In summary

  • Two Swinburne researchers have received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2023 
  • Dr Anais Möller will use machine learning algorithms to attempt to discover truths of the Universe behind exploding stars and extreme astronomical events 
  • Dr Peng Li aims to develop a novel and innovative CO2 electrolysis technology that will transform the future of energy in Australia 

The Australian Government has handed out $85 million for 200 projects, supporting early career researchers in international teams to build the skills and science for the next generation.

Two talented Swinburne researchers, Dr Anais Möller and Dr Peng Li, have been awarded the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award 2023 (DECRA), each receiving over $400,000 for their projects. 

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Professor Karen Hapgood congratulates Dr Möller and Dr Li on the achievement.

“Early career researchers are our next generation scientists, and we’re seeing them make an impact now. Swinburne’s two DECRA recipients have proved their vision for taking on ambitious, international projects. I’m thrilled to see them awarded this funding to pursue important research in space and energy,” she says.

Shedding light on the Universe

Exploding stars and merging neutron stars have short lives. They appear suddenly and then fade over hours and weeks until they are no longer detectable, but they create all known chemical elements, stars and galaxies. Understanding them could tell us so much about what the Universe is made of and its physics. 

Dr Anais Möller’s project aims to identify the most exciting exploding stars and extreme events from the millions detected each night at the world’s largest optical telescope. She’ll do it using machine learning algorithms to accelerate automatic discovery in massive data sets from the mega-facility Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

She hopes this work will drive generational breakthrough.

“It is incredibly exciting to lead a project to understand what the Universe is made of and the conditions in which exploding stars occur using data from the world’s largest optical telescope. It is quite challenging as well, since we need to find these exploding and merging stars before they fade, so we need to comb very quickly through millions of other detections every night.

“This will be an amazing decade for transient science and I am eager to be at the forefront of it!”

Transforming energy in Australia

The Australian Government has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Over 38 per cent of Australia’s CO2 emissions originate from industry sectors, such as coal power plants, natural gas, iron and steel, cement and fertiliser production.

A process called ‘carbon dioxide (CO2) electrolysis’ could be an answer to decarbonising Australian industries, as well as bringing in new revenue from CO2-derived products. For example, syngas (a mixture of CO and H2) is a building block in the chemical manufacturing and synthesis fuel industries. The global syngas market size is projected to increase from $43.6 billion USD in 2019 to $66.5 billion USD by 2027.

CO2 electrolysis, combined with Australian renewable electricity, will not only cut down carbon emissions but also allow us to store renewable electricity into useful fuels.

However, there are fundamental science and technological challenges that must be overcome to make it work. It’s also energy-intensive and hugely costly. Dr Peng Li’s ambitious project aims to develop a novel and innovative CO2 electrolysis technology that will transform the future of energy in Australia.

“I always push myself to pay attention to those challenging, but meaningful, scientific problems which are critical to the research community and society,” says Dr Li.

“In Australia, we have rich resources to create and utilise cheap renewable electricity. I wish to contribute my best efforts to scaling up this technology and benefiting the Australian community and beyond.”

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