How a chemical engineer channels Australia’s abundant photovoltaics to hydrogen-derived renewable fuels – pv magazine Australia
UNSW School of Chemical Engineering Professor Scientia Rose Amal researches and publishes extensively in the areas of fine particle technology, photocatalysis, and functional nanomaterials. Even to most people working in photovoltaics, his work would seem obscure, and yet it has, according to UNSW, âprofound implications for solar and chemical energy conversion applications such asâ¦ the production of renewable hydrogen. economically and sustainably â. And Amal herself is a wonderfully straightforward speaker.
When she received the prestigious Chemeca 2021 Medal from the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Chemical Engineers on Thursday, Amal described her research in recent years as focused on “harnessing solar energy to produce chemicals and chemicals. fuels, such as hydrogen “.
His LinkedIn feed is full of congratulations for the award which specifically recognizes his research on catalysts for efficient energy conversion.
Ian Phillips, Managing Director of Photon Water Australia, member of the Photon energy group job : “Rose Amal, you continue to teach, learn and inspire new generations of engineers and scientists. And with research that the world badly needs. Well done and congratulations to you and the team behind!
Kristy Muir, The CEO of the Center for Social Impact and professor at UNSW Business School commented: âCongratulations Rose! You are amazing! “. This simple attribution echoes the sentiment expressed by Professor Nicholas Fisk, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, at UNSW, who commented on Amal’s award saying,” Rose is at the pioneering fundamental particle and catalysis R&D in Australia in areas that have a direct impact on lives. “
The ripple effects of a body of work focused on nanoparticles
Research articles to which she has contributed may be characterized by titles such as: Nanofluidic vacuum-free electrode for improving electrochemical capacity in gel electrolyte, but they represent the chemical foundation upon which future sustainability is built, or as the summary of this 2021 article (one of a few dozen that Amal has co-authored so far this year) explains, his conclusions “Are valuable for solid state electrochemical energy storage technologies that require high efficiency charge transport.”
In January of this year, Amal contributed to a revolutionary paper – A hybrid plasma electrocatalytic process for sustainable ammonia production – which describes a process of producing green ammonia (used mainly in fertilizers, but a promising way to fuel international shipping and transport / store hydrogen) from air, water and solar energy without the emissions or energy and infrastructure demands of the Haber-Bosch Method of ammonia production.
UNSW co-author Dr Emma Lovell said at the time: âThe way we currently make ammoniaâ¦ produces more CO2 than any other chemical reaction. In fact, manufacturing ammonia consumes around 2% of the world’s energy and produces 1% of its CO2.
Amal said the research showed: “We can use electrons from solar farms to make ammonia, and then export our sun as ammonia rather than hydrogen.”
The storage and transport of hydrogen in the form of ammonia will be safer and more economical. As a gas, hydrogen requires an exceptional amount of space for storage, unless you liquefy or compress it, “but liquid ammonia actually stores more hydrogen than liquid hydrogen itself.” , explained Amal, “and therefore there has been growing interest in using ammonia as a potential energy carrier for a low-carbon economy.
Batteries are good, but why not the production of green fuel on site for industry?
In February, Amal was appointed by the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist & Engineer as group leader composed of researchers from UNSW, the universities of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, and CSIRO. The mandate of their NSW Power-to-X (P2X) Combined Feasibility Study is to “develop a new industry that will use excess cheap renewable energy to manufacture fuel, chemicals and feedstocks to power an industry. range of New South Wales’ infrastructure.
At Australia’s Renewable Energy Zones conference in May, Amal explained why using only batteries, a capital-intensive technology, to store renewable energy is a missed opportunity.
With the P2X approach of converting excess renewable energy into chemical energy – such as hydrogen, ammonia, methanol or hydrogen peroxide – “we can expand the reach of renewable energy and reuse it for use in other sectors while maintaining network stability, âshe mentioned.
These widely applied chemicals “have historically been manufactured in large centralized industrial sites where capital costs and emissions are high,” Amal said, adding that they then had to be transported to a point of use.
With P2X, the production of these chemicals can be decentralized, it can occur at or near the point of consumption, “with zero emissions and zero waste,” she summed up.
Realize this – export the Australian sunlight
She believes that a significant opportunity for P2X is to provide a new hydrogen export industry – with Japan, Korea and the European Union among the online markets for Australian green hydrogen.
To advance this potential, Amal is also part of a consortium of research and industry partners, known as HySupply and led by UNSW Associate Professor Iain MacGill, who is studying the feasibility of a renewable energy-based hydrogen supply chain between Germany and Australia.
Amal, who arrived in Australia from Indonesia 38 years ago to earn a chemical engineering degree at UNSW, may have gotten used to the recognition – she received the 2019 NSW Scientist of the Year award and received several prestigious engineering awards.
A source of inspiration for the students and the teams she leads, she illustrates how basic research can translate into a multidimensional contribution to economic prosperity and a better way of life.
In the early 1990s, her passion for sustainability was, she says, “focused on designing particle and catalyst systems to deal with chemical pollutants so they don’t end up in our environment.”
Subsequently, the solar industry got lucky when it turned its skills towards the design of nanomaterials for solar and chemical energy conversion applications, including photocatalysis for water and gas purification. ‘air and water division and engineering systems for solar processes that use energy from the sun to generate clean fuel.
To put it simply, Amal says, âAustralia enjoys abundant sunshine and we should be doing more to harness our solar power.
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