Professor Douglas MacFarlane

2018 Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation

Professor Doug MacFarlane has been awarded the 2018 Victoria Prize in recognition of his recent discoveries in renewable energy conversion, based on his pioneering development of a class of new materials offering significant advances in renewable energy solutions for the future.

These materials, known as “ionic liquids”, are salts that are liquid at room temperature. Professor MacFarlane’s group has shown that they offer unique properties that are beneficial in a wide range of contexts, including green chemistry, and electrochemical devices, as well as biotechnology and medicinal chemistry. His discoveries are poised to have a significant impact on renewable energy opportunities for Australia, both in the local energy market and for export. These include using ionic materials to efficiently produce ammonia from renewable energy sources.

The technology developed by Professor MacFarlane’s group holds a world record by a very large margin for the efficient reduction of nitrogen from the atmosphere to ammonia, using renewable energy at room temperature. This development provides an urgently needed sustainable route to making ammonia for fertilisers. Moreover, it is recognised as the foundation of a viable energy carrier for export from the renewable energy rich areas of Australia to markets in Asia. His work on the high-efficiency splitting of water to produce hydrogen as a store of renewable energy was published in top journals, including Science (2008) and Energy and Environmental Science (2012), as well as a suite of patents. This area is currently set to become a major renewable energy technology for Australia in the very near future.

Professor MacFarlane is a Professor of Chemistry at Monash University’s School of Chemistry. He was Head of the School of Chemistry at Monash 2003-2006 and Deputy Dean of Science 2000–2001. Professor MacFarlane was elected Fellow of The Australian Academy of Science in 2007 and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2009. In 2007 he was awarded an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship and in 2012 an Australian Laureate Fellowship.