School Seminar Program

Global energy transition? The need for breakthrough technologies in the resources sector

Professor Mark Knackstedt
Department of Materials Physics
Research School of Physics, ANU

The transition to net zero carbon poses challenges for large sectors of Australia’s economy. The iron ore and steelmaking sector, accounts for 8% of global emissions. While “Green Steel” makes headlines in the press, technologies that will deliver deep reduction in emissions from the steelmaking process remains at a very early stage of development (demonstration/pilot scales).

The transition to net zero carbon poses challenges for the wider mining sector because of its demand for critical metals. Among these are copper, nickel, and cobalt for electric vehicles and batteries; as well as iron and aluminium for electricity transmission. In terms of metal requirement copper is of major importance since, in addition to this new demand, its use continues to increase naturally by about 3 % per year through modernizing of the developing world. As with many industries, copper mining is facing increasing capital and operating costs. The reducing average metal grade and changing mineral processing requirements of newlydiscovered ores add to these cost burdens. Additionally, global demand for Copper requires discoveries of new large mines every year.

To address the demands of the required global energy transition requires new technologies and workflows. I will describe the extension of innovative work conducted in the energy resources sector (Digital Rocks) to addressing problems in the iron ore and critical metals sectors. The talk aims to illustrate the need for fundamental sciences in addressing real world engineering problems in the resources sectors.


Prof. Mark Knackstedt received his BSc degree at Columbia University and PhD in Chemical Engineering at Rice University. He has been in Australia since 1990, primarily at ANU with a brief successful stint with a startup for the oil and gas sector. His research interests include 3D imaging of complex real-world materials, pore scale characterisation of sedimentary rocks and soils, digital materials analysis, and prediction of properties of complex materials from 3D image data and large scale computational analysis. He was a Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts (SPWLA) distinguished speaker for 2007- 2008, 2009-2010 & 2012-2013, received the Fesaus Distinguished Technical Award in 2012, was awarded the George C. Matson Memorial Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in 2009 and the ENI award for New Frontiers in Hydrocarbon Research in 2010. He is an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering since 2012.


This Seminar will be hosted by the Department of Materials Physics


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