Imagine a future where recharging your tablet could be as easy as typing a tweet—where portable electronic devices power themselves without ever plugging into the grid.
Researchers at RMIT University, Melbourne have assessed the capacity of piezoelectric films—thin layers that turn mechanical pressure into electricity—to do this.
The study is the first to evaluate how piezoelectric thin films, a thousandth of a millimetre thick, perform at the molecular level, precisely measuring the level of electrical voltage and current—and therefore, power—that could be generated.
Continue reading A step towards an everlasting battery
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.”
Making cement is the third largest source of carbon emissions in the world after the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation—but the Australian roads of the future could be paved with cement that is made in a process that generates less than half the carbon emissions of traditional methods.
Each year, the world produces about 12 billion tonnes of concrete and about 1.6 billion tonnes of its key ingredient, Portland cement, which is generated by breaking calcium carbonate into carbon dioxide and calcium oxide.
This produces some 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide—so the Geopolymer and Mineral Processing Group (GMPG) at the University of Melbourne, now led by Dr John Provis, went looking for a lower carbon way of making cement.
They have now developed binders and concretes based on a low-CO2 aluminosilicate compounds called geopolymers.
Nanotechnology is the revolution that promises wrinkle-resistant clothing, invisible sunscreens and drug delivery direct to the cellular level.
Materials behave differently at the nano-level. They may have physical and chemical properties that can render them beneficial or harmful.
Blood tests using nanoparticles carrying molecules which can detect breast cancer biomarkers could save millions of lives and open the way to mass screening for many cancers.
Prof. Matt Trau, of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, and his team are using a combination of nanotechnology and molecular biology in the project, funded by a five-year $5 million grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
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.
Microscopic magnets ferrying drugs through the bloodstream directly to diseased tissue are a new ‘green chemistry’ product which will improve health and the environment.
A team led by Prof. Colin Raston, of the University of Western Australia fabricated the nano ‘bullets’ which can be directed by an external magnetic field to specific parts of the body. The new technology will enable doctors to send the drugs directly to the disease site, leaving healthy tissue intact and minimising toxic side-effects.
CSIRO researchers are applying nanotechnology to drug delivery, medical body imaging, nerve repair, smart textiles and clothing, medical devices, plastic solar cells (see From plastic money to plastic electricity) and much more.
“Nanotechnology is not an industry—it is an enabling technology,” says Clive Davenport, leader of CSIRO’s Future Manufacturing Flagship.