Last week, SMART director Professor Pascal Perez and his two eminent colleagues Professor Will Price and Professor Long Nghiem won the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research Partnership and Impact 2017. This award recognises the quality of the partnership with Sydney Water and the potential impact of their research on ‘analytics to predict anaerobic co-digestion and downstream process performance’.
For Professor Perez, the collaboration with Sydney Water is what makes the award so special.
‘It’s what universities should be about – the interface and interaction with the world out there,’ he said.
‘Our colleagues from Sydney Water were the only external people to come on stage during the awards ceremony.’
The annual awards are an opportunity to recognise research, teaching and learning, diversity, outstanding service and community engagement.
The collaboration with Sydney Water is exploring the process of ‘co-digestion’ whereby solid waste can be mixed with sludge produced by waste water treatment plants in order to produce gas and generate electricity. This process will allow Sydney Water to use a larger quantity of organic material and to better control its characteristics in order to ensure a more stable production.
The team has just completed the construction of a pilot unit at Sydney Water’s Shellharbour facility that is currently undergoing final testing. Then, data from various monitoring sensors will be analysed under several feeding regimes in order to better understand and predict the behaviour of the co-digester during its operational phase. Later on, the team will explore cost effective way to isolate methane – used to generate electricity – from CO2 and other less desirable gases.
‘It’s nice on paper, but it’s something that is very tricky to achieve,’ Professor Perez said.
‘The award is important for me because it recognises a long-standing collaboration between the University of Wollongong and Sydney Water.’
Vice Chancellor Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research Partnership and Impact