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Solving a mystery in 126 dimensions

After 90 years, scientists reveal the structure of benzene.

Professor Timothy Schmidt, unravelling the mystery of benzene. Credit Exciton Science

One of the fundamental mysteries of chemistry has been solved by Australian scientists – and the result may have implications for future designs of solar cells, organic light-emitting diodes and other next gen technologies.

Ever since the 1930s debate has raged inside chemistry circles concerning the fundamental structure of benzene. It is a debate that in recent years has taken on added urgency, because benzene – which comprises six carbon atoms matched with six hydrogen atoms – is the smallest molecule that can be used in the production of opto-electronic materials, which are revolutionising renewable energy and telecommunications tech.

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Bendable, safe, long-lasting and green cement-free concrete

A new type of concrete that is made out of waste materials and can bend under load has been developed by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

Behzad Nematollahi, Swinburne University

This material, which incorporates industrial waste products such as fly ash produced by coal-fired power stations, is especially suited for construction in earthquake zones – in which the brittle nature of conventional concrete often leads to disastrous building collapses.

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Ghostly traces of massive ancient river revealed

Photo by Pixabay

Using zircon crystals, researchers have discovered the route of a massive ancient river that could help find new reservoirs of fossil fuels and suggest how modern rivers might change over time.

Sara Morón, The University of Sydney

More than two thirds of the worlds’ major cities are located in coastal deltas. How they change over time can impact communities that live around them.

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Brain temperature can now be measured using light

Photo by Pixabay

Nanotech technique could revolutionise neurological treatments.

Blanca del Rosal Rabes, Swinburn University of Technology

Light could replace invasive techniques to measure brain temperature– eliminating the need to place a thermometer in the brain when treating a range of neurological disorders.

Researchers from Victoria’ Swinburne University have teamed up with Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain and Stanford University in the US to develop a technique for measuring sub-degree brain temperature changes using near-infrared light. 

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Tea trees crave water during hot and dry summer days

Photo by Pixabay

The iconic Australian tea tree (Melaleuca decora) is more vulnerable than native eucalypt species to extreme temperature and moisture stress, Western Sydney University researcher Anne Griebel has discovered. 

Anne Griebel, Western Sydney University

To make the finding, Anne and colleagues fitted instruments that measure the exchange of carbon, water and heat at 10 times a second to an extendable mast on a trailer deployed in a critically endangered woodland in Western Sydney.

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New clues for allergy prevention by breast milk

Photo by Laura Garcia .

Written by Akila Rekima and the University of Western Australia – UWA press release.

Akila Rekima from The University of Western Australia. Photos credit: Ross Swanborough.

A research team at UWA is investigating the complex interactions of breast milk with allergens and baby’s gut immune system.

They’ve found that food-derived but also airborne allergens are present in breast milk. Some do give protection and reduce allergies later in life.

Their preclinical data and human birth cohorts analysis strongly suggest that egg-derived allergen protect against egg allergy. But they’ve also found that other allergens in breast milk such as house dust mite derived allergens may interfere with protection from allergies.

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Goannas return to mine site

Photo by Pixabay

Sophie Cross, Curtin University

Animals play critical roles in ecosystems, but they are broadly overlooked in assessments of mine site restoration success says Sophie Cross, an ecologist at Curtin University.

She tracked Australia’s largest lizard species, the perentie, using VHF radio and GPS tracking, and walked hundreds of kilometres through unmined and restoration bushland on a mine site in the mid-west region of Western Australia for her study published in the Australian Journal of Zoology.

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One step closer to understanding cancer-fighting immune cells

Researchers discover that protective immune cells are not created equally 

Susan Christo, The Peter Doherty Institute & The University of Melbourne

Personalised treatment of cancers has moved one step closer, thanks to University of Melbourne researcher Dr Susan Christo.

Increasingly, cancers are being treated using an approach called immunotherapy – which uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight the disease.

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Whooping cough is fighting back.

Image credit: Pixabay 

Researchers discover how whooping cough is evolving paving the way to a new vaccine.

Laurence Luu, The University of New South Wales

Whooping cough strains are adapting to better infect humans, a team of Sydney researchers has found.

The scientists, led by microbiologist Dr Laurence Luu of the University of New South Wales, may have solved the mystery of why, despite widespread vaccinations, the respiratory disease has been resurgent in Australia across the past decade. There have been more than 200,000 cases recorded during the period.

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Is that plant healthy?

Image credit: David Coto, Pexels

Karina Khambatta from Curtin University

We can’t easily monitor the health of plants, by the time we see that they’re sick it’s usually too late to save that. That’s an issue for your house plants, a field of wheat, orchards and plantations.

Karina Khambatta has developed a way to use the waxy surface of leaves to monitor their health.

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