The 2023 Eureka Prize finalists focusing on sustainability
The finalists for Australia’s national science awards, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, have been announced. Recognised for their sustainability efforts, researchers and projects from the University of Sydney and Monash University have been shortlisted for their work in renewable and sustainable energy.
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are awarded annually, honouring outstanding research, innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.
Professor Ali Abbas — Eureka Prize for Innovative Research in Sustainability
Ali Abbas (pictured above) is a professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Founding Director of the Waste Transformation Research Hub and Circular Australia’s first Chief Circular Engineer. His research focuses on transforming waste into valuable resources, driving a circular economy in Australia.
Abbas creates transformative solutions to address global challenges like energy and waste, while fostering partnerships with governments and businesses, advancing environmentally focused sustainability projects.
He leads innovations such as concrete carbon capture, conversion of plastics using microorganisms and industrial ecology to minimise waste and maximise resource reuse. These technologies could reduce CO2 emissions drastically, pushing towards net zero targets.
Dr Fengwang Li — Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
Dr Fengwang Li is a Lecturer at the University of Sydney’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He researches how to build a net-zero emission future using electrochemical energy.
Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change. To address this, Li is developing technology that transforms CO2 into products such as ethylene, which can be used to make everyday items.
Li’s work aims to create a circular economy where CO2 is recycled instead of being released into the atmosphere.
Windows that generate electricity — Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
Monash University partnered with CSIRO to develop windows that can generate solar electricity.
The project is led by Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Infrastructure) Professor Jacek Jasieniak of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Dr Jenny Zhou of the Department of Civil Engineering. Working with a group led by Dr Anthony Chesman at CSIRO, Monash researchers have created semi-transparent solar cells made from materials called metal halide perovskites.
The physical characteristics of perovskites mean they are efficient at generating electricity and can be printed as transparent, thin films. Researchers have also shown how films made using metal halide perovskites can be “tuned” to achieve optimal balance between light transmission and power generation.
Modelling found that solar windows could produce the total electricity needs of a fully glazed skyscraper, reducing a building’s net CO2 emissions.
Future development work in the project will focus on translating laboratory-based production methods to scalable production methods suitable for window sizes commonly used in construction.
Mapping locations for sustainable resource development — Eureka Prize for Innovative Research in Sustainability
The second finalist from Monash University is an online platform that lets users create maps to inform decisions about the location of resource development projects.
Developed by researchers led by Dr Stuart Walsh of Monash’s Department of Civil Engineering and Dr Marcus Haynes of Geoscience Australia, the Economic Fairways Mapper project is designed to support the responsible and sustainable development of renewable energy and critical mineral resources in Australia.
The research team developed an open-source toolkit to facilitate planning of renewable energy and mineral projects by providing access to multidisciplinary information that can be used to identify sustainable locations for resource development in the early stages of project decision-making.
The Economic Fairways Mapper integrates advanced mapping technology with diverse datasets, enabling policymakers and industry leaders to conduct detailed geospatial-financial analyses of future large-scale projects and assesses the quality of renewable energy resources required to produce clean hydrogen and other green commodities. It includes the associated rail and road transportation infrastructures, pipelines to export ports and ready access to water in the analysis, to accurately identify the best locations for new projects to aid in the energy transition.
The 2023 Eureka Prizes will be awarded on Wednesday, 23 August at an awards dinner at the Australian Museum.
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