A leading researcher who is helping make the nation's vast reserves of liquefied natural gas (LNG) an even cleaner fuel is among five winners of the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science announced today in Canberra.
Winthrop Professor Eric May, Chevron Chair in Gas Processing Engineering at The University of Western Australia, was presented with the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at an award ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament House.
The prize was jointly presented by the Federal Minister Industry, Innovation, Science Research and Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.
Professor May was cited for his research on geosequestration in which carbon dioxide is extracted from the raw natural gas and re-injected back into ground to prevent its release into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas pollution. These and other greenhouse gas capture technologies Professor May is working on could greatly reduce the environmental impact of Australia's multi-billion-dollar LNG export industry.
Professor May is also working to ensure the smooth flow of raw gas from well to production facility, new ways to strip unwanted nitrogen from LNG and more efficient separation technologies to reduce the amount of energy required to produce LNG so that Australia can supply its vital export markets.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson congratulated Professor May on his outstanding work and said it demonstrated of value of world-class scientific research to Australia's national economy. Professor May's achievements also highlighted the University's key role in global efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
"Australia faces a challenge to help meet global energy demands by mid-century, when the world's population is predicted to grow by 40% to 9.1 billion people," Professor Johnson said. "Leading scientists of Professor May's calibre are playing a vital role in seeking to ensure the future health and security of the planet.
"It also demonstrates the value of UWA to the Australian community as a world-class research university that is producing scientific knowledge to achieve that result."
Astronomy Professor Ken Freeman - a 1962 UWA applied mathematics graduate now at the Australian National University - was awarded the $300,000 Prime Minister's Prize for introducing the concept of "dark matter" to astronomy. Professor Freeman is also a UWA Adjunct Professor with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research - a partnership between UWA and Curtin University to develop the Square Kilometre Array, the world's biggest radio telescope being built in Australia and South Africa.