It’s very hard to set up a jet engine in a wind tunnel and get accurate measurements inside it while it’s rotating 7,000 times a minute.
So while other members of the University of Melbourne’s mechanical engineering department use wind tunnels to measure turbulence on the surface of airplanes, Professor Richard Sandberg has developed a computer program to make the same measurements inside an engine.
His work also applies to the turbines used to generate power from gas, wind and wave.
We know the Southern Ocean plays a big role in our climate, but there’s much to learn about how and where clouds form over the sea, how they influence global temperatures, and how the wind affects cloud formation and how much carbon dioxide our oceans can absorb.
Now a 60m ‘wave pool in a wind tunnel’ built by Associate Professor Jason Monty is allowing researchers from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne, and Monash University to find out.
“We know that small eddies at the surface of the ocean affect how evaporation occurs and gasses are exchanged, but this turbulence is not included in climate models, as no one has been able to measure it,” Jason says.
Airplane fuel consumption, shipping costs, climate change, engine noise, blue green algae spread, windfarm efficiency, and the speed of Olympic rowing boats could all change dramatically if scientists can crack the 150-year-old mystery of boundary layer turbulence.
And that’s what University of Melbourne engineers are hoping to achieve with a supercomputer model that can do 3,000 years’ research in one year, a purpose built wind tunnel, and a new air-sea interaction facility.
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.”