A PhD student at The University of Melbourne has discovered a technique that can improve the resolution of bionic eyes for people who suffer from retinal conditions such age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
“Implants are really limited in how much resolution they can provide. I’m trying to improve that,” says Kerry Halupka, who works with the Bionics Institute. Continue reading Sharpening vision in bionic eyes
Australia and the USA have long been close partners in research and innovation. And Australian inventions have had a huge impact on American lives.
The bionic ear is introducing children to the hearing world. Vaccines are protecting against cancer. Chewing gum is repairing tooth decay. And Australian astronomy helped make Wi-Fi fast and reliable.
Here we feature some of the latest collaborations and achievements.
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
A cheap and simple material, using sulphur from petroleum industry waste and plant oils from the food industry, is being tested to clean up mercury pollution from soil and water.
The rubbery material will undergo field tests in 2017 in Australian mining and sugarcane sites, the latter of which use fungicides that contain mercury. The work is supported by funding from the National Environmental Science Programme’s emerging priorities funding.
“Our technology is about as simple as it can get: mix sulphur with plant oils and heat, then add the resulting material into the contaminated area,” says lead researcher Dr Justin Chalker, of Flinders University. Continue reading The sweet side of sulphur: cheap mercury clean-up
Flocking birds and schooling fish are the inspiration for creating a swarm of drones that can pilot themselves, and relay critical information to combat soldiers when other communication channels aren’t available.
Defence researchers are building the software to make this a reality, as part of the Self-organising Communications and Autonomous Delivery Service project.
While they’re currently working with octocopter drones (a drone with eight rotors), the software could also be used in self-driving buggies and underwater vehicles. Continue reading Drone swarms that can think for themselves
People continue to enter floodwater in vehicles and on foot, despite many knowing the risks.
Researchers from the Bushfire Natural Hazards CRC and Risk Frontiers, Macquarie University, analysed the who, when and why of flood fatalities, so they could target information to high-risk groups and hopefully prevent further deaths. Continue reading How to stop people entering floodwater
Understanding why red blood cells get out of shape during storage could help improve the effectiveness and safety of blood transfusions.
So, Marie-Anne Balanant and Sarah Barns are combining biological and engineering expertise, to create a model of how different parts of ageing red blood cell membranes react when a force is applied.
They hope to propose strategies to improve blood storage practices and create better transfusion outcomes for patients.
Continue reading Keeping in shape: what happens to red blood cells in storage?
The conditions have been right for Zika virus to spread during the warmer months of past years in Townsville, Cairns and Rockhampton, according to research led by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
Using temperature data from January 2015 to December 2016, the team modelled the ability of mosquitoes to spread the virus in four Queensland cities. Brisbane (the fourth city) was the only site where the risk was low.
“If locations experience outbreaks of dengue, the conditions would also be right for outbreaks of Zika,” says lead researcher Dr Elvina Viennet.
The findings emphasise the need for imported cases to be reported immediately, Elvina says.
Continue reading Measuring the risk of an Australian Zika outbreak