Renewable fuels

Research into renewable fuels at ANU takes place at the Research School of Chemistry, the Research School of Biology and the Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering.

At the Research School of Chemistry, the research focuses on harnessing the catalytic power of enzymes to enhance biodiesel production. Biodiesel can replace fossil fuels as a renewable energy source, yet its use is limited by our reliance on free fatty acids (FFAs) from plant sources and extravagant water consumption.

The research aims to address both of these obstacles. It proposes a waterless alternative to traditional methods of biodiesel production, where we harness the catalytic power of enzymes. It also proposes using sewage sludge from wastewater plants as a low cost and local source of FFAs. The research aims to repurpose a recently discovered enzyme from the Australian blowfly to survive in the extreme environments of a biodiesel reactor. 

At the Research School of Biology, the research has a strong focus on plant science.  Research is conducted by world leading researchers in photosynthesis, plant physiology, biotechnology and high throughput analysis.

The research aims to develop high lipid producing microalgal strains for large scale cultivation. The ANU hosts major facilities for structural detection and quantification of molecules (mass spectrometry, NMR) as well as providing world class facilities for the controlled growth of plant and algal materials. Our researchers collaborate with leading European, Japanese and United States groups and the ANU supports the Plant Energy Biology ARC Centre of Excellence.

The Solar Thermal Group at the Research School of Engineering has two major activities in relation to solar fuels production. 

The first is an investigation into the production of solar biofuels from microalgae via gasification in supercritical water. The second activity is an investigation into synthesis gas production via CO and  H20 splitting using metal oxide based thermochemical redox cycles.