Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla has been awarded the Clunies Ross Innovation Award for her globally recognised waste transformation technologies.

Prof. Sahajwalla is an internationally renowned materials scientist, engineer, and innovator who has revolutionised recycling science via the development of next-generation ‘green materials’ derived from waste.

Prof. Sahajwalla established a method called Green Steel Polymer Injection Technology (PIT), by which end-of-life rubber tyres rich in carbon and hydrogen essential for steel making are used to partially substitute coke and coal in electric arc furnaces (EAF). Her latest breakthrough is the development of various MICROfactorie Technologies for transforming problematic waste materials, such as glass, textiles and plastics into value-added products such as high-grade filaments for 3D printing and Green Ceramics for the built environment.

Through her rigorous research and extensive community and industry engagement, she is shifting the mindset of the nation to see unwanted materials not as waste, but as a valuable resource. As the Founder and Director of UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT@UNSW), she leads visionary research programs that foster innovation and promote collaboration with industry, research partners, non-government organisations and governments, on the development of innovative environmental solutions for the world’s biggest waste challenges.

“It’s an incredible honour to be awarded the 2022 Clunies Ross Innovation Award that recognises the discovery, development and adoption of technology that has significantly improved societal or industry capabilities,” Prof. Sahajwalla said.

The need for sustainable manufacturing

“What drives me and the team at the UNSW SMaRT Centre is developing solutions for real-world sustainability challenges that help deliver better social, environmental, and economic outcomes.

“Climate change narratives often overlook the need for more sustainable manufacturing and waste management practices. Using ‘renewable’ waste resources to help build the hardware and infrastructure required for global electrification and decarbonisation also helps take the pressure of having to mine finite natural resources. Manufacturing that aligns with innovative waste management, recycling and materials circularity is central to delivering a more sustainable future.”

The Clunies Ross Awards are organised by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) and promote the development of science and technology, honouring remarkable innovators in the fields of applied science, technology, and engineering.

ATSE President Hugh Bradlow said the award recipients demonstrated the cutting-edge creativity of Australian innovators.

“Nominated by their peers, ATSE Award winners are tech and innovation game-changers at all career levels and show the breadth of Australian talent in the fields of engineering, technology and applied science,” Professor Bradlow said.

“From innovating in the skies, where the best training is given to the next generation of our pilots, and drone flight monitoring is streamlined; down under the sea, where we can trace the origins of our food to ensure sustainability and best practice approaches to fishing, these award winners demonstrate the potential of brilliant Australian R&D.

Clunies Ross achievements for UNSW

“This is the fourth time a UNSW researcher or team has won a Clunies Ross award and the first award recognising achievements outside of the solar energy field. Professor Martin Green won an award in 1994, the late Professor Stuart Wenham in 2008 and Professor Thorsten Trupke and Adjunct Associate Professor Robert Bardos in 2019.”

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Sven Rogge congratulated Prof. Sahajwalla on receiving the prestigious Clunies Ross Innovation Award.

“Professor Sahajwalla, an internationally renowned materials scientist, engineer and trailblazer in the field of recycling has invented a patented Polymer Injection Technology known as Green Steel where waste rubber can be used instead of coal, for a better and more environmentally sustainable steel-making process,” Prof. Rogge said. “I congratulate her on being recognised for this wonderful and innovative accomplishment.”