StorEnergy early career researcher wins ARC industry fellowship

Our Research Fellow, and Education and Training Chair, Dr Faezeh Makhlooghi Azad is one of 50 researchers across the country to be selected for an Australian Research Council (ARC) Early Career Industry Fellowship. 

The $22.5 million funding program aims to build innovation in the industry, community organisation, not-for-profit and other government and publicly funded research sectors and to facilitate the adoption, translation and commercialisation of Australian research over time. 

Dr Faezeh Makhlooghi Azad has been awarded $487,791.00 for her project with Proton Systems on designing innovative, eco-friendly materials for renewable energy storage. 

Faezeh said she was honoured and excited to receive the early career industry fellowship and thanked Professor Maria Forsyth, Associate Professor Robert Kerr, Professor Jenny Pringle, Professor Patrick Howlett, and IFM and Deakin Research Services for their support.

“This marks a significant milestone in my career, providing an exceptional opportunity to enhance my research with the guidance of both academic and industry leaders,” she said.

“This fellowship will allow me to collaborate with distinguished researchers and access cutting-edge resources, essential for fostering innovation in my field. I am profoundly thankful for this recognition and am eager to contribute to our collective objectives of advancing technology and expanding knowledge.”

Dr Makhlooghi said that while today’s batteries provide an efficient way to store energy from renewable sources, there were still limitations for current energy storage technologies, such as faltering under ultra-high-power inputs.

“This project is focused on the development of proton batteries, a promising new technology that merges the strengths of both batteries and capacitors,” she said. “Proton batteries offer high energy and power densities, providing a more effective energy storage solution. Moreover, these batteries utilise electrochemical proton storage, which has several advantages: water is an abundant and easily accessible source of protons, and the system offers enhanced sustainability and safety…This research is paving the way towards more reliable and efficient energy storage systems that can better support the fluctuating nature of renewable energy and meet modern energy demands.”

She said her next immediate goal was to leverage the innovative protic solid-state membranes, originally developed for proton batteries across a range of applications critical to advancing clean energy solutions.

“I plan to adapt these membranes for use in fuel cell technologies. By enhancing the efficiency and durability of fuel cells, this could significantly improve how energy is generated from hydrogen, making it a more viable alternative to fossil fuels. This adaptation not only holds promise for the automotive industry but also for stationary power sources, contributing to more sustainable urban infrastructures.”

ARC Acting Chief Executive Officer Dr Richard Johnson said offering the opportunity for early career researchers to collaborate in an industry setting was critical to ensuring Australia’s capability in meeting future industry-identified challenges.       

“These early career researchers will help create pathways to support academic researchers in establishing careers in an industry setting, and industry-based researchers to work in a university environment,” Dr Johnson said. This plays an important role in increasing two-way mobility and skill-building in research collaboration, translation, and commercialisation.  The ARC has made this scheme flexible for early career researchers, maintaining a diversity of career pathways and strategic alignment between universities and industry.”  

Project snapshot 

  • Dr Faezeh Makhlooghi Azad 
  • ARC Early Career Industry Fellow 
  • Funding: $487,791 

Designing innovative, eco-friendly materials for renewable energy storage  

This project will advance Australian’s energy storage capability by developing safe, eco-friendly, and affordable materials for battery technology. The project addresses a significant gap in battery materials for Australia by delivering high-performance materials that excel in harsh conditions, including high temperatures, while delivering significant energy storage capacity and rapid discharge capabilities. The expected outcomes include developing new batteries that reduce environmental impact and avoid the use of expensive and exotic metals, that can be better utilized for energy storage under Australian conditions. This will provide significant benefits to the renewable energy sector and contribute to Australia’s transition to net zero.