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Alumni Postcard: Australia

Greetings from... the Australian Outback where I’ve been as part of the scientific faculty managing the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Hans Tholstrup and I co-founded this 3,000 km event across Australia for cars powered only by direct sunlight 30 years ago. It’s a design competition to find the world’s most efficient electric car.

Having fun ... In the 1960s, I did my PhD with John Agar in the Department of Chemistry, researching fuel cells. The Space Race was on and these power sources were key for spacecraft. It was a lot of fun – and turned me into an electrochemist. Since then, I’ve been on a fascinating journey on the electrochemical road to sustainability via the increasing uptake of renewable fuels.

We had a great trip... emigrating to Australia in 1969. I walked into my new office at almost the exact minute Neil Armstrong set his left boot on the surface of the moon. I immediately thought of Agar’s friend Tom Bacon, a regular visitor to the Department of Chemistry, whose pioneering work on fuel cells had enabled Apollo 11 to undertake this epic journey into space.

The picture shows... me (left) at this year’s World Solar Challenge with Hans Tholstrup and his Quiet Achiever - the world’s first solar car in which, in 1983, he travelled 4,500km across Australia from Perth to Sydney.

David A J Rand AM PhD ScD FTSE

Honorary Research Fellow, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation