Fulbright scholar tackling climate change
Dr Colin Scholes, a Research Fellow in the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) at the University of Melbourne, is one of two joint winners of the inaugural Fulbright Victoria Scholarship and one of 22 talented Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2009.
Colin will spend four months in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, working on the development and use of membranes for carbon dioxide (CO2) separation from large sources such as power plants.
Membranes, made of polymers or ceramics, can be used to effectively ‘sieve out’ CO2 from gas streams. The membrane material is specifically designed to preferentially separate molecules in the waste gas mixture.
“Solvents are the current method used by industry for CO2 separation but membranes have the potential to be cheaper and more environmentally friendly,” said Dr Scholes. “The big challenge is producing membranes robust enough to handle the harsh environment of a power station flue gas stream.”
The CO2CRC research effort focuses on developing efficient, economic and safe methods of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a key method of reducing CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, which currently supply around 85 per cent of the world’s energy.
While there is an urgent need to reduce the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to minimise the effects of climate change, the International Energy Agency predicts that fossil fuels will continue to be heavily used for many years to come. CCS will therefore be an important part of a portfolio of solutions including energy efficiency; less carbon-intensive fuels; natural carbon sinks; and renewable energy.
Colin is a graduate of the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Engineering, a Bachelor of Science and a PhD in Chemistry. He also established the Australian chapter of Scientists without Borders, a group that connects scientists worldwide, and coordinated the first Australian and International projects for the group.
The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright and the U.S. Government in 1946. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the U.S. and 150 countries. In Australia, the scholarships are funded by the Australian and U.S. Governments and corporate partners and administered by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission in Canberra. The Victoria Scholarship is supported through a fund established by donations from the Victorian State Government and Victorian-based universities and will benefit the state.