The sweet side of sulphur: cheap mercury clean-up

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

Unravelling atoms: the Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter

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.

Continue reading Unravelling atoms: the Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter

Seeing medical devices from concept to commercialisation

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

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.

Continue reading Cars, planes…partners in advanced manufacturing

Traffic matrices for more reliable digital networks

We’ve all cursed an ineffective digital network, whether it’s delays streaming the latest Game of Thrones or a dangerous mobile phone overload during bushfire season. But no-one wants to pay extra for an over-engineered network.

The secret to designing and testing a digital network to find the happy medium is a mathematical tool called a traffic matrix: a model of all the digital traffic within the network.

Continue reading Traffic matrices for more reliable digital networks

Seeing through bushfire smoke

Cool thinking by an Australian defence scientist while a bushfire bore down on his family home provided first responders with clearer satellite images of the blaze, and likely prevented further devastation.

Launching WorldView 3 satellite that carries a Short Wave Infra-Red sensor. Credit: Lockheed Martin
Launching WorldView 3 satellite that carries a Short Wave Infra-Red sensor. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The Sampson Flat bushfires in South Australia claimed the lives of around 900 animals, destroying 27 houses along with other property in January 2015.

Chris Ekins evacuated his family, but while preparing to protect their home he heard on local ABC radio that aircraft were having difficulty seeing through the smoke.

Continue reading Seeing through bushfire smoke

Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

Many of today’s big questions can only be answered with new mathematical and statistical tools.

That’s what the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers are working on, and they’re finding real-world applications in areas as diverse as:

Continue reading Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

Unboiling an egg

Scientists in Australia and California have worked out how to unboil an egg. It may sound like an odd discovery, but it’s changed the way scientists think about manipulating proteins, an industry worth AU$160 billion per year.

Flinders University Professor Colin Raston and his team have developed Vortex Fluid Technology – using mechanical energy, or spinning, to reverse the effects of thermal energy, or boiling.

Continue reading Unboiling an egg

Not to be sniffed at! Nose spray offers pain relief in childbirth

Pain relief during childbirth may soon be delivered via a self-administered nasal spray, thanks to research from University of South Australia midwifery researcher, Dr Julie Fleet.

Well known for its use in delivering pain relief to children and in managing pain in patients being transferred by ambulance, the nasal spray analgesic drug, fentanyl, has now been shown to be effective in relieving labour pain.

Julie Fleet, University of South Australia)
Julie Fleet, University of South Australia

In fact Julie and her colleagues at Flinders University and the University of Adelaide have found that fentanyl nose spray is just as effective as pethidine injections, which are commonly used, but fentanyl has fewer side effects for both mother and baby.

Continue reading Not to be sniffed at! Nose spray offers pain relief in childbirth