UC Engineering researcher talks ‘Hidden Energy’ at Parliament

07 August 2020

University of Canterbury (UC) Engineering Senior Lecturer Dr Matthew Cowan was at the Beehive last week presenting to MPs as part of the Speaker’s Science Forum 2020.

  • Matthew Cowan, Parliament

    UC chemical and biological engineering lecturer Dr Matthew Cowan with MP for Waiariki, Tāmati Coffey at the Speaker’s Science Forum last week.

“It was an honour to be invited. Communicating directly with MPs, showcasing our outcomes, and seeing their interest in how our research will impact New Zealand was inspiring,” says Dr Cowan.

Organised by the Royal Society Te Apārangi in collaboration with the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament, the aim of the forum is to present cutting-edge research to MPs and decision-makers in a non-partisan setting, to inform the issues being addressed in Parliament.

Last week’s forum, ‘Future Stars: showcasing New Zealand’s research talent’ gave MPs the opportunity to hear from Dr Cowan and Dr Nancy Garrity, two of Aotearoa New Zealand’s outstanding early-career researchers who are tackling society’s important issues.

“Sharing the platform with Dr Nancy Garrity gave me an insight into both her research and a side of science and engineering I seldom see,” Dr Cowan says.

Dr Cowan’s presentation ‘Hidden Energy: Revolutionising hidden high-energy processes’ focused on his innovative research around improving the methods and technologies we use to purify all the building blocks of society.

“The kai we eat was separated from the earth, the water we drink was purified of bacteria, and our cutlery was shaped from metal refined from ore. Amazing amounts of energy are hidden in the objects all around us,” he says.

“For a country like the United States, 45-55% of industrial energy use is dedicated to separating and purifying raw materials. Similar to the amount of energy used by their entire residential or commercial sectors.”

Dr Cowan’s goal is to reduce the amount of energy we need to use every day to slow climate change and enrich lives.

“Imagine saving the energy we spend on separations. You could raise hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty or greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


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