Monica Hibberd and Hamish McDougall, both ANSTO FutureNow Scholarship recipients, are completing their masters at UNSW, Sydney. We caught up with them about their project researching greener energy and battery technology.
Can you share your elevator pitch with us?
Our industry partner, Cobalt Blue (COB), has developed a new novel process for treating cobalt-pyrite ore using thermal decomposition to recover cobalt and sulfur for end goal use in long-life batteries. We are closely examining the mechanisms and parameters of this thermal decomposition process. Our investigations will provide essential information that may be applied on an industrial scale to assist in the creation of refined and efficient processing methods.
How do you see your project helping to solve real-world problems?
Australia has one of the largest reserves of cobalt-pyrite ore and by refining these pyrite treatment processes we will be directly contributing to the production of cobalt and sulfur using technologies that are much more energy efficient and less environmentally pollutant than traditional methods seen globally. Cobalt Blue is an exploration and project development company with a strong focus on green energy technologies, and it is exciting to be contributing in this way!
Why is innovation important to you?
As a collective, people need innovation to keep moving forward. While we have come from very different backgrounds to work collaboratively on this project, we are both driven and strongly motivated to be scientifically creative. We understand the need for change, revolution and transformation in this world and are passionate about improving our world in any little ways that we can.
What are you hoping to achieve at ANSTO?
We hope to make some super interesting findings on how our pyrite ore samples transform during heat treatment with our upcoming in-situ neutron diffraction experiments using the Wombat detector at ACNS. This is really novel work that will provide results essential for our industry partners and make for some very exciting science!
What aspect of the Graduate Institute has helped you the most?
With everything happening in the world right now with COVID-19, our in-person interaction has been limited. That being said, the Graduate Institute has been instrumental in welcoming us to very smart and interesting people, whose work ethic and background has kept us motivated despite how big everything seems at the moment.
What’s next on the agenda for your project?
The two things we are most excited for are the in-situ experiment and some of our innovative furnace work. We have taken steps to develop a customised rotary furnace system to improve the efficiency of our pyrite sample transformation. Work like this is limited in the scientific literature, so working on the forefront of innovation is, for lack of a better term, awesome!