Australian Science Prizes 2016

Clunies Ross Awards

Dr Elaine Saunders has made premium hearing aids more affordable and easier to use. She and her team have built on Australia’s bionic ear technologies to create a system where you can: test your hearing online; buy your hearing aid online and receive it set up ready for you; and adjust the hearing aid with your smartphone while you’re at the pub, dancing, or watching TV.

Credit: Blamey Saunders

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Converting body heat into useable electricity

Imagine if your exercise clothes could generate enough electricity to power your workout gadgets. This could be a reality in a few years with the development of a flexible, self-charging, non-leaky battery (or thermocell) that could convert body heat into power for devices such as fitness trackers. Continue reading Converting body heat into useable electricity

Better ways to conserve the Coral Triangle

Six Southeast Asian countries are working together to better conserve the world’s centre of marine biodiversity, the Coral Triangle, with the hope that this will lead to a more collaborative approach to sharing coral reef resources in the area.

The Coral Triangle sits between Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, a group of countries that have formed the Coral Triangle Initiative. It is home to 76 per cent of the world’s known coral species, 2,500 reef fish species, and the largest area of mangroves in the world.

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Ultra-sensitive dengue detection

“Dengue has a significant impact on both Australia and Indonesia—the disease is hyper-endemic in Indonesia and affects the daily life of people living in the country,” says Dr Tedjo Sasmono of the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta.

Their researchers have been working with The University of Queensland to create a new way to screen blood for dengue virus.

It’s the result of a joint-research project on dengue diagnostics, initiated in 2015 and funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant in collaboration with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

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Traffic matrices for more reliable digital networks

We’ve all cursed an ineffective digital network, whether it’s delays streaming the latest Game of Thrones or a dangerous mobile phone overload during bushfire season. But no-one wants to pay extra for an over-engineered network.

The secret to designing and testing a digital network to find the happy medium is a mathematical tool called a traffic matrix: a model of all the digital traffic within the network.

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Shedding ‘spooky’ light on unbreakable security

‘Perfect entanglement’ of two light beams has opened a major step towards highly secure quantum communication systems.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Tim Ralph and his colleagues from Canada and Russia have developed a technique to restore entangled light beams that have been distributed between distant points.

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Renewable fuels turn over a new artificial leaf

‘Artificial leaves’ are bringing us one step closer to cheap, renewable and commercially-viable fuels that could power your car, house or whole community, thanks to researchers at Monash University.

Professor Doug MacFarlane and his team at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science are using sun, water and CO2 to produce hydrogen and methanol fuels.

Their artificial photosynthesis takes its inspiration from the way plants convert sunlight into energy, and then recreates it in an industrial setting.

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Tracking dust

Statisticians have revealed the surprising source of dust that plagues townships beside a Hunter Valley rail line delivering coal to Newcastle’s busy port.

Airborne dust increases as trains pass. But it wasn’t clear exactly how—for example, whether the dust was escaping uncovered coal wagons or coming from the diesel engines pulling the wagons. The answer was surprising.

Mathematicians from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers correlated air-pollution data against information on passing trains and weather conditions.

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