Dr Cara Doherty, materials scientist, CSIRO, Melbourne
Cara Doherty is developing new technologies that could transform water filters, batteries and medical sensors, and clean up carbon emissions. And it all comes down to holes and surface area.
She has a vision for a new manufacturing industry for Australia. She works with crystals that are packed with… nothing. They’re highly porous sponges—down to a molecular level—and can be customised to absorb almost any molecule.
These crystals are metal–organic frameworks (MOFs). They can be challenging to make. And it’s also difficult to determine which crystal will be good for which job. But it’s even harder to deploy the crystals—to put them in the right place to do useful work.
Cara uses antimatter (positrons) and synchrotron light (X-rays) to measure the crystals and their properties. Then she uses her patented technique to imprint useful shapes for devices.
With the help of her L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship she will investigate how to take the next step: to develop the 3D structures that would be needed for a smart water filter.
People have speculated about the potential of quantum computers for decades—how they would make child’s play of constructing and testing new drugs, searching through huge amounts of data and ensuring security of information.
This scenario may be coming true in a high-tech basement at the University of New South Wales.
Each year in early July, when its 700 students are on holiday, Townsville State High School becomes the headquarters for a V8 Supercars race.
But before and after the race, Sarah Chapman’s Year 11 science students are hard at work, slopping their way through the nearby mangroves and wading into the neighbouring estuary. The data they collect is then used by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to manage the impact of the race on local estuaries. “The students are really taken by the idea that they are finding out things nobody else knows,” Sarah says.
While researching the performance of the optical fibres that are the backbone of telecommunications and the internet, Tanya Monro realised that they could do much more.
She’s invented a new class of hollow or holey fibres using soft glass, which have thousands of applications as sensors: detecting metal fatigue in aircraft wings and other structures; monitoring contamination in water supplies; and a smart bung that monitors wine development while it’s still in the barrel.
Australian citizen scientists are helping to catch shooting stars in the vast skies of outback Australia and to track the impact of climate change on species in our warming oceans.
Curtin University’s Fireballs in the Sky project invites people to use a smartphone app to record and submit the time, location, trajectory and appearance of meteors they spot.
By triangulating these reports with observations from an array of cameras in remote Western and South Australia, scientists can try to determine where the meteorite may have come from and where it landed.
A new breed of spacecraft engine is undergoing its first indoor test flights, thanks to a giant ‘wombat’ on the outskirts of Australia’s capital.
The Australian National University has developed a plasma thruster that uses electricity to ionise gas and produce thrust, allowing the engine to run for longer and with much less fuel than a chemical rocket.
This makes it ideal for manoeuvring satellites in orbit, or for extended voyages to places like Mars. However, rocket manufacturers need to be sure it works before trusting it on multimillion-dollar satellites.
Fundamental questions about the Universe are set to be answered as a new radio telescope in outback Western Australia comes online, using multiple beam radio receiver technology to view the sky with unprecedented speed and sensitivity.
The Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), CSIRO’s newest telescope, uses innovative phased array feed receivers, also known as ‘radio cameras’, to capture images of radio-emitting galaxies in an area about the size of the Southern Cross—far more than can be seen with a traditional radio telescope.