Research Tuesdays: “Where will we source our Energy?” presentation now online

The latest Research Tuesdays presentation Where will we source our energy? is now online. This was a special end of year event featuring five panellists, including Professor Barry Brook, Director of Climate Science at the Environment Institute.

The topic of this presentation is particularly pertinent after last weeks heatwave, during which blackouts were experienced across the country due to high demand for power. The cost of running air-conditioning in what are predicted to be more frequent heatwaves is an issue that will inevitably also focus our attention further to exactly where we will source our energy from in the future.

Other members of the expert panel included Professor Graham “Gus” Nathan, mechanical engineer and founding Director of the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Energy Technology as well as Associate Professor David Lewis (PhD CEng FIChemE), a chemical engineer in the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering.

city lights

Flickr: Ralph Walker

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.

‘Switch’ Energy Documentary – Exclusive Adelaide Screening

The University of Adelaide and Arcos Films would like to invite you to the exclusive Adelaide screening of Switch, a new award-winning documentary that moves past the politics to deliver the straight answers on energy.

Documentary screening followed by Q&A with Director Harry Lynch
Tuesday, 12th March 2013

Time: 6:00pm (6:30pm start) – 8:30pm

Where: Scott Theatre, North Terrace Campus, The University of Adelaide – click for map

Register for your complimentary tickets

(Seats are limited, register early to avoid disappointment)

About Switch

Is hydraulic fracturing polluting our water? How dangerous is nuclear? Will gasoline prices continue to rise? Can we clean up coal? Can renewables really power our future?

Switch delivers straight answers to today’s most controversial energy questions, as energy visionary Dr. Scott Tinker travels the world, exploring leading energy sites, from coal to solar, oil to biofuels, most of them highly restricted and never before seen on film. He seeks the truth from international leaders of government, industry and academia and then cuts through the confusion to discover a path to our energy future as surprising as it is practical.

Switch is part of the Switch Energy Project, a multi-pronged effort to build a global understanding of energy. This screening is part of over 250 universities across the globe participating in the GSA Switch Energy Awareness & Efficiency Program, which launched last fall at over 40 pilot schools with a student ambassador program, efficiency drive and screening of the film.

Audiences have called Switch “the first truly balanced energy film.” As no documentary before it, Switch has been embraced and supported by people across the energy spectrum: environmentalists and academics, fossil and renewable energy experts, scientists and economists.

“I took my students to a screening of Switch, and we spent most of the following class discussing it, a testament to its value as an educational tool. It was amazing…” — Amy Jaffe, Rice University Energy Program

If you drive a car, use a computer, or flick a light switch, you should see this film!” — Evan Hindman, Harvard University

“Switch really puts all the pieces together, and makes me optimistic for the future.” — Erin Geoffroy, Environmental Defense Fund

Visit the Switch Energy Project website to find out more.



‘China’s Economic Growth, Energy and Environmental Sustainability’ – Confucius Institute’s China Briefing

Environment Institute member Simon Divecha is taking part in the next ‘China Briefing’ event held by the University of Adelaide’s Confucius Institute on Wednesday 11th July.

The Confucius Institute’s China Briefings provide up to date knowledge of the most recent developments in China’s political, economic and cultural spheres that are of the most concern to the Australian public.

The next China Briefing ‘China’s Economic Growth, Energy and Environmental Sustainability’ will look at the environmental consequences of China’s rapid economic development, including the fact that China is currently the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions. Despite China making real efforts to address these issues, they still pose enormous challenges and the briefing will examine the problems, debates, solutions, and opportunities for Australia, of China’s economic/environmental dilemma.


  • Mr Simon Divecha, Business Manager of The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide
  • Dr Dale Wen, environmental researcher and activist
  • Mr John O’Brien, Managing Director and Founder, Australian CleanTech

Date: Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Time: 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Venue: Level 12 Ernst & Young Building, 121 King William Street, Adelaide

Please note: This is a free event, but online registration is essential.

More information about the China Briefing is available on the Confucius Institute website.

This China Briefing is kindly sponsored by Ernst & Young and the Hong Kong Australia Business Association SA

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.

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

‘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.

Oz-Energy-Analysis.Org Website Launched

Professor Barry Brook along with other colleagues including Dr. Francis Clark, have launched a website ‘’ as a way to examine the broad implications of increasing levels of renewable energy into the electricity grid.  The aim of the website is to examine renewable energy sources, predominantly wind and solar, and examine how their variability interacts with the grid – how it can be managed, how much power they can produce and how much it would cost.

The website will transparently present data, assumptions, models, analysis, interpretation and engage with a wide range of contributors by using an Open Science model.  The initial focus is on the state of South Australia, but the vision is to scale up this work and apply it to all of Australia, and even other countries.  The website will provide a mechanism for everyone to contribute with information and discussion to develop the overall view that is needed by policy makers and to aid sophisticated public discourse.

The website, as of today, is in ‘beta-2‘ release and can be viewed here