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Chemical, bioprocess and environmental engineering
Bioprocess engineering and biotechnology
Massey University scientists have expertise in the use of microorganisms, cells and enzymes to produce products and services. We are actively researching genetic testing, display technologies and vaccine development. We use scientific fundamentals to design, engineer and scale-up the operation of bioprocesses. Examples are the production of biopharmaceuticals, biofuels, biopolymers and nanomaterials and the bioengineering of sustainable environmentally-friendly processes.
The core of chemical engineering is the unit operation. A process is made of many unit operations, which together transform the feed material into bulk product. Our researchers have particular expertise in the unit operations of chemical reaction, phase change, separation technologies, thermal processing and particle technology. The applications are broad, stretching across all of the other processing sub-disciplines.
Current research involves climate change mitigation opportunities in the transport, building, industry and agriculture sectors of New Zealand and other global regions, with particular emphasis on renewable energy deployment and energy efficiency measures in cities, towns and small communities, and for the agri-food supply chain including on-farm systems. Contact
All engineers in New Zealand have an ethical duty to avoid, mitigate or remedy environmental impacts of human activities. We have expertise in environmental microbiology, biotechnology, process engineering design, modelling and scale-up.
We have extensive experience in wastewater systems, in removing pollutants from wastewater with a focus on algal-based wastewater treatment in ponds (e.g. wastewater stabilization ponds, and high rate algal ponds). We are investigating new methods for pathogen treatment and phosphate removal including algal phosphate uptake from effluent (RC3). This includes pathogen treatment as well as solutions for community wastewater upgrades.
Increasingly, chemical engineering research is looking to the micro- and nanoscales to provide insights. We are using tools such as atomic force microscopy, electron microscopy and synchrotron are being used to collect nanoscale information on a wide range of materials of interest in New Zealand.
We have expertise in removing pollutants from wastewater with a focus on algal-based wastewater treatment in ponds (e.g. wastewater stabilization ponds, and high rate algal ponds). We are investigating new methods for pathogen treatment and phosphate removal including algal phosphate uptake from effluent (RC3). This includes pathogen treatment as well as solutions for community wastewater upgrades.
A cascade heat pump for water heating
Heat pumps offer considerable energy cost and energy-related environmental benefits. However the high temperature required for domestic hot water limits energy efficiency, especially if heat-source temperatures are low.
A team including Professor Don Cleland worked to design a heat pump to overcome these limitations. This system uses ambient air as the heat source, a heat pump configuration involving two refrigerants in a cascade arrangement, and is coupled to a stratified hot water cylinder.
Laboratory performance testing, combined with analysis using climate data and field tests, suggests the system would achieve seasonal heating efficiencies of more than 300% (more than 3 units of heat for each unit of energy input) at most New Zealand locations.
Polyphosphate (poly-P) is found in all organisms and is involved in functions such as energy and phosphorus (P) storage and stress response in bacteria.
In eukaryotic algae, poly-P synthesis has been reported in both P-rich (e.g. wastewater ponds) and P-depleted (e.g. natural ecosystems) environments, but we do not fully understand how (the molecular basis) and why (evolutionally and ecologically) algae expend cellular energy to synthesize poly-P.
Professor Benoit Guieysse is working to identify the genes responsible for poly-P synthesis in algae, to better understand how phosphorus supply affects algal growth, which may in turn provide new engineering fundamentals in environmental engineering and algal biotechnology.
Biohydrogen from agroindustrial waste
Collaborator: Associate Professor Wanna Choorit of Walailak University, Thailand
This research project worked to convert agroindustrial waste into a fuel that both solves a biomass waste disposal problem and provides a useful product.
Agroindustrial waste from the palm oil industry was used. For each metric ton of crude palm oil produced, roughly four metric tons of dry oil palm waste is generated. Massey University’s Professor Yusuf Chisti worked with Walailak University in Thailand to identify how to recover and break down the cellulose and hemicellulose components of this biomass waste to produce simple sugars and other organic molecules. The simple organics obtained by breaking down the oil palm waste were then used to produce hydrogen via a type of photosynthesis, using an anaerobic purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides.
Phosphorous removal from wastewater
Funded by Royal Society Te Aparangi (Marsden Fund)
New processes are being developed for phosphorus removal and pathogen treatment from wastewater. Two substantial Marsden Fund grants ($648,000 and $920,000) have been awarded to projects worked on or led by Professor Andrew Shilton.
Pyrolysis is the thermal breakdown of carbonaceous material in the absence of oxygen, to make solid char, liquid bio-oils and non-condensable gases.
We are focussed on making biochar in one application and smoke in another: the first being good for the environment and the second to add value to New Zealand food exports. Biochar is made from sustainable feedstocks like forest or crop residues and, when added to soil, it sequesters carbon which helps mitigate climate change. In the other application, we are investigating native New Zealand woods to identify their distinctive smoke aromas and how to design and operate smoke generators to take advantage of these characteristics.
Factors Influencing the Viscosity of Manuka Honey
Industrial sponsor: Manuka Health New Zealand Limited
Manuka honey is not only known for its delicious taste, but also for its medicinal properties. Its increasing worldwide popularity means that more and more manuka honey is being processed. Due to this, efficient processing techniques are of the utmost importance.
One way of improving processing efficiency is by knowing how the viscosity of manuka honey will be affected by different parameters. These parameters include the water content, sugar composition, methylglyoxal content and temperature. The aim of this project was to measure the different parameters and flow behaviour of manuka honey, and to formulate a model for predicting the viscosity.
- Student: Rachel Waite
Centre for Energy Research
Members of the Centre work to enhance knowledge in the field of sustainable energy supply, utilisation, efficient management and policy advice. They do this through research and development of particular relevance to New Zealand and facilitate technology transfer by establishing an interface with industry. The Centre has excellent international links.
Centre for Postharvest and Refrigeration Research
The Centre for Postharvest and Refrigeration Research does research and consultancy to provide cost-effective solutions to industry problems. We work on a wide range of fruit, vegetable, cut flower, seafood and aquaculture products.
New Zealand Biochar Research Centre
The Centre is internationally-recognised, working to advance the understanding of biochar for mitigating global climate change. We also work to enable its use in New Zealand, particularly by the agricultural and forestry sectors.
New Zealand Life Cycle Management Centre
The Centre is a collaboration between Massey University, AgResearch, Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research and SCION. It works to build capability in life cycle management (LCM) by providing education, training and research to LCM professionals to meet increasing consumer demand for green metrics on products.