Launch of new research hub hopes to help Australia’s pathway to a net zero emissions economy

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A new research hub focused on technologies to transform carbon dioxide emissions was officially launched in Victoria last week.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Carbon Utilisation and Recycling (RECARB) – located at Monash University’s Clayton campus – will collaborate with national and international universities, as well as industry partners, to develop technologies to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the manufacturing and energy sectors into a range of useful products. The Hub will also develop commercial markets for the carbon-embedded products.

The ambitious undertaking opened on 11 August 2023 to commence a five-year program led by Hub Director Professor Paul Webley, and Deputy Director Professor Akshat Tanksale. The Hub is supported by the ARC with $5 million, along with a further $5.8 million from universities and industry partners, as well as $11.8 million in-kind contributions.

Turning research into results

Professor Webley, Faculty of Engineering at Monash University, said research hubs provide a vital platform to bring together industry and academia to develop industry-relevant research – and translate it into practice.

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“We need to change our thinking of carbon emissions from pollutants to useful feedstock. The RECARB hub aims to catalyse this change in thinking by working with industry, government, and university partners to develop and provide high-quality solutions – especially for the hard-to-abate sectors,” he said. “The Hub will become Australia’s leading research initiative for leading the decarbonisation journey.”

Monash University, the professor said, has “an outstanding track record in working with industry and university partners to develop high-impact research”.

“As one of Australia’s leading universities with a strong emphasis on sustainability, our Hub is well placed to lead the way in carbon recycling and reuse for future applications.”

The road to net zero

The RECARB Hub will develop and pilot cutting-edge, as well as industry-relevant, technologies to help reduce and reuse carbon emissions. By transforming those emissions to become high-value products, such as acetic acid, methanol, stock feed, and other chemicals, it aims to play an increasingly important role in Australia’s goal to transition to a net zero emissions economy.

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Research will cover electrochemical, thermochemical and biological technologies and will incorporate research into the innovative direct air capture technology (DAC) for CO2 recycling.

RECARB Deputy Director, Professor Tanksale from the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University, emphasised that the practical application of these technologies is crucial to the success of these technologies.

“Our aim is to develop pilot scale applications of CO2 to products and CO2 recycling so that industry can scale up and assess these processes for their business. For this research to make a difference to the environment, we need to identify methods and frameworks for embedded emissions accounting that can unlock growing markets for abated carbon products and services,” Professor Tanksale said.

“Not only will our research be an investment for the future, but we will also leave a highly skilled workforce with a deep knowledge in carbon-to-products technology and commercialisation for Australian captured carbon products.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live