Whilst Bart's credentials in the field of green energy is clear, growing up he didn’t know he wanted to work to improve the environment – it was a fascination that came later.
“I never thought I would be a chief scientist of a company that is worth nearly 80 billion Australian dollars,” says Bart. “I had no idea I was going to end up in this industry – I actually started out as a mechanical engineer. My Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are in mechanical engineering, and then I also completed another Master’s in renewable energy science in Iceland. It was only during that time that I found myself interested in hydrogen, so I moved to Australia to do my PhD in materials engineering, stopping off in France to do a PhD in microelectronics along the way.”
With two PhDs under his belt, Bart moved to the United States, where he did a postdoc in biosensing and developed a gluten biosensor for people with coeliac disease. He then decided to move back to Australia and began working as a chief technology officer for a company that manufactures electrolysers before being approached by the major global resource company that he works for today.
I initially joined to work with the newly formed hydrogen team but have since been promoted to chief scientist. Day to day I look after different technologies, data science, autonomous vehicles and things like that. I’m currently working on various green hydrogen projects using renewable energy to produce hydrogen from water – water electrolysis – which is something that I’ve been doing on and off for the past 12 years.
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“Recently hydrogen has been getting a lot of attention globally – when I started there wasn’t much support for it and people doubted that it was going to happen, but now big companies like BP are investing in hydrogen and trying to move away from environmentally damaging fossil fuels. People are starting to understand the value of renewables and creating green fuels like hydrogen and green ammonia, and I think that’s very exciting.”
Wanting to trigger widespread environmental change, Bart is driven by securing long term prosperity on the planet for future generations.
I have a son who’s seven months old who I want to live a happy and healthy life. Our current generation sees environmental issues very differently than previous generations and that has been proven by a number of scientific papers. We are now much more aware of environmental issues and we know that climate change is real, we are aware of biodiversity laws and understand growing populations.
But while tackling these issues on a smaller scale is important, it’s really about making a global change. To protect the environment, we need to raise awareness and challenge current industries to do something different, even if renewables aren’t as cost competitive as other energy sources.”
Bart has been part of the Royal Society of Chemistry for many years, joining after his experience publishing in RSC journals when he was completing his PhDs.
“When I was a PhD student, most of the papers I wrote were published in RSC journals. I always found that they were relevant to the research that I was doing for electrochemistry, and I was driven by their high impact factor amongst other things. The journals are actually why I decided to become a member – I really valued what the RSC was doing and the scope of different publications that promote and encourage science all over the world.
“The RSC is also very highly regarded and a very well-respected organisation worldwide, which is great as it means I can meet like-minded individuals internationally.”
As an extension of his environmental commitment, Bart has received the prestigious Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) award, given only to individuals working to mitigate and solve environmental challenges.
“Becoming a Chartered Environmentalist was important to me as it enabled me to meet so many like-minded individuals. What I really liked about the process was the interview with two experts who ask you all sorts of questions to determine if you are the right candidate and if you have sufficient background, so it wasn’t like everyone could be awarded CEnv status. For me, it was an achievement to go through that process and show my work to committee members who are very highly regarded experts in their fields.
Of everything the RSC offers, the most valuable thing to me is the empowerment that membership provides in some shape or form. I feel empowered knowing that I’m part of a big and growing organisation – it is a great thing.
“My CEnv enables me to feel part of this like-minded environmental community, so if I have any questions, I know I can reach out and seek advice from this database of knowledge which is invaluable.” Believing everyone should volunteer and support each other to do positive things, Bart also runs his own not-for-profit outreach organisation where scientists from all different disciplines get involved in the coordination activities and workshops.
“Our flagship programme is getting scientists to high schools to tell students about their experiences and research. It benefits both groups – the students as they’re exposed to someone who is doing cutting-edge research that can enthuse them with science, but also the scientists, as it’s a chance to talk to another audience and explain their research in a very different way so that it is understood. I often attend these events myself too – I’ve been volunteering for around 20 years for a number of different causes.”
Wishing he’d joined the RSC sooner, Bart has the following advice for those not yet members. “I would definitely encourage those that are working in chemistry, electrochemistry, nanotechnology and even those in chemical engineering to get involved.
“The work that the RSC is doing is very relevant to all fields of chemistry and different people will find different benefits because the scope of the RSC is so broad."