Environmental Linkage Grants

Congratulations to Environment Institute members Professor Alan Cooper and Professor Gus Nathan in securing funding in the following linkage projects:

Alan Cooper

Identifying the diversity and evolution of loci associated with adaptation to aridity/heat and salinity in ancient cereal crops

Project Summary

This project will use ancient grains of wheat, barley and rye to find ‘lost’ genetic diversity at key genes associated with resistance to aridity, salt and disease. This project will make the proteins of key genes, and study their interaction with the environment over time by measuring ions in the grains to reveal the ancient environmental conditions.

The role of epigenetic modifications in bovid adaptation to environmental change

Project Summary

This project will explore the role of epigenetic change, where gene expression is regulated without changing the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence, in how animals adapt to rapid climate change. This project will trace epigenetic markers in ancient bison and cows through 30,000 years of climate change, and identify key adaptive genes for the cattle industry.

Gus Nathan

Oscillating water column efficiency improvement through impedance matching and active latching control techniques

Project Summary

The coastline of southern Australia is recognised as a world-class wave energy resource. This project will play a crucial role in seeing this resource exploited whilst simultaneously keeping Australia at the forefront of wave energy technology. Specifically, this project will develop a high-efficiency turbine technology for wave energy.

Researchers: want to work at the Centre for Energy Technology?

cet78x78Seeking: Researchers!

The Centre for Energy Technology (CET) has secured long-term funding for a range of research projects to investigate clean energy technologies, particularly in the area of solar thermal and hybrid solar-combustion energy.

As a result, CET are seeking expressions of interest for a range of positions from postgraduate scholarships, post doctorate and Research Associates.

The Centre for Energy Technology is internationally recognised for its leading scientific research supporting the development of clean energy technologies to reduce emissions, increase efficiency and decrease the cost of energy. The CET has a wide range of facilities spanning laboratory to pilot-scale, including Australia’s second largest wind-tunnel and world-leading laser laboratories housing state-of-the-art diagnostic tools with unique capability. Our team is pledged to creating a culture of research excellence and delivering significant breakthroughs in the development of innovative technologies for a clean energy future.

The fixed term positions are for approximately 3 years and are open until filled.

More information about research positions and position requirements is available on the University of Adelaide’s Job Opportunities page or contact Louise Beazley.

New Paper on future energy options in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear crisis

A new paper involving Environment Institute members Sanghyun Hong (also IMER), Corey Bradshaw (also SARDI) and Barry Brook has recently been published in the journal Energy Policy.

The paper ‘Evaluating options for the future energy mix of Japan after the Fukushima nuclear crisis’ reviews and quantifies a range of tangible negative environmental, economic and social impacts of the four proposed energy mixes in Japan. Using data describing levelised cost of electricity, energy security, greenhouse-gas emissions, land transformation, water consumption, heated-water discharge, air pollution, radioactive waste, solid waste, and safety issues, the authors conclude that:

  • the nuclear-free scenario has more negative impacts than the current condition,
  • to meet the greenhouse-gas-emission guidelines, more than 35% nuclear power supply is essential,
  • to minimise accident risk, or possible fatalities from electricity generation, fossil fuels should be avoided rather than nuclear power,
  • despite restoration and compensation costs, a higher penetration of nuclear power will lead to cheaper levelised costs of energy, and
  • the less that nuclear power is used, the lower will be the sustainability of the future Japanese energy system.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident social and political reluctance to embrace nuclear power in Japan (and elsewhere) has increased. The Japanese government has thus been considering four possible future energy mixes, including a nuclear-free pathway, and three others with 10%–35% nuclear supply coupled with a larger proportion of renewable energy and fossil fuels to replace nuclear.

The study finds that the nuclear-free pathway has the highest overall potential for adverse outcomes, and the 35% nuclear power supply option yielding the lowest negative impact score without weightings. Despite some sensitivity to the choice of criterion weights, the author’s analysis demonstrates clearly that from a practical perspective, a nuclear-free pathway for Japan is the worst option to pursue.

The authors note concerns not addressed in the paper include fears of nuclear weapon proliferation, waste disposal and background radiation, but view these as questionable, especially for later-generation nuclear power technology (Brook, 2012). They note the biggest challenges to implementing a sustainable energy future in Japan are restoring the public acceptance of and confidence in nuclear power, further improving safety mechanisms and management culture, and providing better public education on the difficult but unavoidable trade-offs involved in energy policy.

The researchers recommend the evaluation methodology they have used for Japan as it can be applied to other countries to evaluate future electricity generation scenarios.

Download the paper to find out more.

World Environment Day 2012

Today (June 5th) is World Environment Day and the theme for 2012 is ‘Green Economy: Does it include you?’

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the opening of the 1972 Stockholm Conference. This year marks the 40th anniversary for World Environment Day, since the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1972.

The host country for 2012 is Brazil and world leaders will meet at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) from 20-22 June 2012, twenty years after the historic Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro which was held in 1992. It is described as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives.

Part of a ‘Green Economy’ is looking at energy supply and working towards a way to transition to renewable energy and supporting clean, sustainable energy sources. 2012 has also been declared as International Year of Sustainable Energy for All by the United Nations General Assembly.

Yesterday, we posted comments from Prof. Barry Brook, Director of Climate Science at the Environment Institute, who believes Australia will go nuclear by 2030.

At the Environment Institute and the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources (IMER), the Centre for Energy Technology (CET) is also doing research into different options for bringing in sustainable and renewable systems.

In the video below, Professor Gus Nathan, Director of the CET, outlines the research being done here at the University of Adelaide and how the CET are developing hybrid models for energy.

Today’s opportunity in energy efficiency – Podcast now available

Download a podcast of a presentation by the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of BigBelly Solar, Jim Poss.

Jim Poss

The talk was hosted by the  Environment Institute and The Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources as part of The University of Adelaide’s Research Week on Friday 28th October.

We can’t afford to depend on cold fusion, safe nuclear or sustainable fuels to avert the worldwide catastrophe of climate change. Today’s opportunity is in energy efficiency. Economically and environmentally, energy efficiency opportunities represent most of the progress we will make in the next 1-2 decades. Careers in energy efficiency can help you do good and do well.

Congratulations to Prof. Gus Nathan

The Environment Institute would like to extend our Congratulations to the Centre for Energy Technology Director, Professor Graham (Gus) Nathan, who has been awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Awards (DORA).

Graham (Gus) Nathan

Gus was one of only 26 people in the nation to receive this award, 2 other recipients, Dr Adrienne Paton and Associate Professor Samer Akkach were also from The University of Adelaide.

We Congratulate all three researchers on this outstanding achievement!

Metal particle generates new hope for H2 energy

Tiny metallic particles produced by University of Adelaide chemistry researchers are bringing new hope for the production of cheap, efficient and clean hydrogen energy.

Associate Professor Greg Metha

Centre for Energy Technology member and Head of Chemistry at the University of Adelaide, Associate Professor Greg Metha is leading research into how the metal nanoparticles act as highly efficient catalysts in using solar radiation to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

“Efficient and direct production of hydrogen from solar radiation provides a renewable energy source that is the pinnacle of clean energy,” said Associate Professor Greg Metha. “We believe this work will contribute significantly to the global effort to convert solar energy into portable chemical energy.”

The latest research is the outcome of 14 years of fundamental research by Associate Professor Metha’s research group investigating the synthesis and properties of metal nanoparticles and how they work as catalysts at the molecular level.

The group works with metal “clusters” of about one-quarter of a nanometre in size – less than 10 atoms. Associate Professor Metha said these tiny “magic clusters” act as super-efficient catalysts. Catalysts drive chemical reactions, reducing the amount of energy required.

Read More

Wind Farm Noise Pollution Project Draws Joint Collaboration

Adelaide and Korean researchers will collaborate on a research project investigating wind farm noise pollution.

The Centre for Energy Technology (CET), part of the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources (IMER) at the University of Adelaide, signed a statement of collaboration with Korea Maritime University’s Centre for Ocean Energy Research and Education earlier this year.

The groups will collaborate with joint research programs, exchange information and actively seek to exchange academic members and researchers for study and research.

One of the first projects the two institutions will work together involves an investigation into the effect of amplitude modulation on wind farm noise pollution. The project, led by Dr. Maziar Arjomandi, is supported by CET’s partnership with Adelaide Airport Limited. This two year project is aimed at numerical simulation of wind farm noise propagation, the behaviour of which in different atmospheric conditions and terrains is still unknown.

In recent years, wind farm developers in Canada, the US, New Zealand and the UK have faced increasing opposition from neighbouring land holders about the location of wind farm turbines triggered by noise pollution concerns.

Noise from wind farms are characterised as either mechanical – from the electrical generation turbine parts, the gear box or generator – or aerodynamic sound generated by pressure variations within the air which fluctuates at acoustic frequencies of between 20 and 20,000 times per second. In wind turbines, fluctuating pressure is caused by flow turbulence – hypothetically if the flow of air into and over the blades could be made completely smooth, noise would disappear. In practice, flow is turbulent hence noise is created. While design improvements have largely resolved mechanical issues, aerodynamic noise is a focus of further research.

It is hypothesized that amplitude modulation enhances the distance that wind farm noise can be propagated, although this effect is heavily dependent on atmospheric properties and wind farm layout and terrain. Amplitude modulation of aerodynamic noise from wind turbines is a phenomenon that occurs when broadband aerodynamic noise is modulated at a frequency, corresponding to the revolution speed of the turbine and the number of blades. This may be experienced as low frequency noise, causing annoyance for some people.

The research aims to ascertain the effect of amplitude modulation of aerodynamic noise in relation to three-bladed 3MW class wind turbines designed for a wind farm under various simulated conditions viewing elements such as farm terrain, atmospheric conditions and turbine positions.

Photo by vaxomatic

‘No Zero Impact Energy’ Argues Energy Expert

Centre for Energy Technology Director Professor Gus Nathan argues that there is no such thing as ‘free’, ‘zero impact’ or ‘safe’ energy.

“The Japanese Fukushima Daiichi plant crisis has caused some people to question the impact of various power generation sources on our environment and lifestyles,” said the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources (IMER) researcher.

Professor Gus Nathan

“Each source of energy requires an investment to extract and each brings environmental impacts,” he said.

“This is why there is no ‘silver bullet’ and why it is necessary for society to invest not only in the development of a wide range of technologies but also in the assessment of their impacts and how these can be minimised,” said Professor Nathan.

Technological development to avoid adverse environmental impacts can be traced back centuries – the burning of coal was introduced to address deforestation from the use of wood for fuel.

Evolving legislation has driven the development of technologies to mitigate emissions – from smoke, through to carbon monoxide, the oxides of sulphur and nitrogen and now carbon dioxide emissions.

“There are two key differences which make the introduction of legislation to control CO2 much more difficult than other pollutants,” said Professor Nathan.

“Legislation to control air pollution has been historically driven by the local effects of air pollution such as smog. In contrast, carbon dioxide has no local effect – we all breathe it out – but has a global effect.”

Professor Nathan suggests human society is poorer at addressing global issues as international bodies have weaker governance than national entities while the mitigation of CO2 is more expensive than other pollutants.

“Of course, the cost of mitigation is significantly less than the long-term cost of doing nothing. I would argue this situation offers an imperative to find low-cost pathways to a cleaner energy future.”

The sentiment is echoed by IMER’s vision to be a globally-recognised centre of excellence in research and technology transfer for the sustainable and efficient use of the world’s mineral and energy resources.

Coal Gas Research Promises Economic Benefits

Researchers at The University of Adelaide’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources have won an Australian Research Council Linkage Project which promises economic benefits to Australia’s gas industry and improved understanding of natural gas production.

Professor Pavel Bedrikovetski, The University of Adelaide

The project, supported by major Australian energy company Santos, aims to develop new technology to significantly increase the efficiency of gas production from coal beds.

Coal seam gas (CSG) is the world’s fastest-growing unconventional gas resource and offers potential for much cleaner power than traditional coal.

Production of CSG has become an important industry providing an abundant, clean-burning fuel in an age when pollution, climate change, fuel shortages and fuel prices are major public concerns.

However CSG production offers borderline economic efficiency because of low-production rates from the low permeability of typical coal seams. Companies are faced with strategies such as drilling costly horizontal or multilateral wells or locating a sweet spot from the use of detailed structural geological methods or through expensive drilling of exploration wells.

This project looks at developing cost-effective engineering solutions to increase cleat system permeability and well productivity. The novel technology uses a combination of new theoretical models for suspension transport in cleats, innovative mathematical modelling, laboratory studies and validation against field tests to develop strategies.

A multi-disciplinary team has been formed for the project uniting world-class specialists to develop a new integrated technology for well productivity enhancement in CSG, shale, tight gas and geothermal reservoirs.

The University of Adelaide team consists of Prof Pavel Bedrikovetski, Prof Anthony Roberts, A/Prof Andrei Kotooussov, Prof Mark Biggs, Dr Mark Tingay, and Dr John Codrington, along with collaborators at the University of South Australia, University of New South Wales and Santos.