Engineer Dr Aaron Low will learn more about explosion science and safety when he travels to the UK later this year.
The Waikato University alumnus is the recipient of this year’s Earle Travel Fellowship, awarded once a year to an individual under 40 years old to support and encourage young professional engineers and food technologists to increase their knowledge and skills through overseas travel and improve technology in New Zealand.
Dr Low graduated from Waikato with a doctorate in 2012. He works at Ligar, a company based at Ruakura in Hamilton that specialises in commercial filtration to extract organic and inorganic molecules; a spin off business from Waikato Institute of Technology formed with assistance from WaikatoLink (the University of Waikato’s commercialisation and technology transfer company).
The sort of work he is doing at Ligar follows on from his PhD when he worked on removing the colour and smell from bloodmeal (a by-product from meat processing) and converting that material into a bioplastic.
He says the Earle fellowship will enable him to first attend an ICHEME (Institution of Chemical Engineers) training course at Rugby where he’ll study explosion science and safety. “I’ll be able to attend workshops and get comprehensive explosion safety training that isn’t yet available in New Zealand,” says Dr Low. While in the UK he’ll also visit Pal Corporation Southampton and Open University Milton Keynes.
“At Pal I’ll be looking at how we can integrate our technology with their products and then at the Open University I’ll be discussing potential collaborations.”
Ligar's revolutionary technology solves a growing need for many industries to be able to extract both valuable and undesirable substances, whether those products are consumable liquids, dissolved minerals, water or ingredients used in manufacturing. “So what we’re doing has application in industry, food manufacturing for example, and also in cleaning up contaminants and pollutants in water and waste streams. Many molecules can be filtered out using polymers and, where they have value, be extracted for re-use,” says Dr Low.
In a second trip early next year, Dr Low will travel to San Francisco to study the polymerisation process in more depth “so we can take that next step and manufacture the polymers as efficiently as possible”.
“What we’re doing in New Zealand is different from other and previous extraction methods done here, and we’re constantly looking to improve capability and refine what we’re doing,” Dr Low says. “The fellowship gives me the opportunity to extend my knowledge, bring it back to the business and New Zealand industry, and I’ll also make some good contacts in my research field, which will be useful in future.”