Measuring mercury with a Midas touch

Nano-gold spikes magnified 200,000 times. Credit: RMIT
Nano-gold spikes magnified 200,000 times. Credit: RMIT

RMIT University researchers have used nanotechnology to create a pioneering sensor that can precisely measure one of the world’s most poisonous substances—mercury.

The mercury sensor developed by RMIT’s Industrial Chemistry Group uses tiny flecks of gold that are nano-engineered to make them irresistible to mercury molecules.

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Goanna team finds software bugs before they bite

nicta_Goanna_pg 6Software bugs are expensive. Typically, software developers waste around a quarter of their time testing and debugging programs. The later bugs are detected in the software development process the more expensive they are, and the more they delay the product launch. This is especially true in the case of embedded systems software which has to be developed at the same time as the hardware. If a bug gets through, it may mean millions of dollars is spent recalling the product.

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H1N1 still a threat

MIMR_H1N1_300x180Why does influenza make some of us much sicker than others? What are the implications for swine flu (H1N1)? Australian scientists are looking to past outbreaks for the answers.

In July 2009, the Australian Government responded to urgent global calls to use the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season as a catalyst for investigating the severity and global threat of the H1N1 flu strain.

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Imaginary friends, real benefits

Credit: Marina Adinolfi
Credit: Marina Adinolfi

Children with imaginary friends are better at learning to communicate than those who do not have one, according to psychologist Dr Evan Kidd at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

In a study of 44 children, Evan and his colleague Anna Roby showed that the 22 children who had imaginary friends were able to get their points across more effectively when talking.

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From Roman nanocrystals to new gold catalysts

Electron micrograph of different forms of gold nanocrystals.
Electron micrograph of different forms of gold nanocrystals.

Two thousand years ago, Roman glass blowers used gold nanocrystals to create vases with brilliant colours ranging from red to purple. Today, gold nanocrystals are being used as catalysts in chemical reactions and may even become high-density data storage devices.

Gold nanocrystals aren’t gold in colour. They change colour as their size and shape change.

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Kangaroo bacteria fight cancer

Kangaroo 5Australia’s iconic kangaroo may hold the secret for the war on cancer. Assoc. Prof. Ming Wei from the Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research is using commensal bacteria found in kangaroos to develop anti-cancer agents that are expected to be effective in combating solid tumours, which account for up to 90 per cent of cancers.

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Stories of Australian Science 2010

stories2010_pdfMeeting science journalists and television producers around the world, we’ve discovered that they have a healthy appetite for Australian science and Australian wine.

So we’ve put together this publication to give journalists and others with an interest in science a taste of what’s happening Down Under.

For this collection we invited Australian research organisations to contribute snapshots of some of their current research. The stories illustrate the breadth and depth of Australian science.

Click here to read the stories, including:

  • the astronomy inside the world’s Wi-Fi computers and networks
  • the benefits of an imaginary friend
  • how bacteria from kangaroos are fighting cancer
  • breast restoration using your own stem cells
  • a milk protein that encourages exercise
  • the hidden clock in a grain of sand
  • understanding what happened on Black Saturday

Among the other fifty stories you’ll meet the winners of this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, learn about plans for a giant radio telescope and more.

Please feel free to use the stories for your own social media, website, or publications. Everything is available for reuse under a Creative Commons licence.

Browse the collection

You can browse this year’s collection at

Or use the menus on the left to search all our stories by field or science, organisation or State.

The full publication is also available as a PDF and in print. If you’d like us to send you some copies please email