High School Teacher Sparks Groundbreaking Research, Career

University of Newcastle

New research by ‘ARC Centre of Excellence-Minerals’ researcher Josh Starrett maps a path to more-sustainable minerals processing by evidencing energy savings and waste reductions made possible by using Australian technology the REFLUX™ Classifier (RC).

ARC Centre of Excellence – Minerals researcher, University of Newcastle PhD Chemical Engineering Student Josh Starrett with his Merewether High science teacher Ros Penson

First year University of Newcastle Chemical Engineering PhD student Josh Starrett – a young researcher with the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals (ARC Centre of Excellence – Minerals) – has analysed and documented how minerals processing can become more sustainable in his first research paper. It provides industry with science-based data to support a transition to newer technology use, against a backdrop of growing demand for finate mineral resources.

Josh, who credits his high school science teacher Ros Penson for sparking his STEM career and passion for finding more sustainable solutions, is one of the Centre’s new-generation scientists. He provides a data-driven case and practical path to reducing waste and energy during minerals processing (referred to as beneficiation/communition) in his newly released research paper. Deeply scientific, it maps how newer technology, invented in Australia, enables minerals processing plants to operate much more efficiently.

Acknowledging the potential impact of ARC Centre of Excellence – Minerals research, The Hon. Jason Clare, Federal Minister for Education commented: “Australia has some of the world’s best researchers, and the work the ARC does to support them is critical. Researchers like Josh are changing the game and demonstrating the very real benefits that Australian research can deliver to key industries.”

On learning Josh credits his high school teacher for sparking his interest in science he added: “Josh’s story also highlights the power of education and the importance of teachers in setting young people up for success and changing the nation for the better.”

Josh’s research provides science-based insights on the abilities of The ‘REFLUX™ Classifier’ (RC) as an alternative technology to current processes, addressing multiple industry minerals separation problems that play out in processing plants today:

  • The first relates to particle size separation: Research shows the RC offers effective particle separation across a wide range of (mineral particle) sizes.
  • Further, research shows the RC enables more concentrated mineral recovery as it can correctly ‘sort’ virtually all ultrafine particles, which can be an issue for current technologies, and leading to high energy use and loss of valuable minerals.

Centre Director, Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin commented: “Josh’s research, as released in his very first paper, pushes the boundaries beyond what has previously been possible. It provides the scientific community and minerals sector with a new level of clarity on how to classify particles according to their size with extreme precision and at a very high processing rate.”

Celebrating the milestone of his first academic research paper, Josh Starrett commented:”It’s incredible to be able to be a part of real-world research that gives industry the power to recover critical minerals more efficiently, while also reducing the water and energy use, and waste generated during the process. Some processes used in industry haven’t changed much in more than 50 years, and they can produce more waste while consuming more energy. There are now much better ways to process minerals thanks to new innovations. My research tests and documents the effectiveness of using newer technologies based on data and novel scientific methods. This research provides industry with the information to make informed decisions that can lead to real change for the benefit of everyone.”

As the catalyst for Josh’s scientific career path, and passion for supporting more sustainable solutions, his Year 11 science teacher Ms Ros Penson (who continues to teach at Merewether High) shared:

“I love challenging students to understand how the scientific process can work when they are presented with a new concept, and Josh was one of those students who didn’t just want to rote-learn work: he wanted to gain a deep understanding of how concepts could be interlinked. I knew Josh would enjoy the rigour of university. It is exceptionally gratifying to see former students making their mark at the very high level that Josh has achieved. Josh’s data may just be the catalyst industry needs for moving away from older sorting methods, and a transition to newer technology and more sustainable minerals processing techniques.”

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