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5 things that could exist through chemical engineering

1 December 2017
Using chemistry to redefine what’s possible

Chemical engineers stretch the boundaries of chemistry and physics as we know it, hacking chemical processes to engineer a cleaner future and ultimately improve our lives.

A deep understanding of chemistry at a molecular level enables chemical engineers to accomplish some amazing feats. Here’s what some of the researchers and graduates from our School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering have been up to. 

1. ‘Waterless’ car wash service

iPhones showing new WipeHero app

WipeHero has been dubbed the ‘Uber of car washing’ thanks to University of Sydney graduate, Farid Mirmohseni. With expertise in chemical engineering, Farid developed a car cleaning agent that doesn’t require any water, saving hundreds of litres used for car washing each year. His venture is now complete with a phone app that allows you to have your car washed at any convenient location.

VIDEO: How WipeHero works

2. Healing gel

Gloved hands holding a syringe

This new healing gel is truly something out of a sci-fi. Once injected, the smart polymer material responds to body temperature in order to change its elasticity. It then provides the scaffolding required to aid the repair of damaged tissue. The gel was engineered by University of Sydney graduates Dr Ali Fathi and Terence Abrams. Their Sydney based start-up, Trimph commenced human trials this year and is showing promising results.

3. Mushroom energy drink

Mushrooms

It may sound gross, but our researchers are producing a low-carb, nutrient-rich sports drink out of – yes, you read it right – mushrooms. Produced by the ARC Training Centre for the Australian Food Processing Industry, the mushroom energy drink will not only provide a healthy alternative to the sports energy drink market, it will also make use of the mushrooms rejected for retail due to overgrowth or abnormalities.

VIDEO: Nine News mushroom drink report

4. Rechargeable zinc air battery

Rechargeable zinc-air battery

As we continue our search for affordable renewable energy, our researchers have found a solution for one of the biggest stumbling blocks for cost-efficient rechargeable batteries. Our chemical engineering researchers have created a new three-stage process that allows zinc air batteries to recharge. Whilst lithium-ion batteries are the conventional power source of choice in electronic devices, zinc metal is much cheaper to produce due to their global abundance.

5. Cancer preventative drugs from orange peels?

Orange peels

With thousands of tonnes of orange peels going to waste each year, PhD student Bala Shammugasamy plans to put them to use. Bala’s research involves testing the use of bioactive compounds found in citrus peels to prevent cancer cells from multiplying. The idea is to eventually engineer a chemopreventive agent in the form of a simple diet supplement. While experiments are showing positive results, the effects occur in a very controlled environment. It’s quite difficult to predict just how these compounds will behave in the human body. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that chemical engineers thrive to redefine what’s possible!

A degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will enable you to take elements found in the natural world and use them to solve some of society’s most pressing problems.