School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

July 2018

Dean - Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

On 19 July, School of Engineering and Information Technology will hold its 2018 Award Ceremony. Family, friends, donors and the broader community will be joining in to celebrate the hard work and achievement of students and staff in the School. I look forward to sharing this evening of recognition with students, staff and invited guests.

I would like to extend my congratulations to Dr Alex Wang on his promotion to Senior Lecturer and Dr Sebastian Zander on completing probation and securing continuing tenure. Well done to you both.

Congratulations also to Dr Maryam Barmi for her successful application to The Royal Society ICYRAM 2018 Emerging Researchers Mobility Grant, and to Drs Martin Anda and Drew Parsons for receiving funding from the New Colombo Plan. Dr Barmi will receive a grant to support her attendance to the International Conference for Young Researchers on Advanced Materials (ICYRAM) 2018 in Adelaide. Dr Anda and his students will visit India and Indonesia to study organic waste management and integrated water treatment and renewable energy systems, whereas Dr Parsons and his students will participated in Future Chemist International Summer Camp in Hefei, China.

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There is much more in this month’s Newsletter, please continue reading to see what our staff and students have been up to this month.

Remember, whether you are a student, an academic, administrative or technical staff member, if you have a story to share please send it to the SEIT email - SEIT@murdoch.edu.au. Please mention the article title in the subject line of the email.

If you are a student or staff reading this Newsletter, please let your friends and family know about Scholarships for Honours, Postgraduate degrees, details are included in the Newsletter.

Best wishes,

Bodzio Dlugogorski

CONTENT

Students Trial PVRO Kit in Preparation for NCP Trip
Dr Drew Parsons Travels with Students to China
Young Entrepreneur Prgram (Yep) - Enrol Now for August 2018
Are you Eligible for a 'Murdoch First Scholarship'?
Scholarship for Scientific Excellence
Help Lead the Way to Clean Energy Storage
Apply for Honours and Postgraduate Courses
Engineering Information Evening
Technical Resources Manager Update
Lithium 2018 Conference at Murdoch University 27th - 28th June
Dr Drew Parsons Presents in Norway
IT Update
Vale Dr James Avraamides
Book Launch - Robustness Theory and Application by Dr Brenton Clarke
Waste to Wealth Initiative – Dr Martin Anda Bali, Lombok
The Pilbara Pilgrimage – SEIT Staff Visit High Schools in the Pilbara
AMSI-SSAI Public Lecture – Professor Susan Murphy
International Collaborative Degree Program
Outlook for Mining and Processing of Lithium in Australia

OUR STUDENTS

STUDENTS TRIAL PVRO KIT IN PREPARATION FOR NCP TRIP

Murdoch University engineering students recently completed their pre-departure workshop for their imminent NCP (New Colombo Plan) trip to Indonesia in July, led by Academic Chair of Environmental Engineering Dr Martin Anda.

On 21st June, nine students and Martin Anda attended a Workshop with Moerk Water Solutions to receive, test and validate the portable solar-powered PVRO (Photovoltaic Reverse Osmosis) kit acquired with a recent SEIT Equipment Grant. Martin Brezger, director of Moerk Water explained “We have built this kit from a variety of quality components to be durable, reliable and portable while running completely on solar power to produce drinking water from seawater.” Martin Anda added ‘We will take the students to Makassar, Sulawesi on NCP where will meet up with local university and industry partners already established to provide onsite training and introduce the system to local villages. This should be a valuable experience to the students, most travelling to Indonesia for the first time.”

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Mr Martin Brezger of Moerk Water Solutions, (second from the right), explained to students how the PVRO system operates

Martin Brezger explained the work of Moerk Water Solutions in developing countries and with his engineering assistant Daniel Wagler, demonstrated the system components to the students. Martin Anda discussed how the NCP trip will bring the students to several destinations in Indonesia, where there is impaired water supply on remote islands.

The PVRO kit contains a prefilter and pumping system, the reverse osmosis module and a small battery with foldable solar PV cells. The whole assembly is split in two parts and packaged into two custom built metal suitcases. After this introduction in the Moerk O’Connor workshop, where the units are assembled, the students went with the staff to South Beach in Fremantle.

The team transported the metal boxes containing the PVRO kit to the South Beach groyne where they produced desalinated water for drinking from the ocean. The students demonstrated the workings of several measuring instruments, like the refractometer and the conductivity meter. After the testing was done and all the data was recorded, the group drank their own desalinated water. After packing away the equipment, the group went to a local restaurant and discussed the findings and the upcoming NCP Trip. The students subsequently departed for Indonesia on 27th June, with the equipment following direct to Makassar where various projects would be undertaken until 15th July. 

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Student’s set-up the PVRO kit to desalinate sea water

DR DREW PARSONS TRAVELS WITH STUDENTS TO CHINA

Dr Parsons is currently in Hefei, China, with students on a New Colombo Plan project funded by the Australian government. Murdoch chemistry students Lorraine Rosson, Jamie Fletcher and Jayden Ramsey together with students from the University of Newcastle, Australian National University, UWA and other universities from around Australia, are participating in the Future Chemist/Physicist International Summer Camp at the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei. The camp involves lectures in chemistry and biology or physics, and a week conducting research in a host professor's laboratory. Lorraine and Jamie have been synthesising cis-platinum derivatives related to cancer treatment and Jayden has been testing synthesis conditions of organic solar cells. Cultural activities in Chinese language, music, dancing and tai-chi have also been a highlight of the Summer Camp.

YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR PROGRAM (YEP) - ENROL NOW FOR AUGUST 2018

Registration for Perth: https://goo.gl/gC5bh7

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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE FOR A 'MURDOCH FIRST SCHOLARSHIP'?

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START YOUR JOURNEY TO SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE

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HELP LEAD THE WAY TO CLEAN ENERGY STORAGE

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APPLY FOR HONOURS AND POSTGRADUATE COURSES

If you or someone you know is interested in continuing postgraduate study, see the opportunities available below:

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To find out more go to http://Murdoch.edu.au/Honours-courses

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To find out more go to http://postgraduate.murdoch.edu.au/

FOR EVERYONE

ENGINEERING INFORMATION EVENING

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The recent Engineering Information Evening received some wonderful feedback from prospective students and their parents. The information session was held 20th June and out of 135 registrations, 80 people attended the event, which is the highest numbers of registrations and attendance for the annual School event since 2016, when only 30 people attended.

Thank you to Leandra Corich for co-ordinating the speakers for the event and Professor Bruce Gardiner for presenting all of the Engineering majors and Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake, Dr GM Shafiullah and Associate Professor Phil Schneider who facilitated tours of the Pilot Plant and spoke with guests at the Expo after the presentation.

Murdoch Future Student’s team reported some wonderful feed-back from attendees, below are some of the responses from the survey guests were asked to complete.

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Other information events coming up Parent Information evening: Supporting your girls' development in STEM, Wednesday 5th September.

TECHNICAL RESOURCES MANAGER UPDATE

Space News

The Network and Gaming Labs and Student training and Research lounge have been handed over, with Louis Grynfeltt, IT Technical Officer, well under way with machine installation amongst other things to get the space ready for Open Day and Semester 2. The School takes this opportunity to thank Staff in PDCSO (Ngaio Kerr, Venesa Viskovich, Neil Fredericks, Greg Bickerdike and Jacqui Ing to name a few) Jeremy Swan, Project Manager, and the AV team (Jarren Beveridge, Jack Cieslawski and Cory Fiorentino) for their contributions to successfully delivering this project.

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A panoramic view of the Gaming (Augmented Reality) Lab

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A panoramic view of the Networking Lab. Louis has commenced machine install as can be seen by the mountain of boxes.

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Data centre and student room and kitchen

Safety

Currently the School has one incident that still requires investigation. This month I am including some reports on School incident status for the past year along with a similar table for the University so that staff can see how we compare across the campus. Please continue to report any incidents or hazards you spot so that we continue to make our workplace safe.

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Incident occurring across Murdoch University.

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Technical Staff

Caitlin Sweeney will continue her secondment in outreach till the end of the year with Sanda Cricelli continuing at a fractional appointment as relief. We will also have a couple of students taking on casual roles to assist in covering for Caitlin while she is away.

Article provided by Andrew Foreman, Technical Resources Manager

LITHIUM 2018 CONFERENCE AT MURDOCH UNIVERSITY 27th – 28th JUNE

Late last month, Murdoch University hosted the 2018 International Lithium Conference covering the entire life-cycle of lithium, co-sponsored by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM). This year AusIMM is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The conference focussed on Investment, Risk and Economics, Lithium Applications (present and future), Recycling and Safety, Environmental, Exploration and Geology, Mineralogy, Hard Rocks vs Brines vs Other, Metallurgy and Processing. Murdoch University has been engaged in mineral/battery research since late 1970s based on the pioneering work of Late Jim Parker, inaugural Professor of Chemistry at Murdoch University. Subsequent teaching and research activities related to minerals, extractive metallurgy, batteries and physical chemistry were continued by Professors Ian Ritchie, Mike Nicol, Pritam Singh, Peter May, Glenn Hefter, Parisa Bahri and their co-workers. The research activities in relation to the AJ Parker Cooperative Research Centre for Hydrometallurgy (1992-2013) have earned us reputation and high ranking in Excellence in Research Australia (ERA). Our commitment to teaching and research in mineral processing and extractive metallurgy with newly appointed staff and collaboration with the AusIMM Perth Branch have helped us to successfully launch the inaugural lithium conference at Murdoch University, at a time when lithium mining, processing and battery development hit headlines around the globe.

Over 180 delegates from industry and academia, some from overseas and Eastern States, attended the conference, co-chaired by Professor Colin Roberts (FAusIMM, CP) and Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake (MAusIMM). Chris Davis (Director, AusIMM) officially opened the conference. Vice Chancellor, Professor Eeva Leinonen gave the welcome address. She also welcomed the new Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency Kim Beazley AC, who attended the conference on the second day. In her welcome address Professor Leinonen stated that the conference was an important forum for the emerging global industry, of which Western Australia is well poised to be at the forefront. She also added that Western Australia is predicted to become the world’s major source of lithium by the end of the year, which is a key component used in batteries, and Murdoch is well placed to be leading research and innovation into new energy sources. Hon Bill Johnston MLA, Minister for Mines and Petroleum, gave the Ministerial address pledging the support of over $5 million from the WA Government for the proposed “CRC Future Battery Industries”. The minister said that the downstream processing of lithium has potential to deliver $2.2 billion in investment to WA and create hundreds of jobs. Chancellor of Murdoch University David Flanagan (Managing Director – Battery Minerals), gave a keynote address on “Battery Minerals – What you need” (Table 1) highlighting the need for innovative and collaborative research and technologies to unlock the wealth of resources in WA.

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Murdoch University Lithium Research Group consists of over 20 researchers including technical staff. Some of them presented the latest results and forecasts. Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski (pressure leaching), Associate Professors Aleks Nikoloski (lithium chemicals production) and Kevin Wong (artificial intelligence), Drs Erich Koenigsberger (thermodynamic modelling), Manickam Minakshi (manganese dioxide in lithium batteries) and Mohammednoor Altarawneh (spodumene interactions with CO2), and PhD research candidates Arif Abdullah (phase transition of spodumene), Nasim Salakjani (microwave treatment of spodumene) and James Mulwanda (lithium from lepidolite) presented their research findings in relevant to lithium processing. All the keynote and other presentations with rich and novel technical content, statistics and forecasts were highly praised by the audience. The welcome reception held at the Murdoch Student Hub was sponsored by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA).

We thank the members of the organising committee of the conference and the professional and administrative staff from AusIMM Perth Branch, Head Office in Melbourne and Murdoch University and the School Dean Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski for valuable support and all the delegates, sponsors and exhibitors who contributed to the success of the conference. Special thanks also go to staff at the School office, Club Murdoch, facility maintenance, security and Vice Chancellor’s office.

We hope that the delegates attending the conference were informed of the latest research, developments and innovative technologies relating to lithium and its expanding market. Depending on the feedback from delegates and sponsors, we are keen to continue organising and hosting the lithium conference next year. We invite our colleagues in the School of Engineering and Information Technology conducting multidisciplinary research in minerals, energy, materials, water, solution chemistry and data science to submit abstracts for future lithium conferences.

Thank you to our sponsors, exhibitors and media partners: Ansto Minerals, MSP Engineering, DrM, SciAps, MRIWA, Portable Analysers, Nagrom, Tradewinds, Tomara Sorting, GBL Process, AXT, Maptek, Interlek Genalysis, Government of Western Australia, Portable Analysers Australia, Mining Plus, Tradewinds, SciAps, MEi, National Resources Review.

Conference organising committee: Colin Roberts (Natural Resource Geo-strategy Pty Ltd), Farjad Ather (MAusIMM Northern Star Resources Limited), Chris Davis (FAusIMM CP Man), Chris Ward (ANSTO Minerals, WA), Bogdan Dlugogorski (Murdoch University), David McSweeney (MSP engineers), Chris Reed (MAusIMM Neometals Ltd), Ivor Roberts (Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS)), Gamini Senanayake (MAusIMM Murdoch University), Phil Thick (Tianqi Lithium), Adrian Troy (MAusIMM Terra Firma Australia), Amelia Lundstrom (AusIMM Coordinator, Events), Claire Stuart (AusIMM Coordinator, Publishing).

Please visit the websites for more details: http://lithium.ausimm.com/

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Conference, co-chairs (left) Professor Colin Roberts (FAusIMM, CP) and Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake (MAusIMM)
From left Associate Professor Senanayake, Dr Altarawneh, Dr Minakshi-Sundaram and visiting delegate
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Hon Bill Johnston MLA, Minister for Mines and Petroleum
CEO of MRIWA Mark Woffenden addressing the conference delegates at the Welcome reception at Murdoch Student Hub

Article and photos provided by Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake.

DR DREW PARSONS PRESENTS IN NORWAY

Dr Drew Parsons recently presented lectures at a workshop on Casimir Forces, held at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim in June. One of fruits of this collaboration with Norway is a study of the behaviour of microscopic ice particles at the water surface. We know that buoyancy drives icebergs above the water surface. But at a microscopic scale the buoyancy of ice particles smaller than 10μm is opposed by Casimir (van der Waals) forces, causing ice to sink below the surface. An expected additional effect was the formation of charge on the ice surface, which causes micro ice to sink even further, resulting in an exclusion zone at the water surface free of microscopic ice particles. We speculate that this exclusion zone may facilitate the growth of microorganisms at the water surface, enabling them to adhere to larger bodies of ice (unusually large microbial counts have been measured on arctic and glacial ice). The work is published in J. Phys. Chem. C, 122 (2018) 15311, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jpcc.8b02351.

IT UPDATE

Staff

We are pleased to announce that Dr Alex Wang has been promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer. Alex is achieving excellence in both teaching and research. Congratulations Alex.

After more than 20 years of working at Murdoch University, Dr Jocelyn Armarego has unfortunately announced her retirement at the end of July. Jocelyn has been leading and driving many of the recent developments in the Masters of IT. Thank you Jocelyn for all your utstanding work and service in the IT discipline, the School and the University. You have been an excellent colleague and it has been a pleasure working with you. We wish you all the best in your new life.

Dr Sebastian Zander is taking a one-year break to work for an emerging high-tech company. Sebastian has been playing a leading role in shaping the cyber security and networking research and teaching at Murdoch University. We wish you all the best in this new venture and more importantly we hope to see you back here at Murdoch University in a year’s time.

Facilities and Equipment

We are excited to see that the IT Innovation Hub, the new teaching facility for IT students, is on its way to be ready for Open Day and more importantly for teaching in Semester 2. IT students will have access to the state-of-the-art data centre, teaching labs and a student lounge.

Article provided by Associate Professor Hamid Laga

VALE DR JAMES AVRAAMIDES

BSc. Hons; PhD, FAIMM

6 January 1947 – 10 July 2018

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Jim was born in Limassol, Cyprus, on 6 January 1947. His family emigrated to Australia in 1950, first settling in Melbourne in 1950 and eventually moving to Perth a decade later. His Leaving Certificate from Mt Lawley High School earned him a Commonwealth Scholarship to study science at UWA and eventually to earn his PhD in Organic Chemistry at ANU in Canberra. Jim completed two years postdoctoral work with his PhD supervisor, Professor AJ Parker, and then went to the United Kingdom for five years of work and study in the UK. During that time, he studied at the New University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and the University College in Bangor, North Wales, before finding a research scientist’s job with precious metals refiner Johnson-Matthey in Sonning Common.

He returned to Australia in 1979 and joined Murdoch University, lecturing in chemistry and mineral science for six years during Professor Jim Parker’s era. In that role he assisted both undergraduate and postgraduate students in various ways to lift their performance. He was also the weekly seminar convener before moving on to join the Western Australian Department of Mines, where he spent the remainder of his working life. He rose to the position of Chief of the Minerals Processing Laboratory from 1987 to 1994 and developed a career of improving the processing of gold, copper, silver and titanium sands. From his position within the WA Department of Mines (now The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety), he was a founding member of the AMIRA Gold Processing Technology Project and continued as a part of that team for the next 30 years.

Additionally, he was seconded to two mineral processing-related Cooperative Research Centres in which Murdoch University played a key role. As a member of the A J Parker Centre for Hydrometallurgy CRC from 1992-2005, Jim filled many roles including stints as the Centre’s Leaching Manager and the Education Manager. He later took on the role of Deputy Director under the leadership of Professors Ian Ritchie. During this time, Jim worked with Mike Nicol, Peter May and Glenn Hefter in contributing to a variety of collaborative research projects involving the Chemistry Centre, CSIRO, Curtin University, the University of Queensland and Murdoch University.

Jim was a State of WA and Murdoch representative to the Centre for Sustainable Resource Processing CRC from 2003 to 2010, where he was a key member of the Centre’s Research Leadership Team as well as Program Manager of Incubator Projects. His lifelong contribution to WA’s mineral industries was significant; he was always generous in sharing his knowledge and known for his perseverance in managing challenges or difficult situations. During his time with both CRCs, he initiated close research collaboration with the Korea Institute of Geochemistry and Mineral Resources.

In later years, Jim remained an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Minerals and Energy at Murdoch University, contributing to undergraduate education and postgraduate research. He also held an honorary position at Curtin University with the Gold Technology Group, continuing his work with the AMIRA Gold Project. He was continually involved with community and School outreach activities with Dr Dan Churach and Mr Graeme Thompson, promoting Minerals education in Western Australia.

In the words of Murdoch SEIT Dean Bogdan Dlugogorski, “Jim has been associated with Murdoch for such a long time and has been part of who we are today. To many of us, Jim was a close research collaborator and a friend who always had an interesting idea to share on his passion of extractive metallurgy. He was also a link between us and the giants on whose shoulders we stand and who had come before him, especially in our extractive metallurgy and solution chemistry programs, Professors Jim Parker and Ian Ritchie.”

The Murdoch Community will miss the contributions of Dr Jim Avraamides.

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Dr Jim Avraamides during his time at Murdoch University

Article provided by Dan Churach and Graeme Thompson

BOOK LAUNCH - ROBUSTNESS THEORY AND APPLICATION BY DR BRENTON CLARKE

On Monday 16th July 2018, family, friends and colleagues were invited to join Dr Brenton Clarke in celebrating the launch of his new book, Robustness Theory and Application. The event was hosted by the Geoffrey Bolton Library and held in The Launchpad area.

After a welcome from the Library Director, Matthew Evans, Dr Clarke, a Senior Lecturer staff Member with 34 years teaching and research experience at Murdoch University, was introduced by the Dean of the School of Engineering and IT, Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski.

Dr Clarke went on to elaborate on his journey in writing this valuable John Wiley & Sons publication. With research interests in areas of robust statistics, linear models, and time analysis, this is but one of three research and teaching texts he has embarked upon.

In his presentation, Dr Clarke explained the nuances of coin tossing and the law of large numbers and also the Central Limit Theorem when applied to the more modern techniques through illustration of convergence concepts associated with the Tukey bisquare estimator. He then alluded to the results of the great French mathematician Maurice René Fréchet, who published a pivotal work on the Fréchet derivative in 1925 and which is now used in Dr Clarke’s work to delineate robust estimators from nonrobust estimators in the theory of statistics. In his book, new techniques in mixture modelling with switching regressions are described and the fitting of regression and also multivariate techniques are emphasized. The identification of Don Bradman as the only “outlier” amongst English and Australian cricket batsmen was in a sense a vindication of the multivariate methodology.

Once the presentation was complete, light refreshments and collegiate networking followed. Our congratulations to Brenton on his success.

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Article provided by Ms Tracie Pollin, Library Client Services

WASTE TO WEALTH INITIATIVE – DR MARTIN ANDA BALI, LOMBOK

Dr Martin Anda has received special recognition form Australian Consul-General, Dr Helen Studdert for his presentation to the Waste to Wealth initiative held in Bali and Lombok on 2nd to 7th June 2018.

There was extremely positive feedback on Dr Anda’s address titled Valuing Earth’s Ecosystems: Turning Waste into Resources. Consul-General Studdert wrote to Dr Anda to extend her appreciation of his work in the area.

‘Your willingness to share knowledge and establish contact with potential partners also made an important contribution to the overall success of the Waste to Wealth initiative. With your assistance, I am pleased to say, that we are able to raise awareness of creative solutions to waste management, to showcase Australian innovation and to engage constructively in the waste management dialogue in Bali and Lombok.

During his time in Bali and Lombok, Dr Anda discussed future initiatives with seminar participants and will continue to engage with potential partners in the region and the Consulate to further develop these opportunities.

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Dr Anda presenting at the Waste to Wealth event

THE PILBARA PILGRIMAGE – SEIT STAFF VISIT HIGH SCHOOLS IN THE PILBARA

This year saw the Murdoch ‘Metallica Males’ head to the north-west, with the trip comprising of two stages.

Stage 1: (Karratha Careers Expo)

Graeme was invited by Rio Tinto to travel to Karratha to attend, and participate in, the Karratha Careers Expo (held on 3rd of May). Here he met and discussed with interested students the courses on offer in the School of Engineering and IT and the various pathways and scholarships open to students to enable them to attend Murdoch University. Many thanks to Mayin Chong for providing information on the many pathways and scholarship available and to Leandra Corich for the organisation of materials to be distributed. Graeme also encouraged attendees to put themselves in various positions in the mining industry through the use of Virtual Reality goggles and accompanying programmes, both supplied by Rio Tinto. Graeme was stationed at one of a number of Rio Tinto Exhibition Tables.

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Graeme waiting expectantly for his first customers
Graeme encouraging a student, to use the VR Goggles

Stage 2: (Visits to Schools)

In conjunction with Rio Tinto, the itinerary for this part of the programme was to visit Karratha Senior High School, Roebourne District High School, Hedland Senior High School and Tom Price Senior High School. The plans were made and schools contacted, but unfortunately, very late in the planning (1 week before departure) Hedland SHS had to withdraw from the programme due to a change in administration at the school.

The equipment required for the ‘Pilbara Pilgrimage’ was couriered up just over a week before the school visits began. It arrived safely and was delivered to Karratha Senior High School ready for the tour.

Ken Seymour and Graeme Thompson flew up to Karratha on 7th of May and headed to Karratha Senior High School to set up for the following day. Details of the schools visited, the year levels and number of students contacted are shown in Table 1 below. Overall, 325 students were contacted, of which 56% were female and 28% were indigenous.

Table 1: List of Schools, Year levels and numbers of students visited on the 'Pilbara Pilgrimage'.

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Each lesson began with an introduction, followed by a brief description of the courses Murdoch University offers and pathways into Murdoch University, then discussion about what a metallurgist is and does. Students were then challenged to become metallurgists themselves by extracting copper from a fake copper ore (granite, copper sulfate and sodium carbonate mixture) using the processes of leaching (using vinegar), decanting, cementation and electrowinning. The science and chemistry behind this process was discussed and the quality of the copper produced tested. The students were then shown a comparison sample of higher quality copper produced and the differences as to why this sample is better quality than theirs was discussed in more detail.

The processes used by the students were then related back to industrial examples relating to copper extraction – heap leaching and big electrowinning plants. Finally, the Thermite reaction was discussed and demonstrated, with the science involved looked at in greater depth.

There were a number of highlights of the tour, including our first visit to Tom Price Senior High School, where we were inundated with enthusiastic students, and our first visit to Roebourne District High School, where all of the student participants were indigenous and were extremely pro-active in discussions and participation in the activities. In particular, the Roebourne students do not tend to have formal science lessons, so they thoroughly enjoyed themselves during the experiments demonstration.

Here is some of the comments from student feedback forms:

‘Very interesting, enjoyed, because doing an experiment’

‘Amazing and helpful, great to learn about minerals, very easy, clear and knew what to do, amazing & great’

‘Ken was 'lit' (in the modern vernacular - 'Lit' has been a slang term meaning "intoxicated" for over a century. More recently, it has acquired the meaning "exciting," as well as a broader meaning along the lines of "excellent."), never cut hair, plus a great presentation and experiments.’

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Senior students at Roebourne District High School leaching the ore
St Luke's students in Karratha watching Ken present the Thermite reaction

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Students at Tom Price SHS preparing to electrowin their solution.

Teacher Professional Development

On the Tuesday evening, a Teacher PD (Professional Development) session was held at St Luke’s College with 13 people in attendance (3 male and 10 female). There was significant enticement for the teachers, with various pizzas on offer at the end of the session, along with entertainment from Ken and Graeme, “The Wandering Metal Minstrels”. The PD session was entitled “Magical Minerals Tour”, whereby the participants were presented with information about various minerals important to Western Australia and how the minerals were purified and/or the metals extracted. The participants were then challenged with an experiment that models the extraction of alumina from bauxite. Finally, the Thermite reaction was discussed and demonstrated.
Overall the ‘Pilbara Pilgrimage’ was a great success, with many students and teacher’s alike finding the information and demonstrations interesting and engaging.

Out-take - Funny Moment on the Pilgrimage

On the Thursday morning Graeme and Ken packed the 4WD and headed to Roebourne, and then to Port Hedland after the presentation at Roebourne District High School. On arrival at the motel in Port Hedland and while unloading the car, Graeme noticed his ukulele sitting on the roof of the 4WD, caught under a luggage bar. One wonders, did it travel the full distance in that place from Karratha to Port Hedland (240 km) or, only from Roebourne to Port Hedland (200 km)? We will never know because Graeme has no memory of putting it there, but suspects it may have been at Roebourne. Thankfully, it still plays a good tune, although it is a little dusty.

That’s all folks.

Graeme Thompson

Article and photos supplied by Graeme Thompson, STEM Officer, Rio Tinto/Murdoch University

AMSI-SSA PUBLIC LECTURE – PROFESSOR SUSAN MURPHY

Murdoch University is hosting an AMSI-SSAI public lecture on Monday 20th August in the Robertson Lecture Theatre. The speaker, Professor Susan Murphy from Harvard University, will provide a once only lecture as part of the Lecture Tour in WA.

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To register for the event and to book your seating go to:

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIVE DEGREE PROGRAM

In September, 2017, 200 students began study at Shenyang Institute of Engineering (SIE) in China in a joint undergraduate program between SIE and Murdoch University. This marks the start of a unique program in which the students will take a number of units in English at SIE in their Electrical Power Engineering and Automation degree program, which are patterned in content and delivery directly off analogous units being taught at Murdoch. The program is a four-year program at SIE. If after the third year of study at SIE they meet the admission requirements of Murdoch, then they can transfer to Murdoch for the fourth year of their study in Electrical Power Engineering. In this case, they would receive both a Bachelor degree from SIE and one from Murdoch. In addition, having graduated with a BSc (Hons), they would be eligible to continue for another year at Murdoch to receive a Master of Engineering degree.

This institute-to-institute collaboration is designed to provide Chinese engineering students with an opportunity to gain overseas study experience and certification within the normal timeline of their coursework, while placing a large cohort of academically well-prepared and culturally assimilated international students in Murdoch’s classrooms. A number of means are being undertaken to facilitate the ease of transition and integration of the students into the Australian system in this highly technical and academically demanding discipline. Retired, long-time faculty member in Murdoch’s Electrical Engineering programs, Dr Greg Crebbin, joined the teaching faculty at SIE in August, 2017 and has recently signed a contract for a second year. Greg is leading the implementation of the Murdoch coursework units into the SIE curriculum through both mentoring SIE staff and teaching core units himself. He is also staying fit climbing the four flights of stairs to his on-campus apartment.

School of Engineering and IT also hosted a young Chinese Electrical Engineering teaching and research academic at South Street for six months earlier this year. Gu Cailin, better known here as Sara, shadowed the Murdoch faculty teaching the first semester units that are also being offered as part of the collaborative program at SIE. Sara has now returned to SIE to undertake teaching duties.

A second SIE academic, Peng Ye, is completing the funding and visa processes to follow in Sara’s footsteps and will join us shortly to participate in our semester 2, 2018 units. In addition, a group of over 20 SIE students who have started the collaborative program will be spending two weeks at Murdoch in January 2019. The trip will give them a chance to experience Perth first-hand and meet some of the staff with whom we hope many will later be taking fourth year and possibly post-graduate units. The students’ fortnight overseas trip will include English immersion lessons with MIT, touring of the Perth area, and sample power engineering lectures and lab work.

Article provided by Professor Wendell Ela Associate Dean International

OUTLOOK FOR MINING AND PROCESSING OF LITHIUM IN AUSTRALIA

By the end of this year, Western Australia will supply half of the world’s demand for lithium, after overtaking Chile in 2017. The State has world class deposits of lithium hard rocks, known as pegmatites due to the size of crystal grains in the rocks, with spodumene as the most important mineral. Over the last three years, the State has witnessed an inexorable slew of discoveries and resource upgrades.

Photo 29 Lithium processing plant.jpg

Tianqi lithium processing plant in Kwinana, Western Australia (Tianqi Lithium, April 2018).

The dominant position of Greenbushes with its 120 million tonnes of 2.4 % Li2O (i.e., 2.88 Mt of Li2O) is being challenged by Kidman Resources’ upgrade of its Earl Grey deposit at Mt Holland, about 670 km east of Perth. Kidman announced back in March that Earl Grey now holds 189 Mt at 1.50 % Li2O (2.84 Mt of Li2O). This month Mineral Resources has publicised an increase in the size of its Wodgina deposit in Pilbara, about 1550 km north of Perth, now estimated to be 233.9 Mt at 1.21 % Li2O; that’s 2.83 Mt of Li2O. Both Kidman and Mineral Deposits’ resources seem just a notch below that of Greenbushes, and they appear to dwarf the huge Pilgangoora deposit of Pilbara Minerals of 160 Mt at 1.25 % Li2O and 1.95 Mt of Li2O.

Other players, such as Tawana Resources, have made an immediate target to explore their tenements to expand their lithium resources. Four producers in the south of the State - Galaxy Resources, Greenbushes, Neometals/Ganfeng/Mineral Resources and Tawana Resources - are now exporting spodumene concentrate. Three producers in the north - Altura Mining, Mineral Resources and Pilbara Minerals - are either already shipping the ore directly or are fast approaching their first shipments. From those trading on the Australian Securities Exchange, Galaxy Resources, Pilbara Minerals and Mineral Resources spruik their market capitalisation in excess of $1bn each.

So, why is WA so successful? Clearly, the electric vehicle markets in Europe and China with aggressive targets set by automakers and governments for reduction in CO2 emissions drive the demand for lithium. The stability of the Australian political, financial and resource-management systems provide the investors with assurance of future financial rewards. Finally, the availability of highly trained and specialised engineers, geologists and metallurgists allows companies to move swiftly and nimbly from discovery to mineral production, to pounce on the opportunity. The State has top class teaching and research universities, especially Murdoch University, University of Western Australia and Curtin University. Since establishment, these universities have all carried adroit mandates to support the mineral sector in Western Australia through education and user-driven research.

While batteries require other materials in addition to lithium, in particular nickel, cobalt and manganese for cathodes and graphite for anodes, as well as electrolytes and separators, it is the supply of lithium and cobalt which is the most critical. Recent advances in cathode technologies, especially the adoption of high-nickel low-cobalt cathodes (mass ratio of nickel:manganese:cobalt = 8:1:1) as well as lithium-iron-phosphate and nickel-cobalt-aluminium cathodes might have somewhat attenuated the projected demand for cobalt, but have left the expected need for lithium unchanged.

Intense research on batteries around the globe including that at the WA universities may lead to other non-lithium battery chemistries, such as one based on magnesium, when and if researchers overcome its present limitation on a number of charge-discharge cycles. For example, three generations of electrochemists at Murdoch University have developed new battery chemistries, with Murdoch’s recent research focussing on mapping new cathode materials through facile synthesis for aqueous rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors. If these efforts succeed, it will take between 10 and 20 years from discovery to commercialisation, and, in the meantime, lithium will maintain its dominant role.

The downstream processing of lithium in WA appears on the verge of rapid and impetuous expansion mirroring that experienced by spodumene mining and concentration, but offset by about three years. The criticality lies in converting the highly-unreactive spodumene to lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate. The market leader, Tianqi Lithium, has been investing more than $700m in building a processing plant in Kwinana, about 38 km south of Perth to convert spodumene from Greenbushes to lithium hydroxide. In December last year, the company announced the commencement of stage 2 of the plant construction. Earlier this month, Kidman Resources, in a joint venture with Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile, signed an agreement with WA Land Authority with an option to lease a site in Kwinana for a future lithium refinery for spodumene sourced from the Kidman-SQM’s Earl Grey deposit at Mt Holland gold fields. Three other players, Albermarle Lithium, Mineral Resources and Neometals, foreshadowed similar plans to refine spodumene from their mines at Greenbushes (jointly owned by Albermarle with Tianqi Lithium), Wodgina and Mt Marion, the latter in Eastern Goldfields about 40 km south west from Kalgoorlie. Albermarle Lithium’s proposal to establish a refinery in Kemerton to produce lithium hydroxide appears the most advanced of the three. Mineral Resources and Neometals companies had broadcasted such plans in the past, but with heightened interest around lithium processing in WA, this time their plans seem more serious. In fact, Regional Development Australia’s office in Perth is studying the feasibility of expanding the lithium industry in the state into secondary processing, with the objective of turning Kwinana into a Lithium Valley of WA.

The key technological difficulties in refining spodumene to chemicals for battery production rest with the mineral itself. Spodumene belongs to a group of most unreactive silicates known to nature that geologists named as pyroxenes. Not even a concentrated sulphuric acid at high temperature can react with these minerals. The trick is first to convert spodumene to its more reactive form, named beta-spodumene. But this requires heating the mineral to around 1050 °C for about two hours, making the process energy intensive. Only then, the sulphuric acid at 250 °C can leach lithium from the rock. As the leaching removes several impurities from the rock, not just lithium, the downstream separation must yield high-purity chemicals required for direct use in batteries. Not surprisingly, both extraction and separation of lithium are attracting the brightest minds around the world to develop new technologies to overcome the hurdles, and to work in the new industry.

The scale of changes under way in the lithium industry in WA and around the world boggle the mind. For that reason, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy has coupled with Murdoch University to run the International Lithium Conference 2018, which was held on Murdoch’s campus in Perth at the end of June. The conference brought together executives of lithium companies with geologists, metallurgists, engineers and academics for two days of intense deliberations on lithium exploration, mining, extractive metallurgy, recycling, risk and financing.

Professor Dlugogorski is Dean of Engineering and Information Technology at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia

Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

Edited copy of an article published in Australian Resources & Investment 12(2), 42-43, 2018