This page belongs to: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science 2020
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is recognised for his work on translating fundamental research into two pioneering technologies. These are poised to transform how we address the need for more efficient commercial waste recycling, and boosting the performance of renewable energy storage.
His Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTRTM) converts plastics and renewable wastes into high-value distillable liquids for integration into existing (petro)chemical value-chains. While nature takes millions of years to create fossil feedstocks, Professor Maschmeyer’s reactor takes 20 minutes or less to make sustainable ones, unlocking the circular economy.
His revolutionary zinc-bromide gel batteries promise to make renewable energy cheaper, safer and deployable. This technology is especially suited to hot and remote environments due to its high temperature capability, low fade and tolerance of complete discharge.
Watch a video about his work
Professor Maschmeyer talks about his research and contribution.
[Music plays and image shows the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation medallion, and text beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Professor Thomas Maschmeyer]
[Image changes to show a rear view of Professor Thomas Maschmeyer walking towards the university buildings]
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer: My name is Thomas Maschmeyer.
[Image changes to show a rear view of Thomas walking towards the entrance to the School of Chemistry]
I am Professor of Chemistry at The University of Sydney, and also Executive Chairman of Gelion Technologies.
[Image changes to show Thomas talking to the camera and then images move through to show aerial views looking down on a worksite showing tanks and pipes and then looking up at tall pipe structures]
In my area of research, my expertise is catalysis; that is to make chemical reactions go faster as well as being more selective.
[Images move through to show a bundle of plastic waste, plastic waste moving along a rotating tunnel, plastic waste pulp, black liquid pouring from a tap, and plastic bottles moving along a conveyer]
Through my work I’ve been able to help create a world beating technology that is able to refine plastic waste back into useable materials for the circular economy.
[Images move through of a front end loader shifting piles of plastic, a close view of the piles of plastic, and then plastic pieces floating in the ocean]
This helps to address a really pressing problem, that of plastic pollution in our environment, especially in the oceans.
[Image changes to show Thomas talking to the camera]
The yield of our product is about 30 to 40 per cent higher than of comparable technologies in the market.
[Images move through of a people looking at and discussing a Gelion battery, a row of the Gelion batteries powering a piece of equipment, and then a close view of the Gelion badge]
Another important piece of technology that I’ve been able to create is a energy storage technology based on zinc bromide.
[Images move through of two people talking and looking at a small round disc, and then the image changes to show Thomas talking to the camera again]
Our battery technology is really well suited for Australian conditions. It is able to run at high temperatures in a largely unmanaged system off-grid.
[Images move through of a close view of a blow torch directing a flame towards a small piece of gel held in tweezers, and then the image changes to show Thomas talking to the camera]
This is a solution particularly relevant to off-grid challenges, be they in agriculture, mining, or remote communities.
[Images move through to show tweezers picking up small pieces of gel from a petri dish, researchers talking, Thomas talking to the camera, and tweezers picking up a gel membrane from a petri dish]
Due to the efficient gel design, our battery is inherently safe and has lower operating costs than its competitors.
[Images move through of a researcher placing equipment on a bench, Thomas talking, coloured liquid in a test tube, Thomas talking to researchers, and Thomas looking at a whiteboard with researchers]
These two technologies have led to the creation of two companies, Licella and Gelion, who together have attracted more than $120 million of investment, and have led to more than 70 jobs being created in Australia.
[Images move through of Thomas walking through a laboratory, Thomas talking to the camera, and Thomas walking along the university verandah towards the camera]
What I love about science and research, especially as a chemist, creating a new molecule is exhilarating, but then creating a new process that goes global is breathtaking.
[Image changes to show a close view of Thomas writing on a whiteboard]
It is wonderful to have been recognised by the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.
[Image changes to show Thomas talking to the camera and then the image changes to show Thomas walking along an outdoor paved courtyard area]
I think it really sends a message that innovation in Australia is having an impact on a global level.
[Image changes to show Thomas talking to the camera again]
On a more personal level, it is of course wonderful as an immigrant, to be recognised in this manner by my adopted country.
[Music plays and the image changes to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation medallion, and text appears beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Professor Thomas Maschmeyer]
See his acceptance speech
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer accepted his prize at this year’s live streamed event.
[Music plays and image appears of Professor Thomas Maschmeyer talking to the camera and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation medallion and text appears: Professor Thomas Maschmeyer]
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer: I’m deeply honoured to receive the 2020 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation and thank the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, and the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.
As an immigrant, this recognition is a particular joy. Heartfelt thanks to The University of Sydney where I started out in 1987. You built the foundation. It has been an absolute privilege to work with all the teams that have made this possible. It is really their achievement that is being celebrated tonight. I thank them very much.
I would also like to thank the co-founder and CEO of Licella, Len Humphries, who with Kim Size and Donald Hector, is also Founding Director of Gelion.
You have all helped an academic realise his dreams and more. Many thanks also to my nominator, Andrew Holmes, and all my supporters here and overseas.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my wife, Natalie, and my two boys, Richard and Peter. You have been infinitely tolerant, supportive and loving. None of this would have happened without you.
Let’s use Australian innovation to create a better tomorrow.
[Image changes to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation medallion rotating on the screen and the text appears beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Professor Thomas Maschmeyer]