Murdoch student finalist for Premier’s Science Awards

July 28, 2014

Murdoch PhD student, Tobias Prosin, is a finalist in the 2014 Premier’s Science Awards.

Tobias is a concentrated solar thermal (CST) engineer who is pioneering the introduction of this new field of renewable energy technology in Western Australia.

CST is an up-and-coming renewable energy technology which could be deployed on a large scale.

“CST is fundamentally different from solar photovoltaic rooftop panels as it does not directly generate electricity, rather CST operates using the sun’s heat energy by collecting and concentrating sunlight with mirrors,” Tobias said.

“This heat energy can then be utilised to generate electricity in the same way that heat energy is released from burning fossil fuels, or nuclear reactions, using the same conventional power plant.”

The research Tobias is introducing in Australia concerns a new type of CST solar capturing receiver technology, the solid particle receiver (SPR).

“The SPR is to be located at the top of a solar tower to absorb concentrated solar radiation reflected from a heliostat mirror field,” he said.

“This technology then converts sunlight to heat at temperatures up to 1000°C. The small particles in the receiver enable 24-7 renewable energy generation as they can be transported to insulated containers, where they can be stored for the heat to be used on demand.

“This thermal energy storage enables inexpensive, reliable, constant solar energy generation at costs lower than fossil fuels.”

Tobias is the first person to conduct research on SPR technology in Australia.

Despite been offered industry positions in Europe and America, Tobias decided to do his PhD in Perth, his home town, so that he could apply his acquired technical knowledge and skills for the betterment of his homeland.

“I approached Murdoch University’s academic chair of energy studies, Dr Trevor Pryor, with the intent to undertake the first ever WA research project in the CST field,” Tobias said.

“Dr Pryor showed foresight and interest in development of this new brand of renewable energy research.”

Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett said he was impressed by the calibre of the year’s finalists and the outstanding scientific research and engagement efforts taking place in the State.

Tobias is one of three finalists in the ExxonMobile Student Scientist of the Year category of the Premier’s Science Awards.  The winner will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, August 21, during National Science Week.

Tobias’ PhD research is being supervised by Dr Trevor Pryor and Dr Chris Creagh from the School of Engineering and Information Technology.

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