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.

Energy resources

Wind energy and fluid dynamics
Understanding fluid flow can help us harness the power of wind energy via wind turbines, and also reduce energy losses associated with air movement around and in the wake of gas turbines. Efficiency gains can also be had in the transport sector, especially relating to 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 a broad range of renewable, low-carbon energy services such as transport fuel like biodiesel and bioethanol, and also biomass or biogas for combustion in power stations for generating electricity.  In these processes, it is even possible to sequestering carbon dioxide, making bioenergy a net carbon sink. 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.However, when use for electricity generation, coal is a major carbon dioxide emissions source. 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 has been a promising technology, but so far has proved too inefficient to ne economically viable. Most approaches use water as the working fluid – heat is absorbed into the water when large quantities are pumped through the geothermal resource; but overall recovery of heat is low and significant amounts water are not recovered. Current research is investigating the use of CO2 as an alternative to water.

Mining  
While mining for fossil fuels will be phased out, mining remains a critical industry for sourcing the raw materials needed for the world’s economy, even for the materials to build the renewable energy infrastructure required to decarbonise the energy system. 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).

Materials and devices

Monash University is a global leader in energy conversion materials and devices.

Our researchers are working on a diversity of materials which are sustainable and game changers in how we generate, store and use energy. These have developed in the key areas outlined below and are currently being demonstrated through major research initiatives supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry.

Next-generation solar cells: Light and energy interconversion materials
Monash University has been working in the area of light and energy interconversion materials including next-generation solar cells for over two decades. Our 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. 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.

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 synthesis and scale-up of energy storage materials and their technologies. The energy storage program at Monash University has at its heart developing next-generation batteries that could power the future: lithium-sulphur, silicon, and magnesium systems. We prioritise practical viability for our energy storage technologies by looking at sustainable source of active materials, meeting the industrial criteria of scalability, and avenues of recycling and repurposing of used batteries and end-of-life solar cells.

Monash University’s graphene supercapacitor research has been transformative to the global and local energy communities, in which major breakthroughs have led to high impact academic publications, foundational IP, and the establishment of spin-offs such as SupraG Energy and Ionic Industries.Graphene is an exceptional two-dimensional material with superior electronic conductivity, flexibility and strength, which may as well be the material of the future. Researchers from the ARC Research Hub on Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation are working on graphene-based technologies and products can be applied in many sectors including renewable energy, biomedical, transport, construction, environmental remediation, defence and space industries – linking Monash University to the future that graphene will built.

Electroactive materials
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 with implications in new processes for hydrogen and ammonia production.

Next-generation ultra-low energy technologies: Atomically thin and low dimensional materials
Led by Monash University, 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.

Energy-efficient separation processes
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 most of the 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.

Smart energy systems

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 innovations: Self-driving cars, Siri the iPhone personal assistant, Netflix movie recommendations, cancer diagnosis, discovery of physics’ laws, and scientific progress. Our team covers Association discovery, Bayesian methods, causal models, classification, deep learning, forecasting, images, natural language analytics, online learning and learning from non-stationary distributions, semi-supervised models, spatio-temporal, text and time series analytics.

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.

Energy access
Globally, close to 3 billion people are without access to clean cooking facilities and close to 1 billion without electricity. The issue affects Indigenous communities in Australia and communities in emerging economies around the world. Our energy access group is working to accelerate the uptake of sustainable energy access through international interdisciplinary research partnerships between researchers and private, public, and not-for-profit organisations. Our capabilities include governance, energy technologies, optimised grids, visualisation of energy systems, participatory methods of engagement, and market systems for energy access.

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 the 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.

Energy 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.

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Markets and policy

  • Policy
  • Regulation
  • Economics
  • Transition

Australian Electricity Market Initiative (AEMI)
AEMI aims at informing policymakers, assisting them in policy formulation and evaluating policy proposals using rigorous economics analysis.

AEMI works on:

  • market design
  • the regulation of transmission and distribution assets
  • the industrial organisation of the electricity sector
  • the impact of new and emerging technologies such as renewables and large-scale storage.

AEMI intersects with the Monash Energy Institute by working in some interdisciplinary manner with electrical engineers, computer scientists and storage specialists to better understand the physical characteristics of these technologies and design more appropriate pricing mechanisms.

Consumers

  • Emerging technologies
  • Energy futures
  • 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, new digitally-enabled lifestyles, and emerging technologies. In this context of uncertainty, it is urgent that research led by the social sciences, design and behavioural sciences plays a central role in formulating new approaches to understanding and intervening in our energy futures. This means producing new knowledge and understandings of the socio-technical relations through which energy will be consumed in the future, and developing methods to ensure that our energy futures are equitable, sustainable and support the growth of human health and wellbeing.

Emerging Technologies Research Lab
We bring together social science and design research and intervention, through the work of the Energy Futures research programme in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab. The Future Grid Homes project identified residential consumer engagement strategies to encourage participation in demand-management and the adoption of emerging technologies related to the electricity grid. The Digital Energy Futures project develops new methodologies to create new energy future scenarios drawing on socio-technical concepts and theories to inform policy and planning.

BehaviourWorks
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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