Clean gas, clean air

New technologies are making natural gas a cheaper and greener fuel

Air quality in China’s cities is improving thanks to government initiatives to reduce urban coal burning. In Beijing, for example, homes, schools, hospitals and factories are switching from coal to gas for heating. As a result, demand for gas has quadrupled over the past decade. Now Australian researchers are partnering with Chinese industry to make gas production even cleaner and more efficient.

Both countries will benefit. China has large gas reserves but much of the gas is in unconventional sources such as coal seam gas and shale gas. The gases from these sources can contain less than 50 per cent methane so impurities such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen must be removed. For nitrogen that usually means cooling the gas to separate the valuable methane from the nitrogen in an energy-intensive process costing billions of dollars.

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The neutron zone

The gift of a high-tech German neutron beam instrument is set to help Australian researchers develop new antibiotics, understand smart polymer coatings and create more efficient solar cells.

The Spatz neutron reflectometer uses a beam of neutrons generated in the Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor in Sydney to reveal the structure of surfaces and interfaces such as cell membranes and multi-layered electronics.

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Inventing the ultimate suspension system

To hear tiny vibrations from half a galaxy away, first you need to filter out the Earth’s constant rumbling.

At gravitational wave observatories such as the European Advanced Virgo in Italy, scientists try to detect ripples in spacetime caused by colliding black holes and other stellar cataclysms.

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Stories of French-Australian Innovation

Changing lives together: from water to astronomy to cancer, this collection showcases outstanding collaborations between French and Australian researchers.

Scientific collaboration between Australia and France stretches back to the early days of European settlement, when La Pérouse built an observatory at Botany Bay in 1788.

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Quantum computing in silicon

A French-Australian collaboration is setting out to make silicon quantum computing a practical reality.

“I’m excited by our technology because it has the potential to change the world,” says Professor Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales, the quantum computing expert who leads the Australian side of the partnership.

Andrew and his colleagues hope that their work will enable computing capabilities that are out of reach today and perhaps also result in the first universal quantum computer. Continue reading Quantum computing in silicon

What the universe is made of

The massive team that helped discover the Higgs boson is now hunting more exotic particles, including dark matter.

The ATLAS collaboration involves more than 3,000 physicists from around the world. In 2012, results from ATLAS were vital to the discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle that gives mass to everything in the Universe.

The 7000-tonne ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider on the border of France and Switzerland tracks up to a billion collisions between high-energy protons each second. French and Australian physicists are at the forefront of efforts to decipher this torrent of data. Continue reading What the universe is made of

A polariton filter turns ordinary laser light into quantum light

An international team of researchers led out of Macquarie University has demonstrated a new approach for converting ordinary laser light into genuine quantum light.

Their approach uses nanometre-thick films made of gallium arsenide, which is a semiconductor material widely used in solar cells. They sandwich the thin films between two mirrors to manipulate the incoming photons.

The photons interact with electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor, forming new chimeric particles called polaritons that carry properties from both the photons and the electron-hole pairs. The polaritons decay after a few picoseconds, and the photons they release exhibit distinct quantum signatures.

The teams’ research was published overnight in the journal Nature Materials.

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Making light work

Australian and French researchers are teaming up to use photonics—the quantum technology of light—to build better environmental sensors and high-speed data transmitters, and enable sharper MRI scans.

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Balloons over the Red Centre

A perfect view of the Milky Way

On a series of calm, cool mornings in April 2017, 70 French scientists (from the French space science agency CNES, CNRS IRAP, and the Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse) launched three enormous balloons into the sky above the heart of Australia.

CNES was using the Alice Springs Balloon Launching Centre (ASBLS) to send three precision scientific instruments up to altitudes of 30–40 kilometres to make observations that are impossible from the ground.

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