Fundamental studies of spinifex grass constituents

Katarzyna’s research focuses on understanding the composition and properties of Australia’s endemic arid grass, spinifex, at multiple levels of substructures. Her investigations include using advanced characterization techniques to find how different cell wall components of this perennial are assembled and what role they play in the function of the plant in terms of materials properties. Her fundamental research bridges the collaboration between the University of Queensland and the Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation (DAC). This underpinning knowledge will be used to better predict the behaviour of micro- and nanocellulose materials and to engineer this sustainable resource for novel applications. The research will help to expand spinifex nanocellulose technology to production and create job opportunities in regional Australia.

Dr Katarzyna Hourigan has a diverse background in biomaterials science and engineering engaging in fundamental and translational research. She completed her PhD at the University of Queensland in Materials Engineering, where she studied the properties of nanocellulose derived from spinifex grass and energy-efficient manufacturing processes of this material. Katarzyna graduated with Master of Science in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark, investigating grafting of biomaterials for facial implants in a joint project undertaken at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, UQ. She has industry experience working in the R&D on polymers for medical devices in a company in Denmark.

Alongside her research she has been engaged in supporting gender diversity in science and engineering fields and is a passionate advocate for women and girls in STEM. She has been invilved with the UQ Women in Engineering as a Student Leader, helping to inspire and encourage females to study engineering.

Industry Engagement

Prior to joining UQ AIBN Katarzyna worked in the industry gaining experience at the major medical device company in Denmark. She worked on the development of pressure sensitive adhesives, specialising in contact angle measurements and standard peel tests of adhesives. 

Key Publications

Kępa K., Chaléat C.M., Amiralian N., Batchelor W., Grøndahl L., Martin D.J., Evaluation of properties and specific energy consumption of spinifex-derived lignocellulose fibers produced using different mechanical processes, Cellulose, 26, (2019).

Kępa K., Hill D.J., Grøndahl L., In vitro mineralization of dual grafted polytetrafluoroethylene membranes, Biointerphases, 12, (2017).

Kępa K., Coleman R., Grøndahl L., In vitro mineralization of functional polymers, Biosurface and Biotribology, 1, (2015).

Full list of publications available on espace