Dr Tom Rufford

Senior Lecturer

School of Chemical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology
t.rufford@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 54165

Overview

Biography:

Dr Tom Rufford is a Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and a holds an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. Tom completed his BE and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland in 2000 and 2009, respectively. Tom’s PhD thesis investigated the use of porous carbon materials derived from waste coffee grounds for energy storage via hydrogen or supercapacitors on board electric vehicles. From 2001 to 2005 he worked as a process engineer and technologist on the crude distillation columns, naptha reformers and hydrogen purification plant at Shell’s Geelong Oil Refinery. From 2010 to late 2012, Tom was a research fellow at the University of Western Australia working on natural gas processing and LNG production research projects with the UWA’s Chevron Chair in Gas Process Engineering, Prof. Eric May.

Dr Rufford has published more than 64 scientific papers in international journals and an edited book on carbon materials. He has been a visiting researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan, and an Endeavour Research Fellow visiting the Institute of Metals Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang, China. Dr Rufford is a chartered member of the IChemE.

Research:

Tom Rufford conducts research on gas processing and purification for cleaner energy production and utilization. His research interests include gas process engineering, porous carbons, electrochemical processes including energy storage and CO2 reduction, pressure swing adsorption, and solid-fluid interactions in coal seam gas reservoirs. Current and recent projects include studies on electrochemical CO2 reduction, Helium recovery and nitrogen rejection from natural gas, low permeability coals, and the capture of methane emissions from liquefied natural gas (LNG) production plants.

Teaching and Learning:

Tom teaches into the chemical engineering and petroleum engineering programs at UQ. In 2019 he coordinates CHEE3002 Heat and Mass Transfer, and ENGG3500/7502 Reservoir Engineering courses. Previously he was program director of the Master of Petroleum Engineering and MSc in Petroleum Engineering programs, and has taught CHEE3004 Unit Operations.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Engineering with Honours Class 1, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • To get a grip on their surfing boards/devices surfers around the world use and discard something like 6 million bars of surfboard wax each year. Almost all of these surfboard wax products consist of petrochemicals derived from crude oils. However, a range of new surfboard wax products including soy-based and bees wax are now available, and marketed as "green" alternatives to petrochemical waxes. But, there is very little scientific information available to verify the "green" marketing claims.

    This project aims to (1) review the literature on environmental impacts (both marine impacts of wax particles, and broader impacts of production processes), (2) identify a set of criteria to assess both the performance and relative impacts of "green" and conventional surf waxes, and (3) design and conduct experiments to understand the breakage and spalling mechanisms of surfwax in use and entry of wax particles into the marine environment.

    Note, although this project focusses on surf wax, this wax product represents just a very small fraction of the parrafin wax that enters the marine environment each year. Most parrafin pollution in our oceans comes from activities related to shipping petroleum products. The outcomes from the surfwax study may help to understand the life cycle of other waxes in the marine environment.

    Applicants to this project will need to apply for a UQ Graduate School scholarship (https://graduate-school.uq.edu.au/Scholarships) or similar funding.

    No prior experience in surfing required. However, it's essential to the PhD applicant is willing to learn how surfers use wax, become aware of trends in surf culture and surf industry, and willing to appreciate the different ways surfers relate to the ocean environment.

  • Electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in industrial waste gases to carbon monoxide ior chemicals like formic acid s a potential opportunity for lower cost CO2 mitigation. Our lab is working on several challenges that need to be overcome to make make electrochemical CO2 reduction processes cost effective to reduce emissions from large sources like industrial iron and steel mills. There's project opportunities to work on electrolytes, catalysts, and gas diffusion electrodes.

    Large scale CO2 electrolysers use gas diffusion electrodes (GDE) to effectively contact CO2 gas with electrolytes and catalysts to achieve economically fast CO2 reaction rates. This project will measure changes in the wettability of carbon layers in GDEs during electrolyser operation, and develop chemically treatments of the GDE layers to prevent liquid flooding. The expected project outcomes will help researchers to predict and optimise GDE performance, and ultimately help develop efficient, lower cost CO2 conversion technologies.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Book

Book Chapter

  • Wang, Li, Ge, Lei, Rufford, Thomas and Zhu, Zhonghua (2015). Functionalization of carbon nanotubes for catalytic applications. In Ying (Ian) Chen (Ed.), Nanotubes and nanosheets: functionalization and applications of boron nitride and other nanomaterials (pp. 409-439) Boca Raton, FL, United States: CRC Press. doi:10.1201/b18073-20

  • Rufford, Thomas E., Fiset, Erika, Hulicova-Jurcakova, Denisa and Zhu, Zhonghua (2014). Biomass-derived carbon electrodes for electrochemical double-layer capacitors. In Thomas E. Rufford, Denisa Hulicova-Jurcakova and John Zhu (Ed.), Green Carbon Materials: Advances and Applications (pp. 93-113) Singapore: Pan Stanford Publishing. doi:10.1201/b15651-5

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • To get a grip on their surfing boards/devices surfers around the world use and discard something like 6 million bars of surfboard wax each year. Almost all of these surfboard wax products consist of petrochemicals derived from crude oils. However, a range of new surfboard wax products including soy-based and bees wax are now available, and marketed as "green" alternatives to petrochemical waxes. But, there is very little scientific information available to verify the "green" marketing claims.

    This project aims to (1) review the literature on environmental impacts (both marine impacts of wax particles, and broader impacts of production processes), (2) identify a set of criteria to assess both the performance and relative impacts of "green" and conventional surf waxes, and (3) design and conduct experiments to understand the breakage and spalling mechanisms of surfwax in use and entry of wax particles into the marine environment.

    Note, although this project focusses on surf wax, this wax product represents just a very small fraction of the parrafin wax that enters the marine environment each year. Most parrafin pollution in our oceans comes from activities related to shipping petroleum products. The outcomes from the surfwax study may help to understand the life cycle of other waxes in the marine environment.

    Applicants to this project will need to apply for a UQ Graduate School scholarship (https://graduate-school.uq.edu.au/Scholarships) or similar funding.

    No prior experience in surfing required. However, it's essential to the PhD applicant is willing to learn how surfers use wax, become aware of trends in surf culture and surf industry, and willing to appreciate the different ways surfers relate to the ocean environment.

  • Electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in industrial waste gases to carbon monoxide ior chemicals like formic acid s a potential opportunity for lower cost CO2 mitigation. Our lab is working on several challenges that need to be overcome to make make electrochemical CO2 reduction processes cost effective to reduce emissions from large sources like industrial iron and steel mills. There's project opportunities to work on electrolytes, catalysts, and gas diffusion electrodes.

    Large scale CO2 electrolysers use gas diffusion electrodes (GDE) to effectively contact CO2 gas with electrolytes and catalysts to achieve economically fast CO2 reaction rates. This project will measure changes in the wettability of carbon layers in GDEs during electrolyser operation, and develop chemically treatments of the GDE layers to prevent liquid flooding. The expected project outcomes will help researchers to predict and optimise GDE performance, and ultimately help develop efficient, lower cost CO2 conversion technologies.