Science for Technological Innovation Seed Funding grants awarded to Faculty of Science researchers

28 July 2017

An increased number of proposals from new and emerging University of Auckland researchers have been awarded in this year’s National Science Challenge Science for Technological Innovation (SfTI) SEED fund.

In 2016, the University of Auckland received funding for three of the 10 SEED projects, this year 18 projects were funded, seven of which are for researchers from the University of Auckland. Individual funding ranges from $81,000 to $100,000 per year for up to two years.

Faculty of Science researchers are working on two of the winning proposals:

Dr Jonathan Sperry and Paul Hulme from the School of Chemical Sciences

Mechano-chemical conversion of biomass into commodity chemicals

Looking to convert suberic acid, a compound present in cork and castor oil, into phthalates, and to transform cyclopentanone, a compound attainable from agricultural waste and forest residues, into adipic acid. $81,917

Commodity chemicals are essential to modern society and are produced on an enormous scale to meet global demand. The manufacture of commodity chemicals is reliant on fossil fuels and for every kilogram produced, 25-100 kg of waste has to be incinerated. Much of this waste is solvent required during the manufacturing process.

“In this SfTI seed project, we are looking to develop a mechanochemical synthesis of the commodity chemical adipic acid, the key precursor in the production of nylon, from renewable biomass,” Dr Sperry says.

Mechanochemistry is an underused process whereby two or more reactants undergo a chemical reaction in the solid state, negating the need for solvent.

“We are hoping our research helps New Zealand capitalise on a global green economy that is expected to reach US$100 billion by 2020.”

Dr Nicholas Rattenbury from the Department of Physics (working with project lead Dr John Cater from the Faculty of Engineering)

Deployable nano-satellite synthetic aperture radar for EEZ monitoring

Developing underlying science and technology needed to provide NZ with an overhead monitoring capability using space-based assets will be the focus of this project. $198,704

The SfTI Challenge was launched in 2015. A 10-year, multi-million-dollar investment, the Challenge aims to grow New Zealand’s future high-tech economy.

More about 2017 Seed Projects