Chemist wins PM’s prize for battery, recycling innovations


The founder of two companies, one in plastics recycling and the other in battery storage, has won the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.

University of Sydney chemistry Professor Thomas Maschmeyer earned the award for his “dual work in developing commercially viable processes to recycle mixed plastics and developing a new low-cost battery technology to store renewable energy.”

The two companies have attracted combined investment of over $120 million and created over 70 local jobs.

Licella uses supercritical steam and catalysts to turn plastics into oil and other useful chemicals. Gelion Technologies uses zinc bromine gels, with batteries, “able to run at high temperatures in a largely unmanaged system – a solution particularly relevant to off-grid challenges in Australian agriculture, mining and remote communities,” said Maschmeyer.

“As a chemist, creating a new molecule is exhilarating but creating a new process that goes global, is breathtaking.”

The award was part of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science celebrations, held on Wednesday. 

The PM’s Prize for Science was awarded to the Australian team of Emeritus Professor David Blair, Professor David McClelland, Professor Susan Scott and Professor Peter Veitch, for their contribution to the international effort that detected gravitational waves in 2015.

Picture: University of Sydney

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