Professor Veena Sahajwalla is the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales. Passionate about her research on Sustainable Materials Processing, she leads a research team at the university and works with many international companies towards solutions to recycle waste.
Completing her Masters degree at the University of British Columbia (where she met her husband), and her PhD at The University of Michigan, Professor Veena Sahajwalla took out the $30,000 top prize at The Australian Innovation Challenge awards in Sydney, December 2012.
The technology, which was developed at the University of NSW, has already prevented more than 1.4 million tyres from becoming landfill, with the rubber, along with recycled plastic containers, partly replacing coke in generating power for the production of steel.
As a scientist, Professor Veena Sahajwalla gets a real thrill from talking about inventions, which is just as well, as she’s a popular judge on ABC’s The New Inventors. She was also one of the judges for 2011 and 2012 on The Australian Innovation Challenge.
For her work and research, Professor Veena Sahajwalla has received many other international and Australian awards, including the New South Wales Scientist of the Year Award in 2008 in the category of Engineering Sciences for her research on recycling waste plastics in steelmaking, a process she invented. She also received the 2006 Environmental Technology Award from the Association of Iron and Steel Technology in the United States and in 2005 she received the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.
Also, in 2005, Professor Veena Sahajwalla was elected a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and in 2007 she was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).
The award-winning professor has established excellent working relationships and a deep knowledge of industrial processes, issues and inherent problems in her field of research. She has also published more than 200 papers in journals and conference proceedings.
In an interview with India Down Under, Professor Veena Sahajwalla explains, “the basic idea of my research was simple and logical – to find a way to utilize resources like the waste which is normally discarded. So I implemented a simple science to it to make this idea practical, something that works. As a society we are all consumerists and waste seems to be growing,” she says.
From that premise, Professor Veena Sahajwalla and her team began working with plastic and tyre waste in their research laboratories. The result from this work is the ability to partially make steel through a process that was more cost and energy efficient. This was one of the professor’s award-winning answers to her original curiosity and quest – to utilise waste and use it effectively.