Dongke Zhang

Professor, FTSE, BE ME Southeast, PhD Newcastle(NSW), FIChemE, CEng, CSci, FIEAust, CPEng, FAIE, MIComb

  • The University of Western Australia (M473), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


  • M468
    35 Stirling Highway


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Personal profile


Life has constantly played up with me: I love outdoor sports and aviation, but end up with a heavily office life; I was trained as mechanical engineer, but end up with a chemical engineer title; I love to have a few daughters and sons, but end up with three sons; The list goes on and on.


Not entirely so ……


Three things have been always right for me and that’s enough: my three sons, David, Daniel and Damien, are so lovely, polite, talented, and always pleasant; I always love the aerodynamics of flying and I obtained my general aviation pilot licence at an age of more than half a century, coming with it is the freedom of zooming between clouds towards the sky’s limit and the feel of within the reach of touching the God’s cheeks; I love fire from my childhood, I am still burning anything that burns, from coal to gas, from biomass to city garbage, and even chicken shit; and I burn things in a variety of ways, from stove to boilers, from jet burners to internal combustion engines, from spontaneous combustion to dust explosion, and even catalytic combustion and human spontaneous combustion; I also burn things to make a variety of products, from heat to light, from electricity to antimicrobials, and even NOx, SOx, and the damn CO2 ……


The awesome energy released from combustion fuels my professional life, just as David, Daniel and Damien who keep warm my body and soul, all the time.


Life is a process of combustion, often spontaneous ……

Roles and responsibilities

Director, Centre for Energy

Funding overview

• Australian Research Council Discovery Projects Scheme, Production, Processing and Combustion of an Innovative Slurry Fuel for High Efficiency Distributed Power Generation (DP110103699)
• Australian National Low emissions coal research & development (ANLECR&D) Research & development projects Alternatives & Fundamentals Program, Oxygen Membranes for Oxyfuel Combustion and/or brown and black coal gasification
• BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pty Ltd, Low-Temperature Oxidation, Spontaneous Combustion and Acid Rock Drainage of Mt McRae Shale: Continuing Quality Assurance for the Application of the New Shale Classification System for ARD Minimisation and Management Based on pH and ORP Techniques
• Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Scheme, Synthetic Natural Gas and Biochar from Biomass for Energy Services in Remote Communities and Soil Carbon Sequestration (LP100200135)
• Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Scheme, Methanol to Diesel (LP100200136)
• Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Scheme, An Innovative Two-Phase Anaerobic Process for Biogas Production from Green Waste and Animal Droppings for Remote Communities (LP100200137)
• Australian Research Council Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Scheme, An Advanced Thermogravimetric Analysis System for World-Leading Research in Clean Energy, Catalysis, Material Science and Nanotechnology
• Australian Research Council Discovery Projects Scheme, Ignition Mechanisms and Flame Evolution of Single Particles and Clouds of Pulverised Coal under Micro-Gravity Condition (DP0988036)
• Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Scheme, Homogeneous Combustion Catalysts for Efficiency Improvements and Emission Reduction in Diesel Engines (LP0989368)
• Chinese Academy of Sciences International Collaboration Funds, Research and Development into the Key Scientific Issues in Syngas to Diesel via DME
• Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of China, Strategic Research into the Fundamentals of Lignite Reactions and Tactical Development of Technologies for Clean and Efficient Utilization of Lignite
• National Natural Science Foundation of China, A fundamental Study of the Combined Coal Gasification and Coal-bed Methane Reforming in Fluidised-bed
• Australian Research Council Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Scheme, A novel isotope facility to characterise high-molecular-weight fractions of natural organic matter in soils, sediments, water, petroleum and coal
• Spitfire Oil Ltd, Lignite to Value process development, evaluation and optimisation
• BHPBilliton MKO (Nickel) Pty Ltd., Development of a portable pH technique for in-pit identification of reactive shale for safe blasting of mine grounds using ANFO

Previous positions

• FTSE, FIChemE, CEng, CSci, FIEAust, CPEng, FAIE, MCombI.
• B.E. (1984) and M.E. (1987), Nanjing Institute of Technology (Southeast University), Nanjing, P.R. China.
• Ph.D. (1993), University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
• Appointed Lecturer, Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Adelaide (1993), Senior Lecturer (1996), Associate Professor (1998).
• Appointed Professor of Chemical Engineering (1999 – 2008) and Head of Department of Chemical Engineering at Curtin University of Technology (1999 – 2001)
• Foundation Director, Centre for Fuels and Energy, Curtin University of Technology (established 2000)
• Manager - Education Program, Principal Researcher, Key Research Adviser, and Project Leader positions with Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for New Technologies for Power Generation from Low-rank Coal (1993 - 1999).
• Adjunct Professor, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, P.R.China (since 1995).
• Adjunct Professor, Southeast University, Nanjing, P.R. China (since 1997).
• Research Adviser, CHEMEQ Ltd. (2000 - 2006)
• A key and crucial member in the successful application for the establishment of the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development (CCSD) (2000)
• Project Leader for Improvements in Current Power Generation Technologies (CCSD P2.3) and for Utilisation of Solid Wastes and By-products (CCSD P6.2) in the CCSD (2001 – 2008).
• Overseas Expert Assessor for Chinese Academy of Science (since 2002)
• Concurrent Research Professor, Institute of Coal Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Science, Taiyuan, Shanxi, P.R. China (since 2002)
• Associate Editor, Science Bulletin, China Science Publishing House (2003 – 2007)
• Non-Executive Director, Hydrogen Technology Limited (2004 – 2006)
• Senior Project Adviser, BHPBilliton Iron Ore Limited - Mt Whaleback (Newman, WA) Operations (since 2004)
• Elected Fellow (FTSE), Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering (ATSE) (2004)
• Chairman and Chief Scientist, 3D Reactions Pty Ltd (since 2005)
• Chief Scientist and Chief Technical Officer, Spitfire Oil Ltd (2005 – 2008)
• Honorary Professor, South China University of Technology (2006)
• Strategic Adviser and Concurrent Research Professor, Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Processing Technology, Chinese Academy of Science, Qingdao, Shandong, P.R. China (since 2007)
• John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Curtin University of Technology (since 2007)
• Concurrent Research Professor, Beijing University, P.R. China (since 2007)
• Winthrop Professor, Foundation Professor of Chemical Engineering, Director, UWA Centre for Energy, The University of Western Australia (since 2008)
• Member of College of Expert, The Australian Research Council (2008 – 2010)
• Inaugural Honorary Director of Centre for Energy Technology, Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Processing Technology, Chinese Academy of Science, Qingdao, Shandong, P.R. China (since 2009)


Research papers have been published in the following areas:

(A) Industrial Furnaces and Kilns
mathematical modelling of furnaces
radiant property estimation
thermal properties of coal ashes
heat transfer in furnaces
pulverised fuel – fired, fluid-bed, and stoker-fired furnaces
coal ash slagging, fouling and deposition
direct and in-direct fired industrial kilns – combustion and heat transfer
oxy-fuel combustion

(B) Coal
coal drying and pyrolysis,
pulverised coal combustion and gasification kinetics
ignition, laboratory testing and industrial flames
fluidised-bed coal combustion and gasification
process synthesis of coal utilisation
pyrolysis and coal volatile matter combustion
low-rank coal upgrading
sulphur transformation and evolution during heating of coal particles
spontaneous combustion of coal stock-piles and mudstone dumps
inorganic reactions, mineral transformation and coal ash deposition
coal to liquid

(C) Hydrocarbons (Oil and Gas)
catalytic combustion and hydrocarbon processing
natural gas reforming by partial oxidation
catalytic effect of NOx in hydrocarbon reactions
catalytic partial oxidation of propene for acrolein production
organic polymers, polymerisation of acrolein
gas to liquid

(D) Ignition and Explosions
thermal explosion theory (TET)
laser-induced explosions of gas mixtures
ignition mechanisms of gases and dust clouds
laboratory testing of explosion safety
industrial explosion risk assessment and protection

(E) Aerodynamics
jet mixing and entrainment
effect of particulates on jet properties
interaction between particles and turbulence in coal flames
modelling of non-isothermal multi-phase reacting flows

(F) Flames
flow, mixing and combustion in flames, measurements and modelling
ignition of industrial coal, oil and gas flames
burner design and mathematical modelling
multi-fuel burners

(G) Environmental
zero emission energy technologies
NOx formation and destruction in combustion systems
in-situ capture of SOx by additives
in-situ desulphurisation in coal gasification processes
catalytic clean-up of automotive engine emissions (NO and hydrocarbons)
effluent clean-up of power stations
photocatalysis for waste water cleaning
spontaneous combustion control
combustion and incineration of municipal waste, energy production
remediation of refinery disposals
utilisation of industrial waste and by-products

(H) Energy
hydrogen economy and cleaner energy
energy options for the future
hydrogen economy, hydrogen production, hydrogen carriers
energy saving technologies
renewable energy from biomass and waste materials
energy engineering
biofuel and bioenergy processing

(I) Reaction Engineering
mechanisms of catalysed reactions
surface sciences and molecular dynamics
heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysts, catalyst structure,
development of non-noble metal catalysts for NOx decomposition
reactor design, ultra-fast reaction, short contact time reactor (SCTR)
inorganic polymer
material syntesis by combustion methods

(J) Heat Transfer
thermal conductivity measurement
analytical and numerical techniques for heat transfer analyses
design and analysis of heat pipes
high efficiency heat transfer technologies
heat and mass transfer
heat transfer analysis of process systems

(K) Process Synthesis and Design
process development and modelling
pilot plant experience – development, design and commissioning

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Research expertise keywords

  • Anaerobic digestion for biogas production
  • Biomass energy
  • Carbon dioxide chemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Coal pyrolysis, combustion and gasification
  • Coal to liquid
  • Combustion science and technology
  • Diesel engine combustion
  • Electrochemistry and water electrolysis
  • Emission control
  • Energy conversion and energy efficiency
  • Flame and fire
  • Fuel cells
  • Fuel processing technologies
  • Gas combustion
  • Gas process engineering
  • Gas to liquid
  • Heat and mass transfer
  • Heavy oil processing
  • Heterogeneous catalysis
  • Homogeneous catalysis
  • Hydrogen production technologies and hydrogen economy
  • Industrial explosives
  • Natural gas chemistry and chemical engineering
  • Oil refining and petrochemicals
  • Process engineering
  • Reaction engineering and kinetics
  • Reaction mechanisms
  • Reactor design
  • Renewable energy
  • Slurry fuels
  • Surface science
  • Thermodynamics
  • Thermal explosions


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