UNSW SMaRT Centre secures $1 million grant

The University of NSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) has secured nearly $1 million in funding to help commercialise a technology that transforms waste materials into value-added products.

UNSW was one of five winners to share in $5 million from the NSW Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer’s new Physical Sciences Fund.

The fund aims to support potential commercial applications of high impact research across all branches of science.

According to SMaRT Centre Director Veena Sahajwalla, the funding will help advance the commercialisation prospects of the team’s microrecylcing science.

“We’ve developed manufacturing technology and capability so waste can be reformed into value-added materials and products, and kept out of landfill,” she said.

“Environmental benefits aside, this scientifically developed technology will help to drive the emerging circular economy, create jobs and enhance social and economic outcomes, not just for local communities but more broadly for the nation.”

The Microfactorie transforms waste materials including glass, single-use coffee cups, used coffee grounds and textiles into ceramic-based panel products that can be used as tables, countertops and tiles.

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the Physical Sciences Fund translates scientific innovation into tangible, real-world outcomes to benefit communities, the state economy and the environment.

“NSW is renowned for its innovative science sector, which is why we’re not only investing in developing and nurturing ideas, but commercialising them too,” Mr Stokes said.

“Our inaugural winners are turning rubbish into luxe building products, using drones to save the environment, improving the efficiency of mines and the wine industry, and literally pulling water from thin air,” he said.

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said bringing great ideas to market was a challenge facing universities and small companies.

“In addition to giving financial support, the Physical Sciences Fund provides advice and facilitates collaborations to ensure that each project’s scientific rigour is matched with seasoned entrepreneurial know-how,” he said.

Other awarded projects include a light-weight data gathering drone, a magnetic resonance analyser, architectural surfaces manufactured from recycled materials, agricultural technologies and a device that produces drinking water from atmospheric moisture.

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