UQ is an international leader in transdisciplinary Chemical Engineering education and research, rated at the highest level possible, well above world standard, in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise. We are engaged in pioneering research transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries, in diverse areas such as bioengineering, bioproducts, food, colloids and surface science, nanomaterials and nanoscale science and technology, high performance polymers, energy and environment, and waste and water resource management.

Our Chemical Engineers are proud recipients of Australia’s most prestigious engineering awards, including a Eureka prize (Plantic), two Fellows of Australian Academy of Sciences and Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, 15 ARC fellowships in the last 5 years (one ARC Professorial Fellow, two ARC Federation Fellows, one ARC Future Fellow, two ARC QEII Fellows and four ARC Discovery Early Careers Researcher Fellowships), and five Industry-Funded Chairs (BMA, Centre for Coal Seam Gas, Dow, Remondis and Glencore Xstrata).

UQ’s research activities span basic science, strategic and applied research. These have direct impact in areas of global significance including waste, water, energy and resources, health and well-being, and medical technologies. The global competitiveness, quality and impact of our research is exemplified by sustained international and national strategic research partnerships with some of the world's largest process engineering companies across a broad range of industries, including Dow, Baosteel, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Glencore Xstrata, Codelco, PepsiCo, Fonterra and Origin Energy.

The UQ School of Chemical Engineering is the hub of this research across UQ, which includes strong collaborations with the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), the Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC), and the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), as well as other schools in the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (SCMB), and in schools/institutes in the food, biomedical and health sciences fields.

Key interdisciplinary research centres involved in Chemical Engineering research include: 

  • Centre for Coal Seam Gas
  • Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation
  • Rio Tinto Alumina Centre for Alumina Processing
  • The Baosteel-Australia Joint Research and Development Centre
  • Remondis Centre for Solid Waste Bioprocessing
  • Nanomaterials Centre 

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of: 

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical Engineering Science
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Materials
  • Metallurgy and Minerals Processing 

Chemical Engineering research in brief

  • More than 60 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including Chemical Sciences and Materials Engineering, and Nanotechnology and Bioengineering
  • 170 PhD and MPhil students in 2014
  • More than 930 publications since 2008
  • More than $59.5 million in research funding since 2008
  • Chemical Engineering ranked 1st in Australia in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise.

Highlights of UQ Chemical Engineering research

Bioengineering to exploit recent advances in biology, mathematics and physics for new treatments, therapies, bioproducts, bioprocesses and devices 

The Centre for Systems and Synthetic Biology and Centre for Biomolecular Engineering apply systems analysis and design to biological products including microtissues for drug screening, stem cells, and new systems for vaccine design and delivery. The Centres have attracted industrial partnerships including Dow, DSM, P&G, Pall Life Sciences, Novartis, Metabolix, Amyris, LanzaTech, Boeing, Virgin Australia and GE. These partnerships focus on developing new ways of producing aviation fuel, bio-inspired materials, biosurfactant proteins, vaccines and bioactives (antibiotics, biopesticides, monoclonal antibodies): this latter effort attracted Gates Grand Challenge Exploration funding in 2012.

The Tissue Engineering and Microfluidics (TEaM) laboratory develops smart surfaces, scaffolds and diagnostic microdevices for a range of regenerative and personalised medicine applications. Applications include human stem cell expansion and differentiation, heart, fibrocartilage (intervertebral disc and meniscus) and bone tissue engineering, cell-based drug discovery and screening, and early detection of cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

Energy and environmental technologies to harness fundamental technological and scientific research towards a sustainable future 

The objective of Chemical Engineering energy research at UQ is to facilitate the transition towards a sustainable energy economy. UQ researchers aim to improve fuel handling, fuel conversion and combustion methods, to increase energy conversion efficiency, and minimise pollution and safety hazards. Research focuses on hydrogen, solar, clean coal, biofuel, coal seam gas and energy storage.

The newly established DOW Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation, involving the School of Chemical Engineering, the AIBN and the Global Change Institute (GCI), will deliver a research program in industrial sustainability and sustainable living, providing solutions to important engineering-related issues facing society in the 21st century.

The Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) is an internationally recognised centre that has contributed greatly to the innovative management of water systems by developing fundamental knowledge and translating this into novel modelling tools and practical applications.

The Centre for Solid Waste Bioprocessing investigates the utilisation of solid organic waste to produce renewable fuels. As just one example, the Centre has developed a low cost packed bed digestion system for solid organic waste, now being commercialised as the Biocell technology.

The Films and Inorganic Membrane Laboratory (FIMLab) has grown to be one of the premier research laboratories of inorganic membrane technology in Australia. FIMLab’s research efforts are directed towards industrial applications evidenced by funding from major international companies including Saudi Aramco, Petrobras and Jonhson Matthey. 

Materials engineering for the synthesis and molecular engineering of advanced materials and systems 

The Centre for High Performance Polymers undertakes translational research and development into the design, synthesis, characterisation, rheology, processing and flow simulation of biopolymers and polymer nanocomposites. Research from this group led to the establishment of Plantic Technologies Ltd, widely recognised as an international innovator in the field of bioplastics.

The Nanomaterials Centre, established by Professor Max Lu, brings together chemists, physicists, biologists and engineers to address the major global challenges of clean and sustainable energy and water supply, and to advance innovative and equitable health care.

UQ’s Materials engineers are driving exciting translational research that in turn has led to significant industry licences and start-up companies (Plantic, TenasiTech, Pepfactants).