A new fibre optic medical tool is revolutionising our understanding of serious but socially embarrassing digestive illnesses, such as constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome. Thanks to this device, medical scientists can see for the first time the coordinated, fine and complex muscular activity of the human digestive system in action.
CSIRO optical physicist Dr John Arkwright, together with Dr Philip Dinning, of Flinders University, collected a 2011 Eureka Prize for their creation of the fibre optic catheter, which gleans information about digestive function by measuring pressure.
Continue reading Fibre optics: from cables to colon health
Imagine a power station that’s literally sprayed onto your roof —and could match the colour of your tiles.
Thin film solar cells are thinner, cheaper and more versatile than the traditional silicon solar panels. Spray-on solar is a next step in the evolution of on-site power generation.
“These cells can be made with semiconductor dye materials, so you can match them to any colour or pattern you like—they’ll just convert that part of the solar spectrum into electricity. In the future we could have billboards that act as solar panels,” says Dr Gerry Wilson of CSIRO’s flexible electronics team.
A chance finding has led to the first new chlorophyll discovered in 67 years, opening up possibilities for biofuel and food crops to use sunlight more efficiently.
Each year we identify early-career scientists with a discovery and bring them to Melbourne for a communication boot camp. Here are some of their stories.
More at www.freshscience.org.au
Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have developed liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print such devices and in the first demonstration of their technology have produced tiny lasers. Quantum dots are made of semiconductor material grown as nanometre-sized crystals, around a millionth of a millimetre in diameter. The laser colour they produce can be selectively tuned by varying their size.
High tech cling wraps that ‘sieve out’ carbon dioxide from waste gases can help save the world, says Melbourne University chemical engineer, Colin Scholes who developed the technology. The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Colin says. “We are hoping these membranes will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 per cent.”
LED lighting is sweeping the world. It’s energy efficient, long lasting, and could save users billions of dollars worldwide and dramatically reduce carbon emissions. But it’s still a young technology. Much more efficient lights are on the way.
The only way to find out whether the internal structures of an aircraft are corroded is to pull the plane apart and look. But new nanotechnology-based techniques being developed by Prof. Tanya Monro, Director of University of Adelaide’s Centre of Expertise in Photonics, in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, could make costly visual inspection in preventive aircraft maintenance a thing of the past.
Hundreds of the world’s leading synchrotron scientists descended on Melbourne in September
when the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre hosted the 10th International Conference on Synchrotron Radiation and Instrumentation 2009 (SRI2009).
Melbourne scientists gave Australia the first practical bionic ear. Today, over 180,000 people hear with the help of the cochlear implant.
Now, The University of Melbourne is a key member in an Australian consortium developing an advanced bionic eye that will restore vision to people with severe vision loss. This device will enable unprecedented high resolution images to be seen by thousands of people with severely diminished sight, allowing them to read large print and recognise faces.
Tomorrow’s solar panels could bear an uncanny likeness to Australia’s polymer banknotes.
In fact, the first prototypes of a new kind of solar panel are being printed on the same printing presses that print Australia’s money.