Tougher materials for bigger turbines

The Danish wind turbine company Vestas is teaming up with Australian scientists to develop stronger carbon fibre composite materials to be used in reinforcing turbine blades.

Vestas has funded two years of research at Deakin University’s Carbon Nexus facility in Geelong into strengthening carbon fibre.

Continue reading Tougher materials for bigger turbines

Printing in metal

Australia’s pioneering 3D metal printing technology is now at work in Toulouse, printing components for the French aerospace company, Safran Power Units.

3D printing has the potential to transform manufacturing, allowing rapid prototyping of components, and the creation of lighter and more efficient components that would be impossible to make using traditional casting technologies. But there are many challenges to overcome to ensure that the components meet the intense engineering and regulatory requirements of the aerospace industry. Continue reading Printing in metal

Cancer, maths and evolution

Shifting the cancer battleground

 A new French-Australian joint cancer laboratory is forging a new way to study cancer by joining experts from different fields including mathematics, cell biology, evolutionary biology, and behavioural ecology.

Cancer is not only a major cause of human death worldwide, but also a disease that affects all multicellular organisms. Despite this, oncology and other biological sciences such as ecology and evolution have developed in relative isolation, according to Dr Beata Ujvari from the Roles of Cancer in Ecology and Evolution International Associated Laboratory at Deakin University. 

“We know that there is a clear reciprocal interaction between malignant cells and their hosts, with malignant cells evolving in response to the organism’s defence mechanisms,” Beata says.

“Cancer also directly and indirectly impacts the physiology, immunology and behaviour of organisms. But very little is actually known of the evolutionary impact of these complex relationships. We are changing that with this type of research, which has rarely been explored before,” Beata says.

The goal is to transform the understanding of cancer, its origin, how to halt its progression, and to prevent therapeutic failures. At the same time, the role of cancer in ecosystem functioning is something that ecologists need to consider.

Researchers say that cancer’s impact on ecosystems could be significant. It can influence an individual’s competitive and dispersal abilities, susceptibility to pathogens and vulnerability to predation. In some cases, such as the facial tumour disease that afflicts Tasmanian devils, it can heavily impact a species.

The joint laboratory is a collaboration between: Dr Frederic Thomas of the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Cancer Research at the National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) in France; Deakin University; and the University of Tasmania, Australia. In Australia, the team has partnered with the Tasmanian Government’s Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and Zoos Victoria.

Banner image : Cancer can have a significant impact on species – such as the Tasmanian devil – and even whole ecosystems. Credit: JJ Harrison

When boron nitride outshines gold and silver

Ultra-thin boron nitride outshines gold and silver when used to detect contaminants in smart sensing technology. 

It is 100 times more effective at detecting dangerous materials in our food and environment than noble metals.

Traditionally, detection surfaces of these devices have been made using gold and silver. But covering these metals with a microscopically thin layer of boron nitride greatly enhances their performance.

The findings are by a team from Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials, Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science and China’s Wenzhou University. Continue reading When boron nitride outshines gold and silver

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

Touch of silk to repair ruptured eardrums

A transparent, silk-derived implant that looks like a contact lens and can fix damaged eardrums is giving hope to millions who suffer from recurrent ear infections.

Creators of the device—from the Australian Research Council’s Future Fibres Research Hub and the Perth-based Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA)—secured funding to start human clinical trials with it in Australia in 2018.

The implant, called ClearDrum, is made from silk protein that forms a see-through scaffold on which cells can grow to close eardrum perforations. Continue reading Touch of silk to repair ruptured eardrums

Making motorcycle clothing safer

Most motorcycle clothing is not as protective as you might think. But from next year it will be easier to identify the safest gloves and garments, thanks to a rating system developed by Deakin University researchers.

Keen biker Dr Chris Hurren and his colleague Dr Liz de Rome, of the university’s Institute for Frontier Materials, tested fabrics used in biker clothing—such as denim and synthetic protective liners—to measure breathability and durability. More than 60 per cent performed poorly. Continue reading Making motorcycle clothing safer

Improving carbon fibre production

Making higher quality carbon fibre will be easier thanks to infrared analysis being used at the Australian Synchrotron.

The tough fibre, which is 10 times stronger and five times lighter than steel, is made by heating a synthetic product called polyacrylonitrile (PAN) in temperatures up to 600°C.

Some aircraft, high performance cars and the new electric BMW i3 are partly made with it. But slow and costly manufacturing methods currently deter the mass use of carbon fibre in automotive and aeronautical industries.

Continue reading Improving carbon fibre production

From jet engines to personalised surgical tools

The Monash scientists who led the creation of the world’s first 3D-printed jet engine in 2015 are now improving the design and cost of manufacturing medical implants, surgical tools, aerospace components, and more.

They’ve been working with surgeons to design tools for specific operations, to replace ‘one-size-fits-all’ tools currently available.

Continue reading From jet engines to personalised surgical tools