5254 Sydney Nano building photography

Reinventing catalysts

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is working to integrate new battery and solar cell technologies into the walls and roofs of new houses, and to transform the somewhat ‘black art’ of catalysis—the process that cracks crude oil into useful fuels, oils and chemicals at every refinery. He has already helped to create over 200 new jobs with four spin-out companies.

 Professor Thomas Maschmeyer
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer – Director of the new Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST)

“Developing better batteries and catalysts has been challenging,” he says. “We understood the reactions that were taking place. But we couldn’t see exactly where they were happening on the surface of the materials involved. You’d develop a new catalyst, use it for an hour, find it was ruined, and have to go back to the drawing board. We were guessing at what was happening to the active surfaces over time.”

Thomas is the Director of the new Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST) at The University of Sydney, and an experimental chemist. “Now we can use a suite of instruments, including various high resolution microscopes and spectroscopic mapping tools to look at dynamic changes on the nanoscale, to see what’s happened (or even what is happening in real time), and then develop more stable chemical structures for batteries and catalysts.”

A big deal for small science

Unbreakable quantum communication and ultra-high speed wireless computing; houses and offices that work as batteries; steel cars slimmed by 100 kg; efficient biofuel production; and real time targeting of cancers.

These are some of the technologies being developed at the new Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which opened on 20 April 2016.

The University of Sydney has equipped the new institute with the best nanoscience facilities in Australia, and staffed it with researchers who are working at the nanoscale in computing, communication, energy storage, biofuels, alloys and health. The $150-million Nanoscience Hub was co-funded with $40 million from the Australian Government. Its core facilities are available for fundamental research and for the work of start-ups and established industries.

See also: http://stories.scienceinpublic.com.au/2016/batteries

For more information:
Vivienne Reiner, The University of Sydney
+61 2 9351 2390

Banner image: Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology
Credit: Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology