State’s top science prize for Deakin trail-blazer

Feature Story

Professor Maria Forsyth has received a prestigious Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation at this year’s veski Awards.

Australian Laureate Fellow and Alfred Deakin Professor Maria Forsyth has been awarded the 2017 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation – Physical Sciences for her pioneering work in developing advanced electrolyte materials for electrochemical devices.

Fellow Deakin University researcher at the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) Dr Ludovic Dumee was awarded a Victoria Fellowship.

The $50,000 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in Physical Sciences celebrates leadership, determination and creativity and is awarded to outstanding science leaders.

Professor Forsyth said winning the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in the 20th year of the prize is an “amazing honour”.

“I’m very proud of my team and grateful for the wonderful group of scientists I collaborate with, both locally and internationally.  It’s through research collaboration and teamwork that we make real scientific and technological breakthroughs,” she said.

Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO congratulated Professor Forsyth, and said Deakin was extremely proud of her “dedication and exemplary contribution” to the discovery, fundamental understanding and application of ionic materials, long before it was recognised as a unique scientific field.

“Nearly a decade before the first International Congress on Ionic Liquids, Maria published and patented research on room temperature molten salts, and in the late 1990s she discovered, in collaboration with Professor Doug MacFarlane, the ion conductive properties of organic ionic plastic crystals,” she said.

“Maria’s work on room temperature molten salts really laid the ground for ionic liquids to become the established field within the scientific community that it is today. Organic ionic plastic crystals are the cousin of ionic liquids, but are an entirely new class of material. They continue at the cutting edge of research for a variety of applications and have recently displayed excellent performance as an electrolyte material for lithium metal and sodium metal batteries, pioneering work towards the next generation of safer and longer-lasting batteries.

“The awarding of this Prize to Maria reflects her many spectacular achievements as a research leader and mentor of influence and vision, as an outstanding role model for women in science and as an innovative researcher contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable world. Bravo!”
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Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO

Professor Forsyth, an Australian Academy of Science Fellow, is Associate Director of IFM and Chair of Electromaterials and Corrosion Science at Deakin. She is also Associate Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and Chair of the ACES Research Training Group.

Over 25 years, Professor Forsyth has worked on developing a deeper understanding of the structure and dynamics of ionic materials and demonstrated their use in energy devices such as light metal batteries, fuel cells and photo-electrochemical solar cells.

A key area of interest in Professor Forsyth’s research is selective transport in materials for energy storage applications. Her work has focused on understanding the phenomenon of charge transport at metal/electrolyte interfaces and within novel electrolyte materials such as novel ionic liquids, polymer electrolytes and plastic crystals.

Professor Forsyth was instrumental in the establishment last year of the Deakin/CSIRO Battery Technology Research and Innovation Hub (BatTRI-Hub), of which she is Director. BatTRI-Hub will develop the next generation of “beyond lithium-ion” battery technologies, improve techniques to achieve safer, lighter and more durable batteries and leverage opportunities for industries across the full energy value chain.

In 2014, along with a small group of international colleagues, Professor Forsyth established the annual International Sodium Battery Conference and hosted the third Conference in Geelong in 2016.

Her work has led to many other awards including the Corrosion Medal (2013), Eureka Prize Finalist (2013), and election to the Australian Academy of Science (2015). In 2016 she was awarded the Galileo Galilei Award at the International Symposium on Polymer Electrolytes and in 2017 was inducted as a Fellow of the International Society of Electrochemistry (ISE).

 

Professor Maria Forsyth

Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Innovation Frank Maguire and Professor Maria Forsyth

 

Victoria Fellowship for IFM scientist

Alfred Deakin Research Fellow at IFM Dr Ludo Dumée was awarded a coveted Victoria Fellowship at the veski Awards.

Only 12 Fellowships are awarded each year in recognition of the important role of innovation to Victoria’s economic future and the need for Victorians to be skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Each Fellow receives a travel grant of $18,000 to undertake a short-term overseas study mission to assist in developing a commercial idea or undertake specialist training or career development not available in Australia.

Dr Dumée, who heads up IFM’s Materials Separation Group, as well as a research stream within the TERI Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre (TDNBC) in India, specialises in membrane separation and adsorption technologies to help prevent water pollution from waste effluents generated from the textile, food and metallurgy industries.

He was last year’s winner of Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor’s “Best Ideas” Award, named Best PhD Student at Victoria University in 2012 and received the Vice-Chancellor Citation at Victoria University for outstanding contribution to science as a post graduate student. Dr Dumée was also recognised as the 2014 Best Early Career Researcher at the Geelong Manufacturing Network Awards.

He said the Victoria Fellowship would help him establish a stronger network of collaborators across France and Europe and was an outstanding opportunity to promote Australian research in the field.

 

Peter Tole, Dr Ludovic Dumee and Frank Maguire

From left: Peter Tole, President, Australian French Association for Science and Technology, Victoria Fellow, Dr Ludovic Dumée, and Frank Maguire, Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Innovation

 

As part of his Fellowship, Dr Dumée will spend three months in France at Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Chimie de Montpellier (ENSCM) further developing his skills in 2D nanomaterials design and control by Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), an emerging technique to generate ultra-thin separation materials.

“The team led by Professor Philippe Miele and Dr Mikhael Bechelany at the CNRS/ENSCM and the European Membrane Institute is one of the world leaders in membrane materials design and separation processes,” Dr Dumée said.

“The opportunity to work and learn with them will be an outstanding way to demonstrate new concepts in the design of sub-nanometre porous 2D materials, with great potential for high permeation and selective materials, yielding more efficient and cost effective separation processes.”

In addition to his Victoria Fellowship, Dr Dumee also received the $3,500 Australian French Association for Science and Technology (AFAS) Associate Award.

 

 

Published by Deakin Research on 26 October 2017