Physicist Dr Amanda Barnard has been using supercomputers to find the balance between sun protection and potential toxicity in a new generation of sunscreens which employ nanoparticles.
The metal oxide nanoparticles which block solar radiation are so small they cannot be seen, so the sunscreen appears transparent. But if the particles are too small, they can produce toxic levels of free radicals.
Amanda, who heads CSIRO’s Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory, has been able to come up with a trade-off—the optimum size of particle to provide maximum UV protection for minimal toxicity while maintaining transparency—by modelling the relevant interactions on a supercomputer. Continue reading Saving our skins→
Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have developed liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print such devices and in the first demonstration of their technology have produced tiny lasers. Quantum dots are made of semiconductor material grown as nanometre-sized crystals, around a millionth of a millimetre in diameter. The laser colour they produce can be selectively tuned by varying their size.
High tech cling wraps that ‘sieve out’ carbon dioxide from waste gases can help save the world, says Melbourne University chemical engineer, Colin Scholes who developed the technology. The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Colin says. “We are hoping these membranes will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 per cent.”
A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) engineer is developing techniques to automatically identify people in surveillance videos and recognise their movement and behaviour.
The explosion of video surveillance to make public places safer, says Dr Clinton Fookes of the University’s School of Engineering Systems, has created a new challenge for researchers—to make sense of what cameras and computers see. So he is investigating ways to extract and interpret important information from these visual sources.
The data generated by the proliferation of surveillance cameras, as well as the countless images and videos online, he says, are impossible to intelligently use without sophisticated computer vision technology that can automatically extract information from these sources, collate and report on it in real time.
As Clinton’s work is ideally suited to improving security in public places such as airports, one of his roles is technical director of QUT’s Airports of the Future—a major research project aimed at improving the experience of passengers passing through Australia’s airports.
His research in this field could lead to new discoveries in a range of areas including human-computer interaction, security, medical imaging and robotics.
Photo: Clinton Fookes is technical director of QUT’s Airports of the Future.
The extreme weather conditions that can turn an already dangerous bushfire into an explosive firestorm can now be better predicted, thanks to the work of a 30-year veteran of the Bureau of Meteorology.
The strategic planning of open pit mining projects that span several decades is critical to achieving maximum project value.
To address this issue, BHP Billiton Global Technology has developed a mine planning optimisation software tool called Blasor™. By using optimal mine planning software, strategic planners can now determine ultimate pit sizes and pit development plans that deliver maximum value over the life of the mine.
In Australia we call them bushfires. In other parts of the world they are called forest fires, and global climate change and increasing human populations mean they are increasing in frequency and ferocity.
The devastating bushfires in Victoria, Australia on 7 February 2009 resulted in the loss of 173 lives and caused major property and asset damage. The fires are considered to be Australia’s worst peacetime disaster.
Every visitor to Australia quickly learns that we take quarantine seriously. Our country is free of many pests, weeds and diseases that are widespread overseas. Our relative disease-freedom is good news for our people, for agriculture and for the environment.
Visitors’ luggage is screened at the airports. But what about the two million shipping containers that enter Australia each year? How do we strike a balance between open trade and quarantine?
Every new technology brings opportunities and threats. Nanotechnology is no exception. It has the potential to create new materials that will dramatically improve drug delivery, medical diagnostics, clean and efficient energy, computing and more. But nanoparticles could also have significant health and environmental impacts.