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Understanding the potential of renewable clean energy devices

Nominated for this year’s prestigious Eureka Prize, People’s Choice Award, Dr Vanessa Peterson (pictured alongside)  leads the charge on ANSTO’s (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) Neutrons for the Hydrogen Economy Project, known as the Energy Project – a research undertaking that connects ANSTO’s expertise with collaborators from across the world to progress alternative and renewable energy technologies.

Through the Energy Project, Dr Peterson directs original research into the discovery and development of materials that will improve the performance of renewable clean energy devices.

By applying her expertise in neutron scattering in combination with her knowledge of the materials themselves, she is able to gain an understanding of the atomic and molecular scale functionality of these materials, a crucial step in their improvement.

"Creating a global energy system that is both environmentally and economically viable is unquestionably one of the largest challenges facing the scientific and engineering communities.

The Neutrons for the Hydrogen Economy Project focuses on progressing new energy technologies through the coupling of neutron-scattering tools and experts at ANSTO’s Bragg Institute with external collaborators studying alternative energy systems and materials," Dr Peterson said.

In broad terms the research aims to develop and improve new and existing materials to provide energy for transport, which in Australia is responsible for significant CO2 emissions and 40 per cent of energy consumption.

Neutron-scattering techniques of analysis are extremely well suited for the study of new-energy systems, particularly for the study of hydrogen and battery materials.

Dr Peterson’s research studies the critical systems that will reduce Australia’s carbon emissions, through the development of lightweight batteries for transportation applications and hydrogen-based energy storage for extended range capabilities in hybrid fuel-cell electric vehicles. Using hydrogen to produce electricity results in water as the only by-product.

As a young scientist, Dr Peterson has achieved results and recognition well beyond her years, including a prolific record of publications and the responsibility of leading the international Energy Project. Under her leadership the team has grown to international significance and has three postdoctoral researchers.

Dr Peterson is nominated for the prestigious Eureka prize for Outstanding Young Researcher and is one of six finalists in the Eureka Prize People’s Choice Awards. Vote for Dr Vanessa Peterson.

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