High-tech manufacturing gets $2.2m boost

Wednesday, 04 September, 2013

University of Wollongong (UOW) spin-off company AquaHydrex has received $2.2 million to produce a competitive alternative to fossil-fuel-based hydrogen. The company’s technology originated from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and its partners at Monash University.

The company says the funding will develop the next generation of high-tech manufacturing that will drive employment and economic prosperity in the Illawarra region.

The additional funding will help UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI), the lead node of multi-institutional ACES, to work with AquaHydrex to drive research and development of revolutionary technology to produce low-cost hydrogen with a greatly reduced carbon dioxide footprint.

Next-generation electromaterials will drive the change in the region’s traditional low-cost, high-volume manufacturing to specialised high-tech production, more than 100 years after the first copper anodes were produced using then-advanced electromaterials technology at Port Kembla.

Clean technology alternatives for energy production that are economically competitive will help industry and business move to a low-carbon future and remain sustainable and competitive, while increasing productivity.

With more than 100 scientists and engineers from around the world working in state-of-the-art laboratories at the Innovation Campus, IPRI is well placed to foster closer ties between university and industry and provide the platform for research-driven, high-tech manufacturing.

ACES scientists have recently made a breakthrough in developing a novel way to turn seawater into hydrogen. The team developed a light-assisted catalyst that requires less energy input to activate water oxidation, which is the first step in splitting water to produce hydrogen fuel, and solves the existing problem of seawater splitting producing poisonous chlorine gas as a by-product.

“The ability to translate groundbreaking research into commercial opportunities through innovative manufacturing is the future,” said ACES Executive Research Director Professor Gordon Wallace.

“Here in the Illawarra, we are fortunate to have world-class facilities and researchers and a younger generation eager and well prepared to take on that challenge.”

The funding was awarded under the Clean Technology Innovation Program. The $200 million program provides grants to innovative businesses to help them develop new clean technologies to transform our clean energy future, help reduce operating costs and help the business be more competitive and sustainable.

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