Algae that make biofuels and hydrogen

IMB_Ben_with_algaeAn Australian researcher is leading an international team of scientists developing a clean source of energy from microalgae. The team have developed one algae that not only makes oil for biodiesel production but also generates hydrogen. Commercial hydrogen production uses fossil fuels and produces carbon dioxide.

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Nano-magnets to guide drugs to their target

Nano-cricket balls of silver precisely engineered with defect using spinning disc processing.
Nano-cricket balls of silver precisely engineered with defect using spinning disc processing.

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.

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Eucalypts: the fuel of the future

Robert Henry is leading a project to use eucalypts and other non-food crops as a source of biofuel.
Robert Henry is leading a project to use eucalypts and other non-food crops as a source of biofuel.

Up to 30 per cent of the fuel needed for Australia’s road transport and the aviation industry could be generated through biofuels, creating tens of thousands of jobs and adding $5 billion to Australia’s economy.

And one of the prime sources of biofuel, according to Southern Cross University’s Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics, could be eucalypts.

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Representing traditional ecological knowledge in northern Australia

Nauiyu community leader Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart, CSIRO’s Emma Woodward and Molly Yawulminy with the Ngan’gi calendar. Credit: Michael Douglas, TRaCK
Nauiyu community leader Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart, CSIRO’s Emma Woodward and Molly Yawulminy with the Ngan’gi calendar. Credit: Michael Douglas, TRaCK

Traditional knowledge can tell us much about the ecology of northern Australia.

The Nauiyu community from Daly River in the Northern Territory have worked with CSIRO’s Emma Woodward to create a seasonal calendar.

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Understanding how Indigenous people value rivers

Long-necked turtles are a favoured food source for Aboriginal people in northern Australia’s Daly River region. Credit: CSIRO Darwin
Long-necked turtles are a favoured food source for Aboriginal people in northern Australia’s Daly River region. Credit: CSIRO Darwin

Indigenous people value rivers in many ways. Rivers provide bush foods and medicines, they are part of a culturally significant landscape, and have the potential to sustain future water-related businesses and employment.

So it’s important to know what impact changing river flow patterns and water allocations could have on Indigenous communities.

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Supercomputer to test nanoparticles before we make them

Playing with virtual gold nanoparticles. Credit: Amanda Barnard, CSIRO
Playing with virtual gold nanoparticles. Credit: Amanda Barnard, CSIRO

Every new technology brings opportunities and threats. Nanotechnology is no exception. It has the potential to create new materials that will dramatically improve drug delivery, medical diagnostics, clean and efficient energy, computing and more. But nanoparticles could also have significant health and environmental impacts.

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Erosion and dams threaten barramundi and prawn fisheries

Barramundi caught at Shady Camp freshwater in Northern Territory. Credit: Marcus Finn
Barramundi caught at Shady Camp freshwater in Northern Territory. Credit: Marcus Finn

Kilometre-wide erosion gullies eating their way across Australia’s northern landscape are proving likely culprits as the main source of the sediments that are flushed into the Gulf of Carpentaria each year, possibly smothering prawn and barramundi breeding and rearing habitats.

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Measuring mercury with a Midas touch

Nano-gold spikes magnified 200,000 times. Credit: RMIT
Nano-gold spikes magnified 200,000 times. Credit: RMIT

RMIT University researchers have used nanotechnology to create a pioneering sensor that can precisely measure one of the world’s most poisonous substances—mercury.

The mercury sensor developed by RMIT’s Industrial Chemistry Group uses tiny flecks of gold that are nano-engineered to make them irresistible to mercury molecules.

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Big ecology: From tundra to savanna

Why are some plant seeds very small and others large? Angela Moles tackled this simple question by compiling information on 12,669 plant species. She discovered that plant seeds in the tropics are, on average, 300 times bigger than seeds in colder places like the northern coniferous forests. She then used these data to follow the evolutionary history of seed size over hundreds of millions of years.

Angela Moles working with plants (Photo credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo)
Angela Moles working with plants (Photo credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo)

The study was the first of its kind and the results, published in Science and PNAS, have revolutionised our understanding of the factors that determine the size of offspring in plants and animals. Angela is a leader in developing a new approach to ecology—one that could allow us to accurately model and predict the impact of climate change on ecosystems.
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