All posts by Toni Stevens

Reinventing catalysts

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is working to integrate new battery and solar cell technologies into the walls and roofs of new houses, and to transform the somewhat ‘black art’ of catalysis—the process that cracks crude oil into useful fuels, oils and chemicals at every refinery. He has already helped to create over 200 new jobs with four spin-out companies.

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Collaborating to combat killers

Indonesian and Australian researchers are working together to combat two big killers: pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Around six million young Indonesians catch pneumonia each year, according to a 2008 study, and it’s the number one killer of children under five. Researchers now think there might be a link to how much time kids are spending out in the sunshine—more specifically, their level of vitamin D.

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Fishing for food security

Local fishermen in Indonesia are catching less fish. Whatever the reason, it is a significant problem for those who live on small islands in particular, as fish make up about 90 per cent of the protein they eat.

A team of Indonesian and Australian social scientists is looking at how communities adapt to these changes.

Initially, in a pilot project study financed by the Australia Indonesia Centre, the researchers are examining whether there is a link between fishing productivity and feelings of food insecurity in the small islands off Kai Kecil, and if so, whether a weakening of local management of fish populations and a rise in intercommunity conflicts over fish resources play a role.

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Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull to improve efficiency

Every shipping manager wages an endless battle against fouling—the bacteria, seaweed, barnacles and other marine life that take up residence on the hull of ships within days of it entering the water.

window4-300x169[1] This biofouling is thought to add more than 20 per cent to the fuel costs of commercial shipping, not to mention the added journey time for a ship weighed down with barnacles. That’s a big cost for the maritime trading nations of Australia and Indonesia, potentially adding up to billions of dollars per year.

Using lasers and a window in a ship’s hull, researchers will assess how quickly the efficiency of the ship declines, and then how to balance fuel efficiency and the cost of putting a ship in dry dock to clean it. Continue reading Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull to improve efficiency

The walls and roof are battery

Lithium batteries have transformed power storage—from smartphones to electric cars and submarines. But like every battery their chemical composition changes through every charge cycle.

Lithium ions sitting in layers of graphite move between electrodes and change the oxidation state of, magnesium oxide, for example. The chemical rearrangements cause the graphite and oxide layers to physically expand and contract by up to 15 per cent at every cycle, cracking and detaching from the electrodes.

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Making efficient ports to keep cities connected

Port cities can be lively, vibrant hives of activity—the hub of a nation’s economic health— if they’re planned well.

Indonesia’s busiest port, Tanjung Priok, has roughly two and a half times the container traffic as the Port of Melbourne. But it also has a reputation as one of the least efficient ports in Asia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has recognised the need to transform the nation’s ports and plans to develop 24 new ports by 2019. One recently established, state-of- the-art port is Teluk Lamong in Surabaya.

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Designing the coolest and most efficient tropical houses

Traditional buildings in Indonesia make use of ‘passive’ cooling techniques. Being well ventilated, raised off the ground, and with shady verandas, their design allows them to stay cool in a tropical climate without air conditioning. The classic timber ‘Queenslander’ house also follows a similar design.

Now architects and engineers from both countries are getting together to compare notes on such designs and materials.

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Australia Indonesia collaborations

How much do barnacles and algae slow our ships; energy efficient houses to suit tropical climates; a new vaccine for tuberculosis—Indonesian and Australian scientists are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing both nations.

With its supporters, the Australia Indonesia Centre is funding collaborative research in health, energy, food and agriculture, infrastructure, and resilient communities. Here are some highlights.

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Geoffrey Rush talks stars

The search for the first stars and the hunt for dark energy both feature in a new planetarium show narrated by Geoffrey Rush. The show premiered in March 2016 at the Melbourne Planetarium and will be seen in planetariums around the world.

“I hope this show conveys some of the wonder of the Universe we live in,” says Professor Elaine Sadler, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).

The Murchison Widefield Array telescope is discovering when the first stars and galaxies formed.
The Murchison Widefield Array telescope is discovering when the first stars and galaxies formed
Credit: Alex Cherney/Museum Victoria

‘Capturing the Cosmos’ was created by Melbourne Planetarium and CAASTRO, and features the work of two of Australia’s new telescopes, the Murchison Widefield Array and Skymapper.

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Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers

Zoe collecting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum
Zoe colleacting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum

While coral reefs around the world are feeling the heat, little-known reefs in Australia’s Kimberley region are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions—and scientists aren’t yet sure why.

The discovery has particular significance this summer with fears of a severe coral bleaching event to hit our northern waters—the result of steadily rising sea temperatures and a strong seasonal El Niño.

WA researchers have found that while coral reefs all around the world are feeling the heat of rising temperatures, some inshore reefs in the Kimberley region’s Bonaparte Archipelago are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions. Continue reading Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers