Car makers queuing to see Melbourne ROACH

Car manufacturers are queuing up to meet the Melbourne makers of the world’s smallest and cheapest automotive radar system.

The CMOS chip at the heart of ROACH. Credit: Luan Ismahil, NICTA
The CMOS chip at the heart of ROACH. Credit: Luan Ismahil, NICTA

The Radar on a Chip (ROACH) detects and tracks objects around the car. It’s part of an active safety system that can warn drivers about possible collisions and, if necessary, integrate with braking, steering, seatbelt and airbag systems to avoid, or minimise the consequences of, an accident.

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Granular plant protection

A farmer whose onion paddock is hit by the fungal disease “white rot” faces the loss not only of that crop but of productive use of the field for several years. Relief could be at hand, however, thanks to a novel granulated fungicide now being tested in the field in Victoria.

A new granulated fungicide will help onion farmers treat white rot. Credit: iStockphoto

“In the case of white rot, there is no existing commercially acceptable treatment and if a farmer has an infestation in their field they can’t use it for onions or similar crops for up to 15 years,” says Anthony Flynn, managing director of the agricultural chemical research company Eureka! AgResearch. “They’ve just had to move the crop on to the next paddock.”

The new granulated fungicide targets the soil-borne fungus Sclerotium cepivorum.
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Live streaming for healthy waterways

Water sampling devices are keeping watch around the clock for toxic discharges into Melbourne’s creeks and stormwater drains, thanks to Victorian researchers at the Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identification and Management (CAPIM), based at the University of Melbourne.

Victorian researchers are developing real-time sensors of water quality. Credit: iStockphoto

And, they are also developing a new range of aquatic critter-containing sensors.

The Autonomous Live Animal Response Monitors (ALARM) will house live molluscs, insects or shrimps and transmit images and data to scientists via the web, in the ultimate test of a creek’s health. Continue reading Live streaming for healthy waterways

Harnessing waste energy to power factories

Manufacturers are looking for ways to make their factories more sustainable, but before whacking a solar panel on the roof, they’ve got to plan carefully.

Sami Kara is developing a tool to help industry become more sustainable. Credit: ISTOCKPHOTO

University of New South Wales researcher Assoc Prof Sami Kara says production lines need a steady supply of electricity, and if the sun goes behind a cloud, businesses get hit with penalty rates for suddenly drawing more energy from the grid.

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Camping and puppets top science teaching prize

Brooke Topelberg’s students are so keen on science that her lunch-time science club has a waiting list.

2011 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools winner, Brooke Topelberg with students. Credit: Prime Minister's Science Prizes/Bearcage
2011 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools winner, Brooke Topelberg, with students. Credit: Prime Minister’s Science Prizes/Bearcage

And Jane Wright has been taking high school girls to explore science in the bush for over 25 years.

Both of these passionate professionals have been awarded a Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching.
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The complex life of coral

Dr Tracy Ainsworth’s research is changing our understanding of the tiny coral animals that built Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. Tracy and her colleagues at James Cook University in Townsville have found that the process of coral bleaching is a far more complex than previously thought, and begins at temperatures lower than previously considered. And she’s done so by applying skills in modern cell biology which she picked up working in neuroscience laboratories.

Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

Her achievements won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship in 2011, which she is using to study the low light, deep water reefs that underlie tropical surface reefs at depths of 100 metres or more.
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Hidden art revealed

A glimpse of a rare self-portrait by one of Australia’s most highly regarded artists has emerged from what appeared to be a blank canvas—thanks to researchers at the Australian Synchrotron.

A rare Streeton self-portrait, revealed in this image of zinc atoms. The highest concentrations are in the white of Streeton’s collar and the fairness of his face because zinc is used in the white pigment. Credit: Daryl Howard
A rare Streeton self-portrait, revealed in this image of zinc atoms. The highest concentrations are in the white of Streeton’s collar and the fairness of his face because zinc is used in the white pigment. Credit: Daryl Howard

A glimpse of a rare self-portrait by one of Australia’s most highly regarded artists has emerged from what appeared to be a blank canvas—thanks to researchers at the Australian Synchrotron.

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New light on storing energy

Solving the problem of how to store energy is essential for a future run on renewables.

That’s why promising materials for hydrogen fuel cells and high capacity, long-lived batteries are being explored at the atomic level by the Australian Synchrotron.

QUINFEN GU IS INVESTIGATING A NEW CLASS OF HYDROGEN STORAGE MATERIALS. CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO

Australian Synchrotron scientist Dr Qinfen Gu is investigating a new class of hydrogen storage materials being developed by scientists at the University of Wollongong and their international collaborators.Qinfen is using the powerful X-rays of the synchrotron to observe and analyse the structure of these materials. Continue reading New light on storing energy

Clues to switching off your blood clots

Our blood has a built-in system for breaking up heart attack-inducing clots—and we’re a step closer to drugs that could switch that system on at will.

The molecular structure of plasminogen Credit: Prof James Whisstock/Australian Synchrotron
The molecular structure of plasminogen. Credit: Prof James Whisstock/Australian Synchrotron

Australian researchers have won the decades-long race to define the structure of plasminogen—a protein whose active form quickly dissolves blood clots.

The current crop of clot-busting drugs have many side effects, including bleeding and thinning of the blood, so harnessing the body’s own mechanism for clearing clots could offer a better way. Continue reading Clues to switching off your blood clots