Associate Professor Ali Abbas’s research explores a transformative approach to power generation in Australia using industrial waste to create useful materials for other industrial plants.
Coal power significantly contributes to carbon emissions in Australia. Your typical coal power plant releases by-products such as fly ash, carbon dioxide gas and wastewater into the environment. But what if we found ways to use this waste?
“When we design and produce something – anything – we need to consider its lifecycle impacts, its ultimate fate and its reusability,” says Associate Professor Ali Abbas from the University of Sydney’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Associate Professor Abbas is referring to a shift from a linear economy to a circular one where the latter finds ways to reuse organic, obsolete products or industrial waste, rather than dispose of them. “This is the philosophy of our work,” says Associate Professor Abbas, who has recently received a SOAR Fellowship to support his innovative research in transforming waste to products.
Associate Professor Abbas’s research explores a transformative approach to power generation in Australia. He suggests we could be using industrial waste to create useful materials for other industrial plants.
For example, fly ash and carbon dioxide gas from coal power plants could be collected to be transformed into an environmentally-friendly cement blend , thereby trapping carbon emissions while offsetting the energy used to produce cement from other materials.
Associate Professor Abbas has been working with Delta Electricity to make his ‘green’ cement a reality and, together with academic colleagues, is now researching the mechanisms of carbonation of industrial waste from the atomic scale.
“Algae is also interesting. It has the ability to absorb carbon emissions, whilst having the ability to clean industrial wastewater as well,” he says.
The funding from SOAR will go towards developing the Waste Transformation Research Hub, a collaborative industry–university approach to research future waste technologies for Australia’s circular economy.
“The funds will help me engage with partners, whether industry or academic, for this research. At the moment there is no cohesive national research hub on circular economy and waste processing. This is an opportunity for the University of Sydney – and for Australia – to lead the way internationally in waste transformation research,” says Associate Professor Abbas.
The energy sector remains the largest contributor of carbon emissions in Australia. With growing concerns around Australia’s emissions reduction targets, Associate Professor Abbas’s waste research could become a key influencer in pushing Australia in the right direction towards these goals.
 Sustainable transformation of fly ash industrial waste into a construction cement blend via CO2 carbonation, viewed 20 June 2017.