the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the country’s foremost centre for mid to long-term strategic research and development projects. The team identified a strain of E.coli bacteria which could use the sucrose to produce industrial products such as plastics. Researchers have sequenced the genome of the strain “W” bacterium and created a world-first blueprint of the strain to determine how it behaved under specific conditions. The blueprint can be used to genetically engineer the bacterium to produce bio-products from sugarcane with specific characteristics, such as plastics with particular strength or flexibility. Metabolic engineering is the purposeful design of living organisms for producing desired chemicals and fuels and offers many advantages over conventional petrochemical production. It enables highly specific synthesis of complex chemicals and fuels from simple sugars with minimal losses. The system is engineered at micron scale, involving single cells, readily scaled using water at room temperature and low pressure
Passion for sustainability FUELS SUCCESS A PASSION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IS DRIVING PHD CANDIDATE SEAN MUIR’S INTEREST IN SOLAR ENERGY AND NEWGENERATION FUELS FOR CARS. SEAN’S RESEARCH won him a place in the final of UQ’s Three Minute Thesis competition, and he was also highly commended for his entry into the University’s Trailblazer competition, which encourages academics and students to consider the commercial potential of their ideas. The Trailblazer competition saw Sean present a five-minute pitch to businesses and patent attorneys about using sodium borohydride to store hydrogen for use in fuel cell cars – the work of his thesis project. It was during his UQ undergraduate studies in engineering that Sean became interested in the research field. He completed a summer internship at AIBN and later an undergraduate thesis on hydrogen production using solar energy. “I wanted to use my chemical engineering degree to do something innovative to address energy and environmental issues. I want to make a difference in the world.” With debate about carbon emissions and depleting fossil fuel resources,
Sean has been investigating hydrogen as an alternative transport fuel. The challenge with hydrogen as a transport fuel is that it needs to be stored in high pressure cylinders. To compress the hydrogen takes a lot of energy, and the stored high-pressure gas is flammable. Sean’s work looks at storing the gas in sodium borohydride dissolved in water, which takes away the risk of fire, while a catalyst allows the hydrogen to be released as needed. Sean has been working on improving the system’s hydrogen storage capacity and trying to find ways to efficiently recycle sodium borohydride using renewable sources - ensuring high costs are not a barrier. Industry partner Control Technologies International is helping Sean to produce a demonstration system for this recycling. “I see energy and environmental issues as a big challenge,” says Sean. “The best way to overcome this is through research and innovation”
INGENUITY ISSUE 1, 2011
UQ Ingenuity Magazine - For graduates, alumni, industry and studentsof Engineering at The University of Queensland.