Emerging Leader in Science
Dr Matthew Hill, CSIRO
Capturing the imagination with carbon conversion
Technology allowing us to maintain our lifestyle while lowering greenhouse gas emissions sounds almost too good to be true.
Thanks to the work of Australian researcher Dr Matthew Hill, however, Australia may soon lead the world in the fight against earth-threatening climate change by developing technology that can capture and convert carbon dioxide into useful materials.
The work by Dr Hill, a Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, is based on the development of smart materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for gas storage.
For his research using MOFs to tackle climate change and efforts in assembling a national cross-disciplinary team to confront the global issue, Dr Hill has won the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.
The prize is part of the most comprehensive and prestigious national science awards, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes. Last night at this supernova of science awards, in a room of distinguished and illustrious guests, the winners were announced and science's brightest new stars blazed their names into Eureka history.
This is Australian science at its best. For more than 20 years, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes have recognised the role of science in our community and rewarded the excellence of scientists, educators and communicators who continue to shape our society. Being awarded an Australian Museum Eureka Prize is a life-changing moment for the winner.
"Research breakthroughs in the field of carbon capture technology have the capacity/potential to dramatically influence global approaches to climate change and energy inefficiency," says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum.
"Dr Hill's leadership in mobilising a significant team of senior researchers across Australia to focus on this research is a remarkable achievement for such a young scientist and testament to his ability to communicate his vision and his standing in the eyes of his peers."
The 31-year-old researcher's carbon capture technology is based on his work pushing MOFs to the limit of their ability to soak up gases. Just like a sponge uses its holes to soak up water, MOFs absorb as much as a litre of gas in just one gram of material. This is possible because MOFs have the surface area of a football field in just one gram, meaning that gases can bond to all of the internal surfaces.
Expecting changes in people's behaviour to have limited success in reducing greenhouse emissions, Dr Hill stated in his submission to the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes that his aim is to "allow us to maintain our current lifestyle while lowering the emissions of the technologies we enjoy."
To achieve this he has turned his attention to the storage of carbon dioxide and has been able to also capture CO2 at world-record levels. Critically, he has also overcome energy inefficiencies inherent in removing carbon dioxide from the capture material.
"I have led a team to develop a CO2 capture material that can wring itself out like a sponge when exposed to light and release as much as 70 per cent of the gas instantly, even when simple sunlight is used," Dr Hill noted in his submission.
With these successes under his belt, Dr Hill was a critical driver behind a recent successful bid for a $6 million Science and Industry Endowment Fund grant. Having assembled a cross-disciplinary team of some of the nation's most significant researchers in the field, he aims to take this research to the next level - conversion of the released CO2 into useable products such as carbohydrates for agricultural feed.
The $10,000 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science is awarded to a scientist who has used their leadership skills to create impact inside their institution, amongst their peers, within their discipline or in the wider community.
More information can be found at http://www.australianmuseum.net.au/eureka
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Dr Matthew Hill
CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, VIC