Visiting Belgium researcher at Swinburne to find ways of extracting precious metals from our waste

Monday 17 March 2014

A low angle photograph of Swinburne University of Technology signage on the Advanced Technologies Centre building in Hawthorn.

Making the decision to travel to Australia as part of her PhD research was not difficult for Evelien De Wilde as she had already been here two years earlier.

Ms De Wilde has been undertaking research at Swinburne University of Technology, where she is working in the Robert Simpson High Temperature Laboratory under the supervision of Dr Akbar Rhamdhani and Professor Geoff Brooks.

“It has been a good experience to work in another lab, to learn their techniques and have a different view of the topic,” Ms De Wilde said.

“I came here two years ago and talked to those involved in this area, so I knew there were advantages in doing research here.”

The 25-year-old visiting academic from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ghent University, Belgium, already has a Master of Science (Chemistry), and is halfway through a PhD.

Ms De Wilde is working on her PhD in cooperation with Umicore, a global materials technology and recycling company. Her PhD is looking at the recycling of precious metals, such as silver, from scrap including old mobile phones and computers.

Her two-month visit to Swinburne is almost over, but Ms De Wilde said she had been working non-stop since arriving in Melbourne.

“I have been working in the laboratory full time since I got here,” Ms De Wilde said.

“I had to do a lot of sample preparations in Belgium before I came to Australia.”

Ms De Wilde said her research and study experience in Australia has been valuable to her PhD.

“Each university has its own way of doing things, its own techniques and methods,” Ms De Wilde said.

“You can only get better through collaboration with other researchers and learning from each other.

 “I have learnt a lot from the other researchers and supervisors at Swinburne over the past two months.”

Ms De Wilde also participated in the High Temperature Processing Symposium, held at Swinburne in February, where she was awarded the best PhD student presentation for her research paper, Study of mechanically entrained copper droplet losses in slags due to their interaction with spinel solids.