Science and Engineering

Energy and process engineering

Overview

What is energy and process engineering?

Energy and process engineering is focused on using the best technologies to transform energy and materials into more usable and value-added forms, including renewable energy and its storage, for a range of applications including building materials, industrial plants, solar thermal plants and bioprocessing.

Our researchers apply a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches to the best technological solutions for improved efficiency, maximum output and financial viability. We do this through value-adding processes for renewable and waste materials with consideration to energy.

Graduates from our discipline progress into a wide spectrum of industries, where they are turning raw materials into products that are used every day. Their work expands across petrol and fuel, food and beverages, water treatment, hygiene products, dairy, paper, pharmaceuticals and sugar.

Research

Our discipline is made up of educators and researchers who are actively engaged in broad fields of research.

Our specialties include:

  • fluid dynamics modelling
  • waste and water management
  • renewable energy technologies
  • industrial and building energy management and design
  • techno-economic analysis
  • biofuels and biocommodities.

We apply cutting edge technology to optimise industrial processes. Our research works to refine, renew and modify raw materials (e.g. plants such as sugar cane, ore-bearing rocks, waste, commodity chemicals or animals) to produce useful products and by-products. We develop efficient and sustainable processes, with low energy footprints, that provide key improvements to business operations and profitability.

We are recognised for our research in:

  • chemicals manufacturing
  • gas production
  • minerals processing
  • food manufacturing
  • bio-process industries such as biofuels and waste products processing.

Rankings

Our research has made significant contributions to QUT's Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ratings.

We received a 5 (well above world standard) in materials engineering, and macromolecular and materials chemistry, and 4 (above world standard) in mechanical engineering, physical chemistry (including structural chemistry), organic chemistry, environmental sciences, environmental science and management, optical physics and other physics.

ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) evaluates the quality of research undertaken in Australian universities against national and international benchmarks.

Research centres and facilities

Some of our researchers are based at the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, which specialises in tropical agriculture research and has international expertise in plant biotechnology, process engineering, industrial chemistry and commercialisation.

We also use several specialist research facilities, including:

Featured research

Our researchers collaborate on projects in specialised research groups and facilities across disciplines and institutions:

Projects

The Category 1 funded and major research projects we are currently leading are:

Secondary aerosol formation from engine exhaust emissions

Project leaders
Professor Zoran Ristovski, Dr Branka Miljevic, Professor Richard Brown, Dr Svetlana Stevanovic.
Grant scheme
ARC Discovery Project
Dates
2018-2020
Project summary

This project aims to investigate the role of reactive volatile organic compounds from vehicles using alternative fuels in the formation and evolution of secondary organic aerosols (SOA). Expected outcomes include a greatly improved understanding of the mechanisms and precursors of SOA formation. The benefits should provide the knowledge needed to set vehicle emission regulations that can properly control urban air pollution episodes because the mechanisms and precursors of its formation will be better understood.

The project will also provide an experimental framework that will guide policy formulation and provide the science needed for development of strategies to improve air quality and health.

An integrated scholarship program in process engineering

Project leader
Associate Professor Robert Speight
Grant scheme
Australian Meat Processor Corporation
Dates
2017-2021
Project summary

This integrated scholarship scheme is bringing together undergraduate process engineers, masters and PhD research students, researchers and academic staff with the meat processing industry to engage the future workforce and develop co-product transformation technologies to reduce waste and increase revenues.

Reducing boiler maintenance costs and deferring capital expenditure through improved technology

Project leader
Dr Floren Plaza, Dr Anthony Mann and collaborators
Grant scheme
Sugar Research Australia (SRA) Research and Development Project
Dates
2016-2020
Project summary

Boiler tube erosion and corrosion costs the Australian sugar industry approximately $5 million a year in repairs, stops and inefficient operation. We are working with CSIRO Process Science & Engineering in Melbourne on a project to  quantify and improve the performance of tube materials and coatings in two boiler components: convection banks and air heaters. Laboratory testing has recently been completed, with the next step being onsite installation and testing.

Novel moving drifter system for monitoring waterways

Project leader
Associate Professor Richard Brown
Dates
2016-2019
Project summary

This project plans to improve the monitoring of our waterways by developing a novel moving drifter system that takes flow and water quality measurements along the pathlines of the drifters. One of the key challenges for Australian water management lies in monitoring and managing rivers and estuaries effectively over large geographical areas. Traditionally, instrumentation at stationary points has been used for such monitoring, under the simplifying assumption that a single point adequately represents a very large region of water.

By contrast, the Real-Time Flow Logging of Water (RT-FLOW) system expects to provide information from large regions of our waterways, providing stakeholders with more information to enable them to better manage issues including storm surge and erosion. The project also aims to provide improved validation of hydrodynamic models.

Advances in real-time satellite monitoring of flow in rivers and estuaries

Project leader
Associate Professor Richard Brown, Kabir Adewale Suara and collaborators.
Grant scheme
ARC Linkage Project
Dates
2016-2019
Project summary

The aim of this project is to develop a novel Lagrangian drifter system capable of monitoring river and estuarine water velocity and turbulence, dispersion coefficients and water parameters. This will enable improved hydrodynamic models to be developed through better calibration and improved representation of their governing processes.

Our research will provide more accurate predictions of flood and tidal surge levels, pollutant transport, changes in water parameters due to spills or weather events, erosion and other environmentally important phenomena.

From tailings to soil: In situ remediation in mine site rehabilitation

Leader
Dr Sara Couperthwaite and collaborators
Grant scheme
ARC Linkage Project
Dates
2016-2018
Project summary

By enhancing and guiding abiotic and biotic processes of soil development, this project aims to accelerate the in situ remediation of bauxite residue (alumina refining tailings). This project will build detailed knowledge on the chemical, physical, and biological properties of bauxite residue and apply this to develop field-scale in situ remediation strategies.

This research will also advance understanding of soil development and primary succession of microbial communities in extreme, anthropogenic environments such as those presented by tailings.

From innovators to mainstream market: a toolkit for transforming Australian housing and maximising sustainability outcomes for stakeholders

Leader
Dr Wendy Miller
Grant scheme
ARC Linkage Project
Dates
2014-2017
Project summary

As a significant national asset, Australia's housing needs to provide economic, social and environmental value to occupants, owners and the broader society. Learning from innovation, this project will deliver strategies to improve the productivity of the housing sector and enhance the value proposition of sustainable homes for all stakeholders.

Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative

Leader
Professor Ted Steinberg
Dates
2012-2020
Grant scheme
United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC). Funded by Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Project summary

The Australian solar thermal research initiative (ASTRI) is an $87 million, eight year international collaboration with leading research institutions, industry bodies and universities that will position Australia in concentrating solar thermal (CST) power technologies.

QUT has specific interest in materials selection for high temperature thermal storage, maintenance and planning of plant, solar field related maintenance and cleaning and modelling/ design of advanced turbines.

Student topics

Are you looking to further your career by pursuing study at a higher and more detailed level? We are currently looking for students to research with us. Contact our staff to find out more about research opportunities, or take a look at our student topics.

Contact

School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering

  • Level 7, O Block, Room 703
    Gardens Point