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

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.

Continue reading A polariton filter turns ordinary laser light into quantum light

Trees remember heatwaves

An Aussie eucalypt can ‘remember’ past exposure to extreme heat, which makes the tree and its offspring better able to cope with future heatwaves, according to new research from Macquarie University.

This finding could have important implications for restoring ecosystems and climate-proofing forestry, as the number of hot days and heatwaves increase due to climate change.

“Unlike animals, which can bury deeper into the soil or flee to cooler locations, plants are stuck in one spot and so must be able to withstand extreme conditions in situ,” says Dr Rachael Gallagher, senior author of the paper published in the journal Functional Ecology.

Continue reading Trees remember heatwaves

BrainPark will reveal the science of beating addiction

Australians have some of the highest rates of unhealthy habits in the world, including excessive eating, drinking, gambling, and recreational drug use. These habits are making us stressed and unhappy, and contributing to poor physical and mental health. 

Breaking a habit is hard. Beating major compulsive problems, like addictions or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is even harder. Eighty per cent of people who need help don’t get it, and 80 per cent of those who do seek help relapse within a year.

“Our current solutions aren’t good enough: many are difficult to access, many are ineffective. And there’s a huge amount of stigma attached,” says Dr Rebecca Segrave, Deputy Director of Monash University’s new BrainPark facility.

At BrainPark, world-leading scientists and health professionals are combining new technologies and lifestyle-based treatments to empower people to change their own brains and create healthy habits.

Continue reading BrainPark will reveal the science of beating addiction

A different kind of tablet to test for early childhood attention difficulties

An electronic astronaut is helping researchers spot the difference between normal four-year-old energy and the signs of attention difficulties.

TALI (Training Attention and Learning Initiative) Detect is a series of short games for tablet computers. It’s been made possible by combining 20 years of neuroscientific research at Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN) with the expertise of Australian game developer Torus Games.    

Continue reading A different kind of tablet to test for early childhood attention difficulties

An expert guide to raising teens

Being a teenager is tough—on teenagers and their parents. While there’s lots of advice on the internet, sorting the credible from the questionable can be difficult.

But hundreds of parents around Australia found that accessing a free, online support program improved their parenting skills and confidence, according to two randomised controlled studies from 2015 to 2017.  

The program, called Partners in Parenting (PiP), was developed by experts at Monash University and The University of Melbourne.

Continue reading An expert guide to raising teens

L’Astrolabe opens up Antarctica

For French and Australian explorers

Without the help of icebreaking ships, all-terrain vehicles and tough machinery, most Antarctic science could not happen. The French ship L’Astrolabe is a crucial facility for scientists exploring the Earth’s climate, oceans, atmosphere and ecology.

Every year, the ship and its crew, managed by the French Navy for the Institut polaire français Paul-Émile Victor (IPEV) from Hobart, support approximately 50 French and international scientific projects based out of the French stations Dumont d’Urville and Concordia. L’Astrolabe also transports food, supplies, logistics officers and scientists to and from the Australian Antarctic Division’s base on Macquarie Island.

Continue reading L’Astrolabe opens up Antarctica

Peptides to fight pain

A new approach to the global chronic pain problem

Chronic pain affects around 20 per cent of the world’s population at any one time. It is the most common reason people seek medical help in Australia. Chronic pain often goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression.

Short chains of amino acids—known as peptides—may offer hope. A collaboration between neurobiologists at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at The University of Melbourne and CNRS units affiliated with the Universities of Bordeaux and Strasbourg has made significant progress towards an entirely new approach to treating pain.

Continue reading Peptides to fight pain

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