Faculty of ECMS Blog

Plan B: Decarbonizing Fossil Resources for Power and Plastics

The University of Adelaide, Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Science is proud to present Professor Eric McFarland, a prominent US energy expert.

A dynamic thought-provoking speaker, Professor McFarland combines senior energy industry experience with University research on the future of alternative, sustainable energy production.

Professor McFarland’s advice on future energy solutions has been sought by global blue-chip companies and business leaders.

When: Tuesday 12 December, 2017

Time: 11am-12pm

Where: The Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre, The University of Adelaide, North Terrace

Register here


There is no evidence that significant reductions in the carbon dioxide emissions associated with power generation will be achieved using current commercial alternatives to abundant and low-cost fossil fuels.   The massive infrastructure and equipment changes required for such a transition would require multiple decades if and when a serious commitment is made and an economical transition pathway identified. However, the stored chemical potential in fossil fuels may be economically utilized for decades in unconventional processes to produce chemicals including hydrogen and other key chemical intermediates without producing any carbon dioxide. Such processes are more cost effective than other options and more readily implemented within existing infrastructure. Ongoing work to understand the fundamental catalytic processes of methane conversion to chemicals and fuels in the absence of oxygen will be described together with the techno economic driving factors. Advances and innovation in the chemical science and reaction engineering could have enormous impact on global use of fossil resources into the future.


Eric McFarland is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He studied Nuclear Engineering and received his Ph.D. from MIT and an MD from Harvard. His present research focus is in catalysis and reaction engineering related to energy conversion. McFarland has always worked closely with industry on problems related to energy and chemical production and he has held senior management positions in several companies related to his University research and is an active advisor to industry. McFarland recently returned to UCSB from a two-year position as the founding Director of the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and Dow Chemical Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland, Australia.

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Buildings at the University of Adelaide are going to become more energy efficient and cost-effective thanks to the success of a recent project coordinated by senior Mechatronics lecturer Dr Lei Chen.

Dr Chen, who is part of the Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, initially received a $20,000 grant from the Ecoversity Green Project Fund to test an innovative approach to building management on the Schulz building, the tallest multi-use building on the North Terrace campus.

The success of the project later earned Dr Chen and his team a Highly Commended Award at the 2017 ACTS Green Gown Awards.

Working with a team of staff from the School of Mechanical Engineering, PhD and Masters students, as well as Mechanical Services Manager Bruce Lawson, Dr Chen was able to create an 11 per cent reduction in energy consumption for the Schulz building from the 2015 baseline, displacing 44 tonnes of CO2e per year and saving the University more than $20,000 in electricity costs annually.

The project now has a range of ongoing benefits for research and operations at the University of Adelaide and will provide valuable real-world experiences for Mechanical Engineering students.

Dr Chen’s technology will also be next applied to a number of other buildings on the North Terrace campus, as well as the new $246 million Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences building.

The 2017 Green Gown Awards Australasia are open to all Australasian tertiary education institutions including universities, TAFE, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and Registered Training Organisations (RTO).

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Historically, terahertz (or T-ray) technologies were mainly used by the astronomy community for detecting the cosmic background left behind after the Big Bang. Since the first demonstration of terahrtz wave time-domain spectroscopy in the late 80’s, there has been a series of significant recent advances in intense terahertz sources and sensitive detectors providing new opportunities for understanding the fundamental science of the terahertz frequency range. Now, this region of the electromagnetic spectrum from 0.3 to 10 THz (ie. 1 mm – 30 μm wavelength) is a frontier area for research in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and medicine. I will review terahertz wave generation and detection techniques using lasers. I will also highlight their potential, including national security applications. I will explore the remaining challenges and future opportunities for this rapidly evolving area of research that transcends the “gap” once existing between optics and electronics.

About the Speaker
Professor Xi-Cheng Zhang is the recipient of the 2017 Selby Travelling Fellowship and will be presenting a series of Selby lectures across Australia. Professor Xi-Cheng Zhang’s research interests center around terahertz waves, also known as T-rays, which exist within a frequency range between microwave and infrared. His research is focused on the generation, detection, and applications of freespace terahertz beams with ultrafast optics.

Professor Xi-Cheng Zhang is M. Parker Givens Professor at The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester. A Fellow of AAAS, APS, IEEE, OSA, and SPIE, his recent awards include 2017 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award; 2017 Australian Academy of Science Selby Fellowship; 2014 International Society of IRMMWTHz Button Prize; 2012 OSA William F. Meggers Award; 2011 IEEE Photonics Society William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award; and 2009 Rensselaer William H. Wiley Award. He holds 14 professorships in foreign countries, 29 US patents, has authored or co-authored over 400 refereed scientific papers. Professor Zhang is the Editor-in-Chief of Optics Letters.

Date:   11 December 2017
Time:   3:00pm – 4:00pm
Venue: Napier Building, Level 1, Room 102, The University of Adelaide

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Adelaide Brighton Cement’s annual Vacation Program offers a unique opportunity for engineering students (3rd or 4th year) to gain paid, real life experience in a dynamic business environment. This fully supervised 12-week program delivers exciting and challenging real life project exposure which will provide an excellent foundation for your future career. Follow the links to Career […]

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Finishing your degree this year and unsure of exactly what to do in 2018? Looking for that perfect job offer but have not quite found it yet? Thinking about starting up a business, but not sure if you are ready? Why not make your way to France and join our incubator experience in ThincLab Châlons? […]

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Got an idea you want made? This campaign exists because we can see how important STEM education and innovation are to the future success of Australians and our community. Each entrant should consider their own needs and seek advice on their rights and obligations, particularly in relation to intellectual property rights. You should NOT enter […]

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The Australian Youth Aerospace Association (AYAA) is planning to establish a national university rocket competition in 2018. This competition will entail teams’ students designing and building a rocket to launch to 10,000 or higher. Through the course of designing their rockets, teams will learn the importance of documenting their process and proving the safety of […]

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The University of Adelaide is one of Australia’s leading Group of Eight, research-intensive universities and is consistently ranked among the top 1% of universities in the world. Established in 1874, it is Australia’s third oldest university with a strong reputation for preparing educated leaders and delivering research outcomes that contribute to local, national and global […]

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Ingenuity 2017 was a vibrant display of projects across all schools in the Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences. Ingenuity is a tremendous celebration of the success of our students, and was truly bigger, better than ever before. On Tuesday 31 October, Ingenuity presented more than 300 student projects from 600+ student exhibitors across […]

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What is Maker Faire? Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects. We call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth […]

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