Driving the power revolution
No-one was more surprised than Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and Dr Elham Doroodchi when strangers approached and congratulated them for their groundbreaking research, which is set to revolutionise the electricity industry.
As chemical engineers, the pair are not accustomed to their work attracting the public's attention, let alone winning popularity votes on television.
But that is what happened after their April 2010 appearance on ABC TV's The New Inventors, during which they showcased GRANEX, a technology platform that delivers higher thermal efficiencies than conventional power plants and increases the amount of electricity that can be generated from low-grade heat sources.
The attention has not distracted the researchers from their main goal – a larger GRANEX unit.
After an intensive period of successful tests on the GRANEX 100 kilowatt pilot plant, which was officially opened on campus in November 2009, a much larger unit is on the horizon.
Following four years of research jointly funded by Sydney-based geothermal company Granite Power Pty Ltd and an Australian Government AusIndustry grant, Moghtaderi says his team at the University's Priority Research Centre for Energy are now designing a commercial unit.
"We are in discussions through Granite Power with about 10 potential customers and we're trying to find a couple of suitable sites where we can construct the first commercial unit," says Moghtaderi.
"We're jumping from a 100 kilowatt unit to between one and five megawatts.
"The idea is to have a commercial unit operating in a real industrial setting and to demonstrate it to potential customers."
Demand for GRANEX, essentially an engine that converts heat into electrical power, is expected to be international and could generate billions of dollars according to studies by Granite Power. Not bad for a $2.5 million project that began with "back-of-envelope" brainstorming after an approach by Granite Power in 2006.
Find out more about the Priority Research Centre for Energy