Chemical engineering researchers may have found new methods to make sustainable practices a profitable venture for industry.
To take climate change action seriously, we need to create more benefits for industry and governments in adopting environmentally-friendly processes, urges Associate Professor Jun Huang from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
His research focuses on developing new catalysts to ensure 'greener' and more sustainable fuels and industry processes.
Associate Professor Huang’s latest catalysts in development aim to express reactions between carbon dioxide and methane or hydrogen to produce valuable materials for chemical industries.
Such materials include acetic acids, alcohol or hydrocarbons – such as alkene – which are often used in the production of fibres and fabrics, construction materials, food additives and antifreeze.
“This research may give industries the potential to turn a profit from their carbon dioxide emissions, rather than releasing them into the environment”, says Associate Professor Huang, who has recently received a Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) fellowship to further his research in this area.
The fellowship also funds a second catalyst project of Associate Professor Huang, in which he aims to simulate the natural process of photosynthesis.
Theoretically the catalyst would optimise a process that utilises solar energy, carbon dioxide and water to create valuable materials for chemical industries.
“This research is exciting. These valuable chemicals are usually produced through industrial processes that have a detrimental impact on the environment", says Associate Professor Huang.
"We’re now uncovering the potential to create the same chemicals, using only sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, all whilst reducing carbon emissions.”
The SOAR fellowships are a key initiative in the University of Sydney’s 2016-20 Strategic Plan, helping outstanding up-and-coming research stars to fulfil their potential.
Over the next two years this fellowship will allow Associate Professor Huang the financial support he needs to allocate the time and resources required to achieve his research goals in catalysts and ‘greener’ chemical processes.