A major component of the UQ Energy initiative is to support research in energy innovations to supplement traditional energy supplies

Meeting the world's growing demand for energy, while minimising related impacts on the environment, represent great technical challenges. UQ’s capabilities in innovative energies have received a major boost through significant infrastructure investments, attracting research leaders in the field solar energy, biofuel research and geothermal energy research.

Biofuels

UQ's capabilities in biofuel and bioenergy research span disciplines including plant science, microbiology, engineering, and biotechnology. Our research covers many second generation biofuel technologies including the development of alcohol (methanol, butanol) fuel products from bio-electrochemical systems, green diesel from vegetable oil, micro-algal biofuel systems and biohydrogen production. 

For example, through identification and manipulation of genes that can improve efficiency of biofuel feedstocks, UQ is making exciting biotechnology advancements in the development of feedstocks such as the legume tree Pongamia, eSorghum (a grass for arid environments), sugar (via the UQ-CSR SugarBooster program) and micro-algae (oil production for biodiesel).

Another focus is the engineering of green micro-algae as a source of biomass, biofuels, commodities and high value products, and includes using green algal cells and advanced bio-reactor systems to produce bio-fuels such as hydrogen in a CO2-neutral process. Additionally, microbial metabolic engineering of sugarcane for example, is leading to new bioproducts from cells.

One of the University of Queensland’s stand out capabilities is in the area of new nanomaterials which is integral to the focus on clean energy production and utilisation (including the development of chemical routes for biomass conversion into valuable chemicals, transportation fuels, and clean hydrogen production) and is highlighted by projects such as the catalytic conversion of carbohydrates/lignocellulose to key platform chemicals (fuel additives) using novel metal supported mesoporous materials. 

Key Biofuel researchers

Geothermal

The Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence (QGECE) was formally established at the University of Queensland in 2009 with the support of the Queensland State Government through an award of $15m. This represents a significant step towards  developing sustainable and clean energy production in Queensland. The facility will include the new facilities to hold the Centre offices and the laboratories on the St Lucia campus

Current research includes development to progress large-scale electricity generation from subterranean hot rocks and hot sedimentary aquifers in Queensland and the rest of Australia.  The Centre, through its research and development efforts, aims to position Queensland as a leading technology provider in the growing international geothermal energy sector.

Solar

The global market for photovoltaic systems is now expanding by 35 percent per year but large-scale use of solar energy requires a dramatic reduction in the cost-to-efficiency ratio. Significant research is needed to satisfy the requirements of scale up, cost and reliability.

More dramatic advances in solar technology may come from developing nascent technologies based on inorganic and organic photovoltaic materials. It will be important to develop technologies — perhaps using biological catalysts — that use solar energy to produce chemical fuels. The intermittency of solar energy requires that large-scale energy storage be developed if solar is to become a large contributor to overall energy supplies. 

At UQ, researchers are very aware that Australia has more solar resources than any other industrialised nation and are working together across disciplines to find new ways to harness the sun’s abundant energy.

Key Solar researchers