The brainpower of 18 institutions and more than $30 million are expanding the net to detect gravitational waves—disturbances in the fabric of spacetime—and cement Australia’s role in the emerging field.
Fresh Science helps Australian early-career researchers find their story and their voice.
Over the past 20 years Fresh Science has trained and empowered more than 500 future leaders in science to engage with the community, media, government and industry.
In 2016, we chose 60 researchers around the country, trained them, and gave them the chance to present their science in pubs, school talks and to the media. Here are a few of their stories.
- Curing blindness by repairing corneas with invisible films (Vic)
- Fighting dust-mite allergies with fish oil (SA)
- Perth community can help save Carnaby’s cockatoo (WA)
- Immune boost for cancer patients with HIV (NSW)
- Taking the cow piss out of our waterways (Qld)
Clunies Ross Awards
Dr Elaine Saunders has made premium hearing aids more affordable and easier to use. She and her team have built on Australia’s bionic ear technologies to create a system where you can: test your hearing online; buy your hearing aid online and receive it set up ready for you; and adjust the hearing aid with your smartphone while you’re at the pub, dancing, or watching TV.
Kids born to mums who’d taken high doses of fish oil in pregnancy were less likely to have some types of allergies, Adelaide researchers have found.
The trial, run by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), was the largest in the world to look at the effects of Omega-3—commonly found in fish oil—on allergies in children.
Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology are working on:
- Gravitational waves—looking further
- Lenses a fraction of a hair’s width, faster communication and better solar cells
- Quantum computers with photons
- Tuning out our internal voices
- Harnessing the data from everything that’s online
A new approach to horticultural spraying could be the result of a collaboration between design students from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Swinburne University in Melbourne.
“Yanmar is a manufacturer of farm machinery, and they asked us to solve a big problem for grape-growers,” says Natsumi Takamatsu, a design student at Kyoto.
“What we developed was a sprayer to mitigate the drift of sprayed agricultural chemicals. Really it was the actual viticulturists when we interviewed them and they were saying things like ‘If only I had something like this.’”
“Australia and Japan enjoy the seasons at opposite times of the year so we can conduct field research in the vineyards all year,” says Yoshiro Ono from Kyoto Institute of Technology.
Harnessing the sun and improving agriculture
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have built a pilot concentrated solar power plant in Yokohama. It uses CSIRO technology now being manufactured by South Australian company Heliostat SA.
“We’re making seven-and-a-half-metre square solar mirrors,” says David Linder-Patton, the CEO of Heliostat SA.
They focus the sun’s energy into a tower receiver that generates heat which can be used in industries such as steel manufacturing, brick processing and mineral refining.
The Mitsubishi plant will test their technology on receivers they have developed and also CSIRO’s suntracking technology and heliostat manufacturing.
“Working with companies the size of Mitsubishi helps us to get to industrial scale a lot quicker than we could do otherwise,” says David.
It’s difficult to get medical devices out of academia and industry and into end-users’ hands. But a South Australian researcher developed a way to do it—and the program is now set to expand nationally, thanks to funding from the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre.
Devices the program has supported include the U-stand Frame—which helps hospital patients or the elderly stand from a bed with minimal assistance—and a device placed in urinals that gives instant feedback on hydration, to address the impact of heat stress on worker safety. Continue reading Seeing medical devices from concept to commercialisation
A cheap and simple material, using sulphur from petroleum industry waste and plant oils from the food industry, is being tested to clean up mercury pollution from soil and water.
The rubbery material will undergo field tests in 2017 in Australian mining and sugarcane sites, the latter of which use fungicides that contain mercury. The work is supported by funding from the National Environmental Science Programme’s emerging priorities funding.
“Our technology is about as simple as it can get: mix sulphur with plant oils and heat, then add the resulting material into the contaminated area,” says lead researcher Dr Justin Chalker, of Flinders University. Continue reading The sweet side of sulphur: cheap mercury clean-up
Almost all matter we can see and touch is made up of the protons and neutrons. But what are protons and neutrons composed of? The simple answer is quarks, of which there are six distinct kinds, held together by gluons.
The ‘strong force’ carried by gluons is about 100 times stronger than electromagnetism, which governs the interactions of atoms. It’s a major focus of the ARC Special Research Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter (CSSM).
Established 20 years ago at the University of Adelaide, the Centre is at the international forefront of investigating the ramifications of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory which describes the strong force interactions that are fundamental to how our world works.
Flocking birds and schooling fish are the inspiration for creating a swarm of drones that can pilot themselves, and relay critical information to combat soldiers when other communication channels aren’t available.
Defence researchers are building the software to make this a reality, as part of the Self-organising Communications and Autonomous Delivery Service project.
While they’re currently working with octocopter drones (a drone with eight rotors), the software could also be used in self-driving buggies and underwater vehicles. Continue reading Drone swarms that can think for themselves