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Chemical Engineering Research Group

The chemical engineering group at ECU is engaged in cutting-edge research in solar energy conversion, environmental nanotechnology, mining and mineral processing, and hydrocarbon synthesis from methane and carbon dioxide. While our research activities are contributing to the advance of scientific knowledge in these fields, we are particularly keen to collaborate and undertake projects that are directly beneficial to the industries in Western Australia.

Check out further details about our research activities following the links to individual themes.

  • Solar Energy Conversion and Utilization
  • Environmental Nanotechnology
  • Mineral Processing
  • Hydrocarbon Synthesis

Or, contact the following researchers.

Researchers

Research Themes

Solar Energy Conversion and Utilization

The Sun is a clean and sustainable energy resource and has attracted worldwide interest owing to the enormous 120,000 TW outputs annually to our planet without any environmental contaminations. Photocatalysis bears the promises for solar energy conversion and utilization, and has demonstrated to be a green, feasible, and powerful technology. Our group is studying innovative technologies for integrating photocatalysis, electrocatalysis and photovoltaics to significantly improve the efficiency of solar energy utilization, so that solar fuels, solar cells and solar-assisted environmental remediation can be achieved on the basis of our nano-architecture design for advanced catalyst materials.

Environmental Nanotechnology

A wide variety of conventional technologies, such as adsorption, filtration, membrane separation, extraction, advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) and bio-processes have been employed to remediate pollutants in the air, water and soil. However, many existing technologies have experienced low-efficiency, or failure, for emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Our group is devoted to developing cutting-edge environmental nanotechnology for removing emerging contaminants from the environment. To this end, rational design has been conducted to deliver tailored metal oxides or metal-free nanocarbons with shape-control, selected crystal- and micro-structures, preferred facet exposure and tuned surface features for enhanced remediation performances. The remediation processes are also monitored for elucidating the surface sorption, radicals’ generation and evolution, degradation pathways with intermediate identifications, and reaction kinetics.

Mineral Processing

Australia’s export performance is largely underpinned by minerals production. Thousands of tons of mineral deposits are mined in Australia, and processed every day as aqueous slurries. Being able to understand and control the flow properties of such pulps is a major factor of successful operations. Unpredictable and/or out of control variations in flow properties of mineral pulps not only make the whole operation inefficient, they can also have a negative impact on chemical and physicochemical reaction kinetics (e.g., slower diffusion, ineffective particle-particle or particle-bubble collisions and interactions, etc.). Different large-scale plant operations such as flotation, leaching, solid-liquid separation, dewatering, solvent extraction and neutralization, which involve processing of various slurries/solutions, can be seriously hampered due to enhanced pulp/solution viscosity.

We are studying the role of feed particles’ mineralogy, crystal structure and chemical composition on pulp/solution chemistry, surface/interfacial chemistry and particle interactions in various mineral processing operations. Our research in this area is making a significant contribution to the understanding of rheological behaviours of aqueous pulps. Taking into account the fluctuations in key commodity prices and drastic increase of operation costs in Australia, the need for research in cost-effective and optimized mineral processing will continue in the foreseeable future. Our research in this area aims to bring direct benefits to the mineral processing and hydrometallurgical plants in Western Australia.

Hydrocarbon Synthesis

Efficient, cost-effective, and selective synthesis of hydrocarbons from natural gas and carbon dioxide can potentially bring significant benefits to the petroleum industries and the environment. Our group is carrying out feasibility studies and experiment design of CH4 conversion to syngas and CO2 conversion to C1 building blocks (such as methanol) in microreactors. We are in an early stage of developing research in this area; combining our expertise in CH4 and CO2 conversions, photocatalysis, and micromanipulation for precise experiment operation, monitoring and characterization. We aim to understand how different reactor designs, catalysts, and operating conditions affect the reaction processes and product selectivity, so that the technologies can be used on offshore gas production platforms to convert CH4 and CO2 to valuable products.

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