How much carbon can we dig in?

Healthy soil for a healthy planet

To rein in global warming, scientists believe it will not be enough to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions: we will also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Soils are an important reservoir for carbon, as they contain nearly double that found in the atmosphere and vegetation combined. Agricultural practices have degraded soil carbon stocks, so there is a large potential for atmospheric carbon to be sequestered in soils.

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Stories of French-Australian Innovation

Changing lives together: from water to astronomy to cancer, this collection showcases outstanding collaborations between French and Australian researchers.

Scientific collaboration between Australia and France stretches back to the early days of European settlement, when La Pérouse built an observatory at Botany Bay in 1788.

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Wheat that’s good for guts

A new kind of wheat high in resistant starch can improve intestinal health

Bowel cancer is the world’s third most common cancer. A diet that includes more resistant starch, a kind of fibre that feeds good bacteria in the large intestine, can make it less common. Resistant starch helps improve gut health and reduces the risk of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Since 2006, CSIRO scientists have been working in a joint venture with French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients and the Grains Research and Development Corporation to develop wheat with more resistant starch. Continue reading Wheat that’s good for guts

Quantum computing in silicon

A French-Australian collaboration is setting out to make silicon quantum computing a practical reality.

“I’m excited by our technology because it has the potential to change the world,” says Professor Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales, the quantum computing expert who leads the Australian side of the partnership.

Andrew and his colleagues hope that their work will enable computing capabilities that are out of reach today and perhaps also result in the first universal quantum computer. Continue reading Quantum computing in silicon

Printing in metal

Australia’s pioneering 3D metal printing technology is now at work in Toulouse, printing components for the French aerospace company, Safran Power Units.

3D printing has the potential to transform manufacturing, allowing rapid prototyping of components, and the creation of lighter and more efficient components that would be impossible to make using traditional casting technologies. But there are many challenges to overcome to ensure that the components meet the intense engineering and regulatory requirements of the aerospace industry. Continue reading Printing in metal

What the universe is made of

The massive team that helped discover the Higgs boson is now hunting more exotic particles, including dark matter.

The ATLAS collaboration involves more than 3,000 physicists from around the world. In 2012, results from ATLAS were vital to the discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle that gives mass to everything in the Universe.

The 7000-tonne ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider on the border of France and Switzerland tracks up to a billion collisions between high-energy protons each second. French and Australian physicists are at the forefront of efforts to decipher this torrent of data. Continue reading What the universe is made of

A polariton filter turns ordinary laser light into quantum light

An international team of researchers led out of Macquarie University has demonstrated a new approach for converting ordinary laser light into genuine quantum light.

Their approach uses nanometre-thick films made of gallium arsenide, which is a semiconductor material widely used in solar cells. They sandwich the thin films between two mirrors to manipulate the incoming photons.

The photons interact with electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor, forming new chimeric particles called polaritons that carry properties from both the photons and the electron-hole pairs. The polaritons decay after a few picoseconds, and the photons they release exhibit distinct quantum signatures.

The teams’ research was published overnight in the journal Nature Materials.

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Peptides to fight pain

A new approach to the global chronic pain problem

Chronic pain affects around 20 per cent of the world’s population at any one time. It is the most common reason people seek medical help in Australia. Chronic pain often goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression.

Short chains of amino acids—known as peptides—may offer hope. A collaboration between neurobiologists at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at The University of Melbourne and CNRS units affiliated with the Universities of Bordeaux and Strasbourg has made significant progress towards an entirely new approach to treating pain.

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Cancer, maths and evolution

Shifting the cancer battleground

 A new French-Australian joint cancer laboratory is forging a new way to study cancer by joining experts from different fields including mathematics, cell biology, evolutionary biology, and behavioural ecology.

Cancer is not only a major cause of human death worldwide, but also a disease that affects all multicellular organisms. Despite this, oncology and other biological sciences such as ecology and evolution have developed in relative isolation, according to Dr Beata Ujvari from the Roles of Cancer in Ecology and Evolution International Associated Laboratory at Deakin University. 

“We know that there is a clear reciprocal interaction between malignant cells and their hosts, with malignant cells evolving in response to the organism’s defence mechanisms,” Beata says.

“Cancer also directly and indirectly impacts the physiology, immunology and behaviour of organisms. But very little is actually known of the evolutionary impact of these complex relationships. We are changing that with this type of research, which has rarely been explored before,” Beata says.

The goal is to transform the understanding of cancer, its origin, how to halt its progression, and to prevent therapeutic failures. At the same time, the role of cancer in ecosystem functioning is something that ecologists need to consider.

Researchers say that cancer’s impact on ecosystems could be significant. It can influence an individual’s competitive and dispersal abilities, susceptibility to pathogens and vulnerability to predation. In some cases, such as the facial tumour disease that afflicts Tasmanian devils, it can heavily impact a species.

The joint laboratory is a collaboration between: Dr Frederic Thomas of the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Cancer Research at the National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) in France; Deakin University; and the University of Tasmania, Australia. In Australia, the team has partnered with the Tasmanian Government’s Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and Zoos Victoria.

Banner image : Cancer can have a significant impact on species – such as the Tasmanian devil – and even whole ecosystems. Credit: JJ Harrison

Planetary changes

Discovering our changing planet: a perfect France–Australia partnership

Professor Kurt Lambeck is one of Australia’s most eminent scientists—a geophysicist who revealed how the Earth changes shape and how these changes are tied to sea levels, the movement of continents, and the orbits of satellites. Vital to his career have been French collaborations that now span almost half a century.

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