D and commercial projects in the Dept. of Chemical and Materials Engineering (Product Accelerator program) and in the School of Chemical Sciences (Biocide ToolBox program). Karnika is responsible for the establishment of National Testing Registry for The Product Accelerator that has become the pathway for some companies to get engaged in R&D projects. Networking with supply chain to support large companies and SMEs she is working in multi-disciplinary R&D projects inparticular in fire retardant plastics, UV curable coatings and nanocomposites.  

Karnika has over 16 years of experience at the Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka and was the Deputy Director Research (Technology) when she migrated to New Zealand in 2001. 

Research | Current

I am currently involved in:

*  development of functionalised coatings, composites and rubber products for various technology platforms  

* undertake testing requests through the National Testing Registry established for the benefit of the manufacturing industry

* development of fire retardant plastics and do statistical analysis on Cone Calorimeter results to assign group numbers specified in the BRANZ building code

* R&D in collaboration with other local and international universities, institutes and companies to establish new export markets and to provide new products and technologies 

* R&D projects on natural and environmentally biocides and their hybrids to cover a wider spectrum of antimicrobial efficacy

The projects i have undertaken have delivered on time and on budget, meeting milestones and deliverables, something in which I take pride. I have established strong industry engagements locally and internationally, connecting supply chain partners. I have demonstrated a record of innovation in new areas of research. I have contributed to commercial projects involving company contributions that impacted to enhance the company revenues significatly.   

Teaching | Current

Teaching on Sustainable Manufacturing - ChemMat 754 students   

Postgraduate supervision

Co- supervising three PhD students, two MSc Students, Advisor for three PhD students, 


I have won

  • Commonwealth scholarship  to do PhD in the UK and National Science Council award to do MPhil .
  • Grants from CIDA,/ NSERC,  UNIDO, NARESA / NSF, STDA, IRRDB, TechNZ  to carryout R&D on various short and long term projects on sabbatical leave and on special contracts in Canada, UK and Malaysia and in NZ
  • A grant from USAID to coordinate an Industrial visit to Australia which supported 10 leading manufacturing industries that opened up new market opportunities 
  • A Merit Award from USAID/ PRISL at a National Award Ceraomony for the valuable contribution to the SL manufacturing sector
    I have been invited as a 
  • Resource Person at Sri Lankan government sponsored Global Scientific Forum held in Colombo SL in Dec 2011
  • Resource Person at Sri Lankan government sponsored international forum  on collaborative scientific research and innovation for commercialization– Global Scientific Forum held in Colombo SL in Dec 2015
  • Invited speaker and Panellist Technology and Innovation in achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Sri Lanka – Science and Technology for Society (STS) Forum in the Science and Technology Imperatives (STI) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) session – International forum held in Sri Lanka 7th Sep – 10th Sep 2016 
  • Cash award from (PBRF-UoA) in recognition of contribution to SCS – in 2015
  • ICNPG award to establish international relationship on R&D with UBC -Canada


  • Undertake R&D projects by manufacturing companies to develop new products, processes on commercial contracts, formulate new proposals for  new projects the benefit of the manufacturing industry, entertain testing requests and engage the companies in future R&D projects
  • Deliver all contracts on time and within budget, and definable value to both university and industry
  • Create deliverable values for all stakeholders
  • Supervise undergraduate students, summer students, interns, postgraduate students and assist staff members
  • Contribution to the annual reports, publications, participation at international conferences

Areas of expertise

  • Coatings (UV curable, water-based, solvent based, powder coating)
  • Polymers- Rubber & Plastics, functionalization for better performance 
  • Composites
  • Sustainable manufacturing 

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Hayward, M. R., Johnston, J. H., Dougherty, T., & De Silva, K. (2019). Interfacial adhesion: improving the mechanical properties of silicon nitride fibre - epoxy polymer composites. Composite Interfaces, 26 (3), 263-273. 10.1080/09276440.2018.1499328
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/45993
  • Matthew, R. T., Cooney, R. P., Zujovic, Z., Doyle, C., Wheelwright, W., & de Silva, K. (2018). A Sustained Release Anchored Biocide System Utilising the Honeycomb Cellular Structure of Expanded Perlite. ACS Applied Bio Materials, 1 (6), 1959-1971. 10.1021/acsabm.8b00495
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/46071
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Zoran Zujovic
  • Sayadi, A., Neitzert, T. R., Clifton, G. C., Han, M. C., & De Silva, K. (2018). Ultra-lightweight Concrete Containing Expanded Poly-lactic Acid as Lightweight Aggregate. KSCE Journal of Civil Engineering, 22 (10), 4083-4094. 10.1007/s12205-018-1976-4
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/45564
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Charles Clifton
  • Wheelwright, W., Cooney, R. P., Ray, S., Zujovic, Z., & De Silva, K. (2017). Ultra-high surface area nano-porous silica from expanded perlite: Formation and characterization. Ceramics International, 43 (14), 11495-11504. 10.1016/j.ceramint.2017.05.333
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/35319
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Sudip Ray, Zoran Zujovic
  • De Silva, K. G. (2017). Evaluation of Flowcup – Material testing for presence of any traces of BPA. NZ Product Accelerator.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/37803
  • De Silva, K. G. (2017). FIRE TEST REPORT 2 ON CONE CALORIMETER TEST Assessing Fire hazard properties and assigning group numbers in accordance with NZ Building Code. Auckland, New Zealand: NZ Product Accelerator - The University of Auckland.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/37781
  • De Silva, K. (2017). Development of stable nano-cellulose–pre-vulcanized natural rubber latex composites nano-composites with pre-vulcanized natural rubber latex and nano-cellulose fibres derived from Spinifex for dipped products manufacture. Auckland, New Zealand: NZ Product Accelerator – the University of Auckland.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/37800
  • De Silva, K. (2017). Evaluation of rubber seal material. Auckland, New Zealand: Product Accelerator, University of Auckland.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/37783


Contact details

Primary office location

BUILDING 903 - Bldg 903
Level 2, Room 223
New Zealand

Web links