Professor Veena Sahajwalla, an IIT-trained Australian scientist of Indian origin, launched the world's first microfactory that can transform electronic waste into material that can be reused. The microfactory is built considering e-waste like smartphones and laptops that generate a high amount of waste like computer circuit boards. Alloys like copper and tin, along with glass and plastic can be converted into ceramics and plastic filaments for 3D printing.
A material scientist from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at the university, Veena is an alumni of IIT Kanpur from the metallurgical department. Her work in the field of sustainable development won her the distinguished alumnus award, along with the Eureka Prize (2005), and Pravasi Bhartiya Samman for outstanding achievement in science (2011).
The microfactory, since it was set up, has been successful in attracting Indian students to its Sydney campus. The scientific research centre, SMaRT, uses technology to reduce electronic waste and stops it from going to landfills. In an interview with IANS, she says:
Our e-waste (microfactory) and another under development for other consumer waste types offer a cost-effective solution to one of the greatest environmental challenges of our age, while delivering new job opportunities to our cities but importantly to our rural and regional areas, too.
The green manufacturing technologies apart from transforming the local waste work with local businesses and lead to commercial value when these wastes are segregated. According to Veena, microfactories are a "truly sustainable solution to our growing waste problem while offering economic benefits available to local communities". This feat could be transformational in the manufacturing sector, especially in island markets where transportation is a not a cost-effective solution.
Recently, Veena was one of the three women who were named on the 2015 AFR-Westpac 100 Women of Influence list for their respective contributions, joining 400 of Australia’s most inspiring women, said The Indian Disaspora.
The university has partnered with Australian Research Council and a few other organisations like e-waste recycler TES, mining manufacturer Moly-Cop, and Dresden, which makes spectacles. Ranked 45th in the world, the University of New South Wales has a reputation of being the world's largest research and training institutes and houses more than 52,000 students from 130 countries.
With inputs from IANS