Fighting dust-mite allergies with fish oil

Kids born to mums who’d taken high doses of fish oil in pregnancy were less likely to have some types of allergies, Adelaide researchers have found.

The trial, run by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), was the largest in the world to look at the effects of Omega-3—commonly found in fish oil—on allergies in children.

Continue reading Fighting dust-mite allergies with fish oil

Hearing voices is normal; lenses a thousandth of a hair-width; harnessing the Internet of Things; and more—Swinburne University of Technology

Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology are working on:

Continue reading Hearing voices is normal; lenses a thousandth of a hair-width; harnessing the Internet of Things; and more—Swinburne University of Technology

Improving agriculture, together

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.

Seeing medical devices from concept to commercialisation

It’s difficult to get medical devices out of academia and industry and into end-users’ hands. But a South Australian researcher developed a way to do it—and the program is now set to expand nationally, thanks to funding from the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre.

Devices the program has supported include the U-stand Frame—which helps hospital patients or the elderly stand from a bed with minimal assistance—and a device placed in urinals that gives instant feedback on hydration, to address the impact of heat stress on worker safety. Continue reading Seeing medical devices from concept to commercialisation

The sweet side of sulphur: cheap mercury clean-up

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

Drone swarms that can think for themselves

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

Traffic matrices for more reliable digital networks

We’ve all cursed an ineffective digital network, whether it’s delays streaming the latest Game of Thrones or a dangerous mobile phone overload during bushfire season. But no-one wants to pay extra for an over-engineered network.

The secret to designing and testing a digital network to find the happy medium is a mathematical tool called a traffic matrix: a model of all the digital traffic within the network.

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Seeing through bushfire smoke

Cool thinking by an Australian defence scientist while a bushfire bore down on his family home provided first responders with clearer satellite images of the blaze, and likely prevented further devastation.

Launching WorldView 3 satellite that carries a Short Wave Infra-Red sensor. Credit: Lockheed Martin
Launching WorldView 3 satellite that carries a Short Wave Infra-Red sensor. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The Sampson Flat bushfires in South Australia claimed the lives of around 900 animals, destroying 27 houses along with other property in January 2015.

Chris Ekins evacuated his family, but while preparing to protect their home he heard on local ABC radio that aircraft were having difficulty seeing through the smoke.

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Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

Many of today’s big questions can only be answered with new mathematical and statistical tools.

That’s what the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers are working on, and they’re finding real-world applications in areas as diverse as:

Continue reading Maths to answer big questions (it’s not always 42)

Unboiling an egg

Scientists in Australia and California have worked out how to unboil an egg. It may sound like an odd discovery, but it’s changed the way scientists think about manipulating proteins, an industry worth AU$160 billion per year.

Flinders University Professor Colin Raston and his team have developed Vortex Fluid Technology – using mechanical energy, or spinning, to reverse the effects of thermal energy, or boiling.

Continue reading Unboiling an egg