Sustainable Systems and Energy Research
What is Sustainable Systems and Energy?
This theme adopts a multidisciplinary approach to the development of sustainable solutions and engages in research towards the efficient mitigation of energy loss and optimization of energy production. It draws on research from across the Melbourne School of Engineering and incorporates elements such as sensor network research, spatial information technologies, optimization and control, fluid mechanics and thermal sciences. For example, to address problems of salinity and waterlogging resulting from current irrigation practices in Australia, our researchers are developing and testing methods for extending instantaneous estimates of actual evapotranspiration using remotely sensed data.
Our research approach ensures that sustainable solutions can be managed and evaluated for their impact on the economy, society and the environment. This builds on our strengths in the areas of Environmental Systems and the Spatially Enabled Infrastructure and expands on our expertise in Urban Systems. This is further augmented by the application of Systems Analysis and Engineering Management techniques across these fields.
Much of the work in our research programs is interdisciplinary, with strong collaborations with research centres, government and commercial organisations:
Combustion and Energy Generation
Research is being conducted into conventional and alternative forms of energy generation in combustion driven processes. This work includes studies of the control of internal combustion engines and gas turbines, through to the study of the fluid dynamics and combustion of alternative fuels. For example, current projects examine the potential of bio-oil and ethanol as sustainable future energy sources. Natural gas, LPG and hydrogen combustion are also being studied. In all of these cases, fundamental fluid dynamic, thermodynamic and control problems must be addressed if these energy sources are to be fully exploited.
Turbulent skin-friction drag accounts for a major portion of the total drag in many engineering systems, for example: 50% on commercial aircraft, 90% on underwater vehicles and almost 100% for pipe flow. Consequently, significant energy savings can be made if we can control turbulent boundary layer flows. Research towards this is conducted using advanced optical and laser diagnostics in world-leading wind-tunnel facilities.
Teams investigate water and land, energy and emissions, materials and minerals, and wastes and recycling. This includes projects in water recovery, desalination and recycling, tailings management for sustainable mining, new initiatives in carbon dioxide (CO2) mitigation strategies and modelling of air-sea CO2 gas exchange.
Researchers focus on the built environment with key projects including efficient buildings, smart cities and transport networks. Teams also look at physical infrastructure integrity and protection.
Spatially Enabled Infrastructure
Supports research across a range of fields, with measurement, sensors, positioning, geographic information systems (GIS), spatial analysis, visualisation, spatial cognition, spatial data infrastructure (SDI) and land administration tools. This is illustrated by current research looking at forest management options. Choices made in the field affect people’s livelihood and other elements of sustainability. This study is using GIS and visualisation technologies, together with social science research, to determine the acceptability of forest management systems when the social, economic and ecological costs and benefits are presented on a landscape level. The study will allow us to better understand the potential of interactive visualisation technology for understanding societal judgements of land management options.
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