Crystals that trap pollution win at Tall Poppies
Dr Thornton studies the behaviour and lifecycles of small gas molecules including oxygen, water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and aims to identify ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the environmental impacts of pollution.
“For an early career researcher, Dr Thornton has already developed mathematical models that have become critical tools for the research community and will no doubt accelerate material discoveries in future.”
Dr Anita Hill, Chief, CSIRO Process Science and Engineering
“I have built a virtual environment to mimic the behaviour of gas molecules, to discover new ways of separating and transporting them, leading to sustainable solutions for the environment,” Dr Thornton said.
Dr Thornton recently discovered new crystals called zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) that separate one type of molecule from another and could be used to clean pollutants from air and water.
“At CSIRO we are currently developing ZIFs, which could eventually help industry to meet new carbon performance targets by reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” he said.
Chief of CSIRO Process Science and Engineering, Dr Anita Hill, said Dr Thornton has delivered exceptional scientific results through collaborating with a broad research community in Australia and overseas.
“For an early career researcher, Dr Thornton has already developed mathematical models that have become critical tools for the research community and will no doubt accelerate material discoveries in future,” Dr Hill said.
“He has also shown dedication to the broader community through the Mathematicians in Schools program, where his work is breaking new ground by bringing manufacturers, parents, teachers and students together in education,” she said.
Dr Thornton is an active board member of the Membrane Society of Australasia, a CSIRO postdoctoral committee member and an active member for the Mathematicians in Schools Program where he assists teachers and students.
The Victorian Young Tall Poppy awards were held at the Bio21 Institute in Parkville and recognised the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientists.
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Watch Aaron Thornton discuss being a 2012 Victorian Tall Poppy and his research.