As we approach UNESCO’s World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, with its theme of Build Back Wiser, it helps to appreciate how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go, in our journey toward net-zero emissions.
The Australian Government’s Long Term Emissions Reduction Plan specifically names six priority, low-emissions technologies that will make a significant difference to the journey.
- clean hydrogen
- ultra low-cost solar
- energy storage for firming
- low emissions materials (steel and aluminium)
- carbon capture and storage
- soil carbon.
Today, in Australian engineering, there is world-class innovation occurring in each and every one of these arenas.
The Australian Hydrogen Council, for example, is pleased to see 70 Australian hydrogen projects in development. But it is early days, says CEO Dr Fiona Simon, and the need for engineers and engineering businesses will be significant.
Dr Stuart Bell’s research around more efficient and high-performance concentrated solar thermal infrastructure is opening up an entirely new renewable energy opportunity in Australia, one that can operate off of the grid.
And Professor Vivian Tam’s ‘CO2 Concrete’, which promises to bring the strength and the flexibility of purpose of virgin concrete to recycled aggregate, is also close to commercialisation.
The green steel processes developed by Engineers Australia Honorary Fellow and Chartered Engineer Professor Veena Sahajwalla HonFIEAust CPEng and her team at the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at UNSW, in commercial partnership with steel producer Molycop, don’t just introduce a more environmentally friendly way of fuelling an electric arc furnace. They also employ as a fuel the previously problematic waste product of used tyres.
So waste rubber is recycled into furnace fuel, and hydrogen no longer needs to be produced for use within the furnace. Instead, the ‘polymer injection technology’ developed through Sahajwalla’s work liberates hydrogen from the tyre rubber through a series of chemical reactions.
Then there are the partnerships AgriProve is launching with Australian farmers that offer a new revenue stream of carbon credits for better land management. The improvements in farming processes that add value and efficiencies to farming businesses are measurable and tangible, and result in far greater carbon storage in soil.
Finally, there are the energy storage advancements we’re seeing not only in batteries but also in pumped hydro and concentrated solar thermal. They’re advancements that will take our energy storage capabilities from one to two hours for grid stabilisation to eight to ten hours of distribution.
Create is exploring each of these technologies, including insightful commentary from subject matter experts, in the lead up to World Engineering Day. Find all the articles here.