01 October 2012

Chancellor opens multi-disciplinary research centre

Chancellor Dr Ziggy Switkowski has officially opened RMIT University's Centre for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry (CAMIC).

The Centre is headed by Professor Suresh Bhargava, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor International in the College of Science, Engineering and Health.

Distinguished visitors were present with a long history of collaboration with the scientists who are forming the centre.

The include representatives from CSIRO, Rio Tinto, Agilent, Monash University and ANU, as well collaborators from within the RMIT research community.

A nuclear physicist, Dr Switkowski enthusiastically participated in a tour of the Centre, which features extensive materials and chemical characterisations suites.

They include single crystal X-ray crystallography, various X-ray diffraction and FTIR instruments and a host of other facilities, including specialist electrochemical instrumentation.

Dr Switkowski said the Centre was a big step forward for the University, the country and industry in light of the significant mining opportunities and challenges before us.

"Professor Bhargava's team has a track record of technical breakthroughs and commercial creativity … it is my great pleasure to be part of the inauguration of the Centre," Dr Switkowski said.

Professor Bhargava said the Centre's focus was establishing a multidisciplinary platform capable of solving industrial problems by connecting researchers from science, engineering and health, and to create a pool of global graduates.

"Biologists, chemists, physicists and software and electrical engineers form a capability pool which can be tapped to provide complete solutions to industrial problems.

"Our current flagship program is an on-line sensor for elemental mercury," Professor Bhargava, recipient of the University's 2011 Ralph McIntosh Medal, said.

The US EPA estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of mercury are released into the atmosphere annually from man-made sources.

In the effort to reduce mercury contamination in the environment and the associated health risks, accurately measuring the toxin has become a priority for mercury-emitting industries like coal-burning power generators and alumina refineries.

"Working with industry leaders such as Alcoa World Alumina and BHP Billiton, we are targeting problems of industrial relevance and environmental significance," Professor Bhargava said.

"The opportunities we seek are usually driven by legislation and have the spin-off potential for worldwide market capitalisation.

"Our point of difference is that we involve end-users from the beginning of the project."

CAMIC has an Advisory Board consisting of Professor Alan Bond, (Monash, RMIT), Dr Karl Föger (Ceramic Fuel Cells), Dr Stephen Grocott (Rio Tinto) and Dr Ian Harrison (Alcoa Australia).

Following a plaque unveiling, guests assembled at Storey Hall for the inaugural address by Professor Sandy Blake, University of Nottingham, and recently appointed Adjunct Professor at CAMIC, titled "The Big Squeeze: High Pressure Structural Studies of Small Molecules".

Attendees at CAMIC opening

Guests at the launch of CAMIC.

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