Eyes, hearts, bionic spines—partners in new health technologies

Across America lives have been improved by Australian inventions—the cervical cancer vaccine, the bionic eye, gum that repairs tooth decay. What’s next?

Extended wear contact lenses for healthier eyes

Some 30 million Americans use contact lenses. Today they can wear a single pair for up to 30 consecutive days and nights, safely and comfortably thanks to the work of CIBA Vision and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

Contact lenses were once rigid and had to be taken out every night. In 1991, a team of researchers from CSIRO, the University of New South Wales, and the Vision Cooperative Research Centre joined forces with CIBA Vision in the US, and Novartis in Switzerland, to create a better contact lens.

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Cars, planes…partners in advanced manufacturing

Australian and American researchers and businesses are partnering to bring new manufacturing technologies to market

Paint fit for a Dreamliner

Next time you board a new Boeing Dreamliner, take note of its Australian paint.

Developed by researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, ‘Paintbond’ has now been adopted across the entire Boeing aircraft fleet, and more than 1,000 aircraft have been re-coated using the technology so far.

Why is it better? The new spray-on topcoat paint technology saves time, reduces the impact on the environment, and is safer to use.

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From the ocean floor to batteries—partners in energy

Heading into deep water

Perth researchers help Chevron keep oil and gas flowing smoothly

Out in the Gulf of Mexico Chevron are operating a $7.5 billion platform that’s recovering oil and gas from two-kilometre-deep ocean.

It’s the largest and deepest operation in the Gulf, with over 146km of pipeline bringing oil and gas to refineries.

But pipelines operating at extreme depths in cold water and crushing pressure are prone to blockage. University of Western Australia researchers are helping Chevron keep oil and gas flowing through deep-water pipes.

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Protecting our crops—partners in food security

Australia and America are farming nations

The science underpinning modern farming has enabled our farmers to become more efficient, and more profitable.

Take grain for example. American farmers grow over 440 million tonnes of grain each year. Australia produces about 40 million tonnes. Together that’s about one-sixth of global grain production. Good science has contributed to a tripling in grain production over the past half century.

Both nations export to the world. But whenever we store and transport grain the bugs bite. The latest collaborative research between our two nations is changing that.

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Protecting phones, robots and governments—partners in cybersecurity

Your smartphone’s Wi-Fi connections are fast and reliable thanks to the work of Australian astronomers in the 1990s.

Today, your phone is also being protected from cyberattacks by Australian software that works within the kernel of the phone’s operating system to protect it from hacking and software faults. The kernel is the most fundamental part of an operating system. It acts between the hardware and the applications.

Now Australian researchers are working to secure America’s growing fleets of autonomous machines, with ‘microkernel’ software known as seL4.

The new software is built on the work of researchers at the University of New South Wales and National ICT Australia (now CSIRO’s Data61 Group).

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Fishing for food security

Local fishermen in Indonesia are catching less fish. Whatever the reason, it is a significant problem for those who live on small islands in particular, as fish make up about 90 per cent of the protein they eat.

A team of Indonesian and Australian social scientists is looking at how communities adapt to these changes.

Initially, in a pilot project study financed by the Australia Indonesia Centre, the researchers are examining whether there is a link between fishing productivity and feelings of food insecurity in the small islands off Kai Kecil, and if so, whether a weakening of local management of fish populations and a rise in intercommunity conflicts over fish resources play a role.

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Feeding the world, and asking where the wind went

Life on land depends on plants. And every plant balances opening its pores to let in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; and closing its pores to retain water.

Graham Farquhar’s work has transformed our understanding of photosynthesis.

His models of plant biophysics have been used to understand cells, whole plants, whole forests, and to create new water-efficient wheat varieties.

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Sending quantum information around the world

Sending quantum messages over long distances will be challenging. The signal will have to be amplified every few hundred kilometres, but conventional optical amplification would destroy the quantum message.

In a quantum information system, if you measure the light, you will destroy the information encoded on it. You need to store the light itself.

“We have to catch and store the light, but we’re not allowed to look at it to see what information it contains. If the system is working, the light will be exactly the same when we let it out again. We do this by absorbing the light into a cloud of atoms,” says Dr Ben Buchler.

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Taking autoimmune disease personally

More than 1.2 million Australians have an autoimmune disease. But any two people may experience it very differently, even if their disease has the same name.

Carola is using genetics to fight autoimmune disease. Credit: John Curtin School of Medical Research
Carola is using genetics to fight autoimmune disease. Credit: John Curtin School of Medical Research

Unlike infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases are not passed from person to person. They are our bodies fighting themselves, making every person’s disease unique.

“A lot of clinical trials fail as they treat all patients with a certain ‘disease’ as one big group,” says Professor Carola Vinuesa, from the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Personalised Immunology at The Australian National University.

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Supercharged rice to feed the world

The discovery of C4 photosynthesis at a Brisbane sugar refinery 50 years ago spawned a whole new field of plant biology and is now well on the way to feeding the world.

Professors Bob Furbank and Susanne von Caemmerer are two of the scientists involved in creating ‘supercharged’ rice to feed the world. Credit: James Walsh, ANU
Professors Bob Furbank and Susanne von Caemmerer are two of the scientists involved in creating ‘supercharged’ rice to feed the world.
Credit: James Walsh, ANU

Three billion people rely on rice for survival, but C4 plants like maize and sugarcane grow faster, have higher yields, and are more drought-tolerant.

“C4 plants photosynthesise faster thanks to a biochemical ‘supercharger’ that concentrates CO2 in specialised structures in their leaves,” says Professor Bob Furbank from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

“If we can modify rice to use the C4 pathway, instead of C3, we can improve rice production and double its water efficiency.”

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