From cars that know when they need a mechanic and where to find one, to improving transport links between affordable housing and employment centres—Professor Dimitrios Georgakopoulos of Swinburne University of Technology wants to harness the mass of information generated by the internet of things (IoT).
This network consists of every connected device or ‘thing’ (including people) connected to the internet and each other.
Dimitrios has developed ways to gather and distil high-value information from this data.
A lens just a billionth of a metre thick could transform phone cameras. Swinburne researchers have created ultra-thin lenses that cap an optical fibre, and can produce images with the quality and sharpness of much larger glass lenses.
The brainpower of 18 institutions and more than $30 million are expanding the net to detect gravitational waves—disturbances in the fabric of spacetime—and cement Australia’s role in the emerging field.
A new approach to horticultural spraying could be the result of a collaboration between design students from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Swinburne University in Melbourne.
“Yanmar is a manufacturer of farm machinery, and they asked us to solve a big problem for grape-growers,” says Natsumi Takamatsu, a design student at Kyoto.
“What we developed was a sprayer to mitigate the drift of sprayed agricultural chemicals. Really it was the actual viticulturists when we interviewed them and they were saying things like ‘If only I had something like this.’”
“Australia and Japan enjoy the seasons at opposite times of the year so we can conduct field research in the vineyards all year,” says Yoshiro Ono from Kyoto Institute of Technology.
Harnessing the sun and improving agriculture
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have built a pilot concentrated solar power plant in Yokohama. It uses CSIRO technology now being manufactured by South Australian company Heliostat SA.
“We’re making seven-and-a-half-metre square solar mirrors,” says David Linder-Patton, the CEO of Heliostat SA.
They focus the sun’s energy into a tower receiver that generates heat which can be used in industries such as steel manufacturing, brick processing and mineral refining.
The Mitsubishi plant will test their technology on receivers they have developed and also CSIRO’s suntracking technology and heliostat manufacturing.
“Working with companies the size of Mitsubishi helps us to get to industrial scale a lot quicker than we could do otherwise,” says David.
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.