Themes

Monash University is a global leader in energy research

We aim to showcase the breadth of capabilities in the field of energy at Monash University. Energy research spans a range of disciplines and expertise articulated around 6 themes: Energy resources, Materials and devices, Smart energy systems, Markets and policy, and Consumers.

For more detailed information about the university's energy capabilities and expertise in each theme, please search our researchers’ directory.

Wind
Understanding flow can help us harness the power of wind and reduce energy loss associated with air movement around and in the wake of wind and gas turbines, and heavy vehicles. In countries like Australia where much freight is transported by truck over very large distances, reducing drag can make significant fuel savings and dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Bio-conversion
Bio-conversion can offer renewable, low-carbon energy systems while sequestering atmospheric carbon.  We have developed capabilities in second-generation biofuels with feedstocks based on municipal waste, microalgae and biomass. Core expertise in this area includes catalytic conversion for fuels production and discovering/designing enzymes for specific and fast reactions as isolated bio-catalysts.

Hydrogen
The uncertainty in future oil production and the long term need to transition away from carbon-emitting fuel sources has sparked a global interest in a hydrogen-fuelled economy. Our researchers have a long history in hydrogen production through electrolysis, photochemical water splitting and brown coal gasification. In addition to hydrogen, Monash has a developing area of research in ammonia production. Ammonia can be considered as a suitable carrier of hydrogen, as well as having a variety of important agricultural uses.

CO2 capture, storage, and use
Coal has long been the main energy source driving the social and economic development of Australia and meeting the energy needs of a growing world economy.  Coal, however, is a major carbon dioxide emissions source related to electricity generation. We are working on drastically cutting the emissions from coal power stations by investigating improved methods for including advanced de-watering technologies, gasification processes, carbon capture technologies (both pre- and post-combustion), and chemical looping processes.

Gasification
Research in this area includes the development of catalytic gasification technologies for low-rank coal and biomass, as well as gasification technologies for the use of low-rank coal char and biochar. In addition, the gasification of lignites and biomass, and the gasification and pyrolysis of wastes for fuels and energy production are being investigated.

Geothermal energy
The extraction of heat from deep earth is promising but inefficient so far. Heat is transferred when huge quantities of water are pumped through; but recovery of heat is low and much water is lost. Current research is investigating the use of CO2 as an alternative to water.

Mining  
Research in mining includes investigating the potential to retrieve critical minerals from Australia’s base and precious metal mines and mineral resources. Critical minerals are economically important and assessed as being at risk of supply disruption, which would lead to significant economic, environmental and/or social impacts. These minerals are required for a range of applications including in the production of renewable energy (e.g. rare earths, tellurium).

Solar cells (next generation)
Monash University has been working in the area of next-generation solar cells for over two decades. Our particular focus in this area of research has been on printable solar cell technologies. Developing printable solar cells that possess comparable efficiencies and stabilities to that offered by silicon, will provide a cost-effective solution to meet the world’s increasing power demands.

Batteries and Energy Storage
Drawing from over a decade of research on catalysts, ionic liquids, membranes and carbon-based materials, we have developed a leading position in energy storage materials and their technologies. A major focus has been on graphene super-capacitors, in which major breakthroughs have led to high impact academic publications, foundational IP, and SupraG Energy.

Low-energy electronics, lighting, sensors
Australian and international investigators at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET) are working at the boundaries of what is possible in condensed matter physics and nanotechnology to develop a new generation of ultralow power devices. Research in topological materials, exciton superfluids, and light-transformed materials aims to create systems in which electrical current can flow with near-zero resistance. This will be made possible by synthesising novel atomically-thin materials and developing nano-fabrication techniques to incorporate these materials into device structures.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (ACEx) are investigating the possibilities of transforming light into energy and energy into light. In collaboration with industry, academics are involved in innovative research to improve solar energy technology, lighting and security systems.

Research conducted at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Electromaterials (ACES) includes creating and optimising new materials for use in next-generation devices for energy applications, while considering the ethical and public policy implications of these technologies. ACES research teams are striving to construct complex 3D structures in which the spatial distribution of the functional elements can be controlled.

Membranes
Research conducted at the ARC Research Hub for Energy-efficient Separation aims to develop advanced separation materials, innovative products and smart processes to reduce the energy consumption of separation processes which underpin Australian industry. The intended research outcomes will allow the majority of Australian industry to become more energy-efficient and cost-competitive in a global economy. Other projects in this area include the development of
multifunctional nanoparticle membranes, with a view to design intelligent membranes with multifunctionalities (ultrafast filtration and smart sensing) for use in energy and environmental industries.

Transport
The transport sector makes up close to a third of our energy consumption. The uncertainty in future oil production and the long term need to transition away from carbon-emitting fuel sources has suggested that an alternative source to fuel our transport needs is imminent. Monash has one of the largest and broadest capabilities in transport infrastructure research in the world. Our leading capabilities are railway engineering and public transport. We also have leading expertise in intelligent transport systems, traffic systems, road safety, industrial design in vehicles, transport modelling, light-weight metals for automotive and aerospace applications, logistics and supply chains, and aerodynamic testing of vehicles in our wind tunnel.

Power
Our research at the Power Engineering Advanced Research Laboratory (PEARL) aims to develop innovative technologies to deliver secure, sustainable, and reliable electric power. Our two main research themes are advanced topologies and control techniques for power electronic converters and technologies and methods for the operation, control and protection of modern power networks. In particular, our team is focused on application and control of power electronic converters for massive integration of renewable energy resources, real-time monitoring systems and situational awareness in smart grids, applications of battery storage systems to enhance the reliability and stability of power networks, and advanced protection and fault location techniques.

Sensor Networks
Our research expertise spans areas including radio-frequency identification (RFID), smart antennas for mobile and satellite communications, electromagnetic bandgap structure assisted radio frequency (RF) devices, and various forms of antennas. Our capability extends into processing data obtained from sensor networks to visualise and interact with energy networks and applications.

Artificial intelligence and optimisation
The AI-based Discrete Optimisation research group is working on both targeted and generic solving techniques to address complex discrete optimisation problems, with the view to making optimisation technologies more widely accessible, across a range of applications. In particular, our team is focused on research that helps users (a) model and solve these problems more easily, (b) interrogate the system regarding the provided solution, and (c) interactively re-optimise based on additional user information. In this way, it has a ‘human-in-the-loop’ approach to Discrete Optimisation that makes our team quite unique.

Machine learning
Machine learning is the science behind big data, data mining, data science, and artificial intelligence. It enables systems to learn from data, identify patterns, and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Over the last 10 years machine learning has grown to become a fundamental technology driving innovation: self-driving cars, Siri the iPhone personal assistant, Netflix movie recommendations, cancer diagnosis, discovery of physics’ laws, and scientific progress. Research areas includes deep learning, forecasting, images, natural language analytics, and online learning.

Cognitive buildings
We are experimenting with research, design and implementation techniques in our Clayton campus to bring a new level of intelligence and decision- making capability to service occupants in buildings. This ‘living laboratory’ approach enables our team to collect available data and user feedback to enhance facilities and security management, and to create comfortable spaces for students and staff while drastically reducing energy consumption.

Cybersecurity, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
Monash research in cybersecurity, cryptocurrency and blockchain has been supported by Australian Research Council (ARC), Data 61 and industry partners. Our mission is to develop solutions to the security, privacy, reliability, trust, and performance issues of different system environments. Our cybersecurity lab at Monash University has strong collaboration between academics, industries and governments, both locally and internationally.  Our key areas of research include cryptography, blockchain, cryptocurrency technology, big data security, privacy enhanced technology, trusted computing, IoT security, biometric security, and network security.

Data visualisation and immersive analytics
Our energy visualisation and immersive analysis research groups are interested in helping people to understand complex, interlinked data through visualisation. Our work to date has focused on the problem of finding high-quality layout for network diagrams and human interaction with technologies. Our group has been working with large interactive surfaces and augmented and virtual reality – to help people perform data analysis. We call this research initiative Immersive Analytics.

Transition
Our transition researchers seek to understand how processes and pathways for practical and social-institutional change are shaped and focus on exploring the role of sustainability experimentation (technical and governance) in helping to promote and deliver changes in policy and on-ground practices.

Economics
Monash energy economists study competition, policy, and regulatory issues in electricity markets. An economic focus is evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different electricity market designs, especially as increasing amounts of zero-marginal cost, zero-carbon emitting and intermittent energy sources connect to the grid. All empirical market evaluation work is grounded in economic theory and the physical constraints of electricity network.

Policy
The transition to cleaner, more reliable and more affordable energy worldwide is underpinned by the development of appropriate policies. Monash University plays an active role in informing policy-making through initiatives such as the Australian Electricity Market Initiative (AEMI) and the Microgrid Electricity Market Operator (MEMO) project.Policy development is also an important component of the $40m Woodside Monash Energy Partnership. Focused on developing affordable hydrogen for an emerging Australian export market, this partnership involves examining the types of market, policy and transition strategies required for Australia to become a hydrogen superpower.

Emerging technologies

Demand response

Decision making

Peer-to-peer trading and sharing

Energy access and affordability, social justice

The world is facing an increasingly uncertain energy future, ushered in by climate change, population growth, decentralised power generation and the rise of prosumers and digitally-enabled lifestyles. We respond to this uncertainty by developing energy future scenarios drawing on socio-technical concepts and theories to inform policy and planning. We also rely on Monash University’s world-leading expertise in behavioural and experimental economics to understand consumer behaviour in the context of energy markets. Recent research in this area includes the Future Grid Homes project, which identified residential consumer engagement strategies to encourage participation in demand-management and the adoption of emerging technologies related to the electricity grid. Our collaboration with BehaviourWorks enables us to connect behaviour change experts with practitioners, translate research evidence into practice, and foster business, and economic and social change, for a better energy future.

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