Innovation honours for UNSW

UNSW has featured twice in the finalists list of the prestigious DuPont Australia & New Zealand Innovation Awards for work with big benefits for the environment.

David Tolmie inside

UNSW has featured twice in the finalists list of the prestigious DuPont Australia & New Zealand Innovation Awards for work with big benefits for the environment.

Researcher David Tolmie, from UNSW's Water Research Laboratory, has been named as a finalist in the Sustainable Services category of the awards for his work on the Extended Gravity Oil Water Separator, a system for removing oil from water to protect the environment. This is the first time a researcher from UNSW has been made a finalist for this prestigious award.

A UNSW PhD student, Renuka Karuppuswamy, is also in the running for an award in the Tertiary Student category for her work in developing a more efficient method of extracting valuable antioxidants from waste prawn shells.

The extended gravity oil water separation (EGOWS) concept, an improvement on the industry-standard American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity separator, allows almost complete separation of oil from water. It is in use at more than 70 locations around Australia including the Caltex Kurnell Oil Refinery, where it helps protect the Botany Bay wetlands.

The EGOWS concept was developed by Mr Tolmie and his colleague Peter Stone from the UNSW Water Research Laboratory in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is patented internationally by UNSW's NewSouth Innovations technology transfer company.

The EGOWS has a particular advantage over standard oil-water gravity separators in that the UNSW innovation can operate in a partially empty state. Standard oil-water gravity separators are required to be full at all times to operate. The EGOWS is therefore ready to automatically capture any catastrophic spill of oil without any release of oil-contaminated water.

Ms Karuppuswamy was nominated as a finalist for developing a new method of extracting an antioxidant, astaxanthin, from waste prawn shells, which are produced in large volumes by the global seafood processing industry. The method offers a potential environmentally friendly use for what is currently a significant waste product.

The biennial DuPont Innovation Awards Program is an Australian & New Zealand independently judged competition, launched in 2004, recognising innovation and advances in industry, science, the environment and agriculture.

The winners of the awards will be announced in May.