Yalinu set on cleaner future

Youth & Careers

A PAPUA New Guinean who is doing her PhD studies at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom has an ambition to create a cleaner and safer way to produce ammonia to feed the world’s population more sustainably.
Yalinu Poya, who is a final-year PhD student in chemistry, said her research was focused on using affordable materials to make a catalyst that was able to produce ammonia in a clean way using less harsh reaction conditions and less energy.
“The Haber–Bosch process uses its conventional iron catalysts in large scale plants, meanwhile I make and use cobalt rhenium supported on magnesium oxide catalysts which are potentially more suitable for small scale localised plants (such as on a farm) that can be powered by wind energy,” she said.
It is estimated that the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion by the year 2050, and consequently food production will need to rise by 70 per cent to keep up with global demands.
Farmers will require more fertilisers to maintain fertile soil in order to produce healthy crops, which will result in an increased demand in the production of fertilisers.
Since ammonia is the main component in fertilisers, it too will need to increase in production.
To maintain food security, ammonia needs to be produced in enormous amounts through the Haber–Bosch process.
Through this ingenious invention, over 450 million tonnes of fertiliser is produced annually and it is estimated that 40 per cent of the world is being fed through it.
Unfortunately, this industrial technology annually consumes two per cent of the world’s energy and contributes to global warming by releasing 1.6 per cent of man-made carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“My country, Papua New Guinea, is a developing country that is affected by many things, one of them being climate change,” Poya said.
“Located in the Pacific Ocean, we along, with other Pacific island nations, are feeling the drastic effects of global warming.
With the sea level rising, most of our islands are sinking, and my people of the Pacific are highly affected.”
“I am pleased that my research can potentially contribute new perspectives to worldwide sustainability to help tackle some of the problems of climate change that affect my country, neighbouring Pacific island nations, other vulnerable developing nations, and moreover the planet.”
Poya said she chose to study at the University of Glasgow because of its world-changing research and notable alumni.
“The University of Glasgow’s school of chemistry alone has alumni like Joseph Black, who discovered magnesium and Fred Soddy, who discovered isotopes,” she said.
“All of these Nobel Prize winners come from here, so why not me!”
Poya said studying chemistry at the University of Glasgow was an enormous honour.
“I am working alongside world-leading research groups and using first-class facilities,” she said.
“My goal is to graduate successfully with a PhD and I will use the knowledge and skills I gain in my studies to present chemistry and catalysis as a solution to the real global problems that our world faces.”
Glasgow University said Poya was one of its future world changers: students with ambitions to improve lives across the world.

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