Home' InDaily : February 25th 2010 Contents 4 | Vol 21 No 1 February 2010
from fully-functioning biorefineries
becoming a possibility," he said.
"We will have the fuel we need for our
transport and a wide range of high value
added products that we currently get
from petroleum -- but from
Flinders showcases clean technologies
Flinders University showcased emerging
desalination and biofuels research that
could ultimately make a major contribution
to a more sustainable environment at this
month's Clever Green Conference.
As well as sponsoring the event, Flinders
was represented at the Innovative
Research sessions by Dr Amanda Ellis, Dr
Stephen Clarke and Professor Jorg Hacker
who demonstrated some of the
University's latest clean-tech research to
an audience of government, industry and
Dr Ellis and her colleagues at
the Centre for NanoScale
Science and Technology
(CeNSST) and the Molecular
Technologies ASRI are
undertaking research into
world-first technology that is
set to revolutionise desalination
plants, significantly lowering
their energy consumption,
waste and land use.
The project is examining how self-
assembled vertically aligned carbon
nanotubes are able to continuously
"filter" out salt from seawater.
"Carbon nanotubes are thousands of
times thinner than a human hair and we
use a self-assemble process to place
them on a surface but instead of lying
flat they are repelled from the surface
and stand upright," Dr Ellis said.
"We are able to make the nanotubes
remain vertical then wrap polymer
around them to form next generation
desalination membranes," she said.
"Because the carbon nanotubes are
hydrophobic -- they simply hate water --
the water shoots through at 1000 times
faster than it does in the conventional
reverse osmosis membranes we use at
Known as ballistic transport, once the
nanotube is wet the ability for the water
to pass through so quickly significantly
reduces the need to force water through
membranes under pressure, resulting in
huge energy savings.
"The membranes fabricated will be one
million times thinner than conventional
membranes -- thinner membranes means
less space required in desal plants and less
waste polymer for transportation and
recycling," Dr Ellis said.
Dr Amanda Ellis
An added benefit in using nanotubes
in the desalination process is that, as
they are not prone to corrosion and
fouling, the membranes last longer,
requiring less maintenance and
end-of-life waste disposal.
Dr Ellis said it will be potentially possible
to retrofit existing desalination plants
using reverse osmosis membranes
with the new vertically aligned
It is envisaged that this technology will
be available in working desalination
plants within the next decade.
Dr Stephen Clarke, a member of the
Flinders Materials and BioEnergy Group,
discussed Flinders research into second
generation biofuels produced from
material such as saltwater algae instead
of food crops such as canola, that are
promising a viable alternative to
He said technological advances in
microalgae production were boosting
biofuel yields from smaller land areas, as
well as creating a range of high value
"Flinders, with its many Government and
industry partners, is well advanced in the
development of the biorefinery concept:
that is, a biofuels production system that
generates large volumes of renewable
fuel as well as materials that are readily
converted to pharmaceutical products
and plastics," Dr Clarke said.
"Pilot studies, such as those we are
conducting in ponds at Torrens Island,
reveal that we're less than 10 years away
Dr Stephen Clarke
Dr Clarke and his team have already
created an additive that allows biofuel
mixed with tallow, or purified beef fat, to
be used in diesel engines.
Negotiations are currently under way to
trial the additive, developed for Meat and
Livestock Australia and two other
industry partners, with a view to
large-scale manufacture in 12 months.
Professor Jorg Hacker, Director and Chief
Scientist of Airborne Research Australia,
talked about the group's pioneering
work in low cost environmental sensing
using manned aircraft.
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