UNSW professor awarded 2021 Chemeca Medal

Rose Amal has been recognised by the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Chemical Engineers for her research into catalysts for efficient energy conversion.
Yolande Hutchinson | UNSW Newsroom
Professor Amal’s current research focuses on using the sun’s energy as a clean fuel source. Image: UNSW

Scientia Professor Amal from UNSW Engineering has been awarded the 2021 Chemeca Medal by the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Chemical Engineers (ANZFChE), the most prestigious award in the chemical engineering profession in Australia and New Zealand.

The award is in recognition of her world-leading research in the fields of fine particle technology, photocatalysis and functional nanomaterials, which has profound implications for solar and chemical energy conversion applications such as treating water, purifying air, and generating renewable hydrogen economically and sustainably.

“When I came to Australia as an international student 38 years ago to pursue my Chemical Engineering degree at UNSW, I never dreamt that one day I would be awarded such a prestigious medal. I feel extremely honoured to be selected as the 2021 Chemeca medallist,” Prof. Amal said.

“Since the beginning of my academic career, I have been passionate about research in sustainability. We need to make sure that the future generations have a planet they can live in comfortably.

“In the nineties my research focused on designing particle and catalyst systems to treat chemical pollutants so that they would not end up in our environment. More recent research focuses on harnessing solar energy to produce chemicals and fuels, such as hydrogen. Australia has abundant sunlight, and we should do more in harnessing our solar power.”

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research & Enterprise, Professor Nicholas Fisk congratulated Prof. Amal on receiving the Chemeca Medal.

“Rose is at the forefront of fundamental particle and catalysis R&D in Australia in areas which directly impact people's lives. She has made significant contributions to this research over the past 15 years.

“Her current research on using the sun’s energy as a clean fuel source is an exemplar of future sustainability.”

UNSW Dean of Engineering, Professor Stephen Foster, endorsed Prof. Fisk’s tribute.

“This award is a wonderful recognition of the work and impact of Professor Amal as a true leader in her field. We are immensely proud of her research which is translating into real-world applications to benefit the community,” Prof. Foster said.

Prof. Amal’s research spans fundamental chemistry, applied chemical engineering, material science and specialised photochemistry fields. She designs nanomaterials for solar and chemical energy conversion applications, including photocatalysis for water and air purification and water splitting, and engineering systems for solar processes that use the sun’s energy to generate clean fuel.

Prof. Amal leads a team at the University investigating the potential to grow a new industry that will use cheap excess renewable energy to make fuel, chemicals and feedstocks to power a range of NSW infrastructure. This research group will work with the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist & Engineer.

She is also part of a consortium, led by UNSW, which will work with partners in Germany to test the feasibility of a renewable energy-based hydrogen supply chain between the two countries.

Prof. Amal was named the 2019 NSW Scientist of the Year, listed in Australia's Top 100 Most Influential Engineers (2012-2015), and has received the ExxonMobil Award (2012), the Judy Raper Women in Engineering Leadership Award (2012) and the NSW Science and Engineering Award – Emerging Research (2011). She is a Fellow of Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Fellow of Australian Academy of Science, Fellow of Royal Society of NSW, Fellow of IChemE, and Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia.

ANZFChE was formed in 1997 and has joint membership from the Engineers Australia Chemical College Board, the Institution of Chemical Engineers in Australia, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Industrial Division, the Society of Chemical Engineers, New Zealand and the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand.

The Chemeca Medal is awarded to a prominent Australian or New Zealand Chemical Engineer who has made an outstanding contribution, through achievement or service, to the practice of Chemical Engineering.