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  • richardmitnick 3:14 pm on February 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Caves face new unknown after unprecedented bushfires", Subsurface geology, UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: ” Caves face new unknown after unprecedented bushfires” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    26 Feb 2020
    Caroline Tang

    Caves are easily forgotten when fire rips through the bush, but despite their robustness the long-term impact of frequent, unprecedented fire seasons presents a new challenge for subsurface geology.

    1
    Minaret limestone formations in the Jenolan Caves, NSW. Photo: Shutterstock.

    Famous caves at tourist hotspots survived the brunt of the Australian bushfire crisis this summer, but the unprecedented nature of the fires presents a new uncertainty for these unique underground ecosystems, according to a UNSW Sydney geologist.

    The bushfires affected many rare karst landforms in south-eastern Australia, including popular tourist attractions such as the Jenolan, Wombeyan and Buchan caves.

    UNSW Professor Andy Baker, part of a team which was the first to research the effect of fire on caves and karst, said this was a crucial area to study because of the landforms’ unique geodiversity and values. The fires impacted several research sites where Prof Baker and his collaborators are studying the effects of fire on caves.

    “Think of the Marble Arch at Jenolan, Victoria Arch at Wombeyan or Mount Sebastopol in the Macleay Karst Arc. Sebastopol, for example, is a distinctive mountain with significant indigenous values,” Prof Baker said.

    2
    Marble Arch at Jenolan. Gour pools (rimstones) and flowstone beside the walkway in the Marble Arch Caves showcave. Shadowgate

    3
    Victoria Arch at Wombeyan. https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

    “Caves are important refugia and habitat, such as bat roosts which serve as maternity or hibernation sites. But what happens to the bat populations when the ecosystem outside is burnt? Where do they go? Can they survive? We don’t know.

    “We can also find evidence of past fires through stalagmites – mineral deposits which rise from the cave floor – so, while fires destroy what’s on the surface, the more protected subsurface is a good place to look for historical climate information and to put today’s fires into context.”

    Stalagmites are the counterpart of stalactites, which grow down from the ceiling of a cave.

    Prof Baker said that in the next 12 months, he expected the aftermath of the fires to flush nutrients to the subsurface, change cave hydrology and slow down the karstification process (when limestone is exposed to carbonic acid in soil and dissolves, it creates distinctive landforms – karst).

    “Some hydrological changes may be permanent or long lasting, and the slow-down in karstification can last several years,” he said.

    “These effects decrease the weaker the fire and deeper the cave.”

    Fires unprecedented for karst regions

    Prof Baker said the fires disproportionately affected NSW’s karst because it was concentrated in national parks in the main firegrounds, such as the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

    “Many areas have burnt before, but this is the first time we have seen so many sites burn at the same time, in the same fire season – so, the spatial coverage is one of the reasons why these bushfires are unprecedented,” he said.

    “The fires are also unprecedented because of the rainforest areas that burnt, and these areas contain karst. For example, most of the Macleay karst up north is subtropical or temperate rainforest and some of the fires burnt into the subtropical rainforest.

    “Macleay is where I cave with a group that includes volunteer firefighters and citizen scientists. I have never seen such extensive fire there before.

    “It’s probably the first time fire has affected the rainforest in a very long time because rainforest, unlike other forests and trees, has not evolved and adapted to fire – these trees shouldn’t catch fire – so, it might not grow back and that’s a major concern.”

    Prof Baker has worked with Kempsey Speleological Society to monitor the climate and hydrology of some caves in the temperate and subtropical rainforest of the Macleay region since 2014.

    “A number of these caves were burnt by the large Carrai-Carrai East fires between October and December last year,” he said.

    “We explored one of these caves in November, in what was one of the first research trips to investigate the impact of fire on karst.

    “So, our long-term monitoring dataset is now a rare and valuable baseline to investigate the effects of fire on cave climate and hydrology.”

    Fires unprecedented for karst regions.

    Prof Baker said the fires disproportionately affected NSW’s karst because it was concentrated in national parks in the main firegrounds, such as the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

    “Many areas have burnt before, but this is the first time we have seen so many sites burn at the same time, in the same fire season – so, the spatial coverage is one of the reasons why these bushfires are unprecedented,” he said.

    “The fires are also unprecedented because of the rainforest areas that burnt, and these areas contain karst. For example, most of the Macleay karst up north is subtropical or temperate rainforest and some of the fires burnt into the subtropical rainforest.

    4
    Macleay karst

    “Macleay is where I cave with a group that includes volunteer firefighters and citizen scientists. I have never seen such extensive fire there before.

    “It’s probably the first time fire has affected the rainforest in a very long time because rainforest, unlike other forests and trees, has not evolved and adapted to fire – these trees shouldn’t catch fire – so, it might not grow back and that’s a major concern.”

    Prof Baker has worked with Kempsey Speleological Society to monitor the climate and hydrology of some caves in the temperate and subtropical rainforest of the Macleay region since 2014.

    “A number of these caves were burnt by the large Carrai-Carrai East fires between October and December last year,” he said.

    “We explored one of these caves in November, in what was one of the first research trips to investigate the impact of fire on karst.

    “So, our long-term monitoring dataset is now a rare and valuable baseline to investigate the effects of fire on cave climate and hydrology.”

    4
    How cave dripwater chemistry works when there is no fire. Image: UNSW Science

    Tracing fire history in karst

    Yanchep National Park in Western Australia was one of the coastal karst areas devastated by fire before Christmas.

    5

    Yanchep National Park

    Prof Baker visited this month to research the impact of the 2019 fire compared to a blaze in 2005 at the same location.

    Yanchep is also the main research site for Prof Baker’s new three-year Australian Research Council Discovery Project which aims to reconstruct fire history from cave stalagmites, a collaboration with researcher Dr Pauline Treble of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

    The karst area was the subject of the researchers’ initial work on the effects of fire on caves and karst and implications for fire management, which began in 2013.

    ANSTO started monitoring the caves after an intense wildfire burnt 1200 hectares of Yanchep National Park in February 2005.

    The monitoring, which continued until 2011, examined the hydrology and water chemistry of water percolating from the surface to the cave.

    6
    How cave dripwater chemistry responds after fire. Image: UNSW Science.

    Prof Baker said the researchers, led by then UNSW Honours student Gurinder Nagra, published the results in 2016 [HESS] and it became the first ever study on the effects of fire on caves.

    “The research showed that the fire killed large trees, and so the surface was no longer shaded. This made the surface hotter, increased evaporation and therefore, the cave became drier,” he said.

    “The dead trees left ash deposits on the surface and the soluble components of the ash were carried via water to the cave. The most abundant soluble ash materials are nutrients and therefore, fire caused the export of nutrients to the subsurface.

    “What’s more, the fires decreased the amount of limestone dissolved, thus slowing down the growth of stalagmites and stalactites in the cave.”

    Prof Baker said the Yanchep karst was also important because WA’s distinct seasons encouraged regular growth markings on stalagmites, making them more precise for dating purposes and therefore, better for tracing fire history.

    “Annual growth layers – like tree rings – are one way of dating stalagmites but they only appear where you have a strong annual climate,” he said.

    “We can count back the years in the chemistry of the stalagmites and if we can count every single year, then we know exactly when fires occurred – which can be quite interesting.”

    8
    River Cave in the Jenolan Caves, NSW. Photo: Shutterstock.

    Long-term impact of fires uncertain

    Prof Baker is reviewing the data he collected at Yanchep and looks forward to further research, but he said the long-term impact of fire on caves and karst – particularly, if unprecedented fires become more frequent – was unknown.

    “Fire is a natural process – so it’s something that’s always happened. But if these fires are unprecedented because of the spatial scale of the country that’s burnt, and the fires are occurring simultaneously and becoming more frequent, then that becomes something the caves have not seen before,” he said.

    “If more regular nutrient input – the dissolved ash – flows into the subsurface systems, the hydrology may change more, and the underground ecosystem may not be able to cope with receiving nutrients on this scale; but we don’t know.

    “In the long-term, there might be permanent changes, for example, a famous stalagmite in a tourist cave which people remember because it always drips water might stop dripping because the conduit is blocked, or maybe a formation that was growing quickly starts to slow down in a few years because the trees have died on the surface.

    “And, if overlying forests are intensely burnt, the slowing of karst processes could last many years – until the forest has recovered.”

    10
    Yanchep National Park, WA after fire hit the area in late 2019. Photo: UNSW Science.

    Prof Baker’s research papers include:

    Hydrological and geochemical responses of fire in a shallow cave system
    Effects of wildfire on long-term soil CO2 concentration: implications for karst processes
    A post-wildfire response in cave dripwater chemistry
    Selected publications

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:13 am on February 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , HB11 Energy, , Laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Pioneering technology promises unlimited, clean and safe energy” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    21 Feb 2020
    Yolande Hutchinson
    UNSW Sydney External Relations
    0420 845 023
    y.hutchinson@unsw.edu.au

    Dr Warren McKenzie
    HB11 Energy
    0400 059 509

    Professor Heinrich Hora
    UNSW Physics
    0414 471 424

    A UNSW spin-out company has secured patents for its ground-breaking approach to energy generation.

    1
    HB11 Energy, has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy. Picture: Shutterstock

    UNSW Sydney spin-out company, HB11 Energy, has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy. Unlike earlier methods, the technique is completely safe as it does not rely on radioactive fuel and leaves no toxic radioactive waste.

    HB11 Energy secured its intellectual property rights in Japan last week, following recent grants in China and the USA.

    Conceived by UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora, HB11 Energy’s concept differs radically from other experimental fusion projects.

    “After investigating a laser-boron fusion approach for over four decades at UNSW, I am thrilled that this pioneering approach has now received patents in three countries,” Professor Hora said.

    “These granted patents represent the eve of HB11 Energy’s seed-stage fundraising campaign that will establish Australia’s first commercial fusion company, and the world’s only approach focused on the safe hydrogen – boron reaction using lasers.”

    The preferred fusion approach employed by most fusion groups is to heat Deuterium-Tritium fuel well beyond the temperature of the sun (or almost 15 million degrees Celsius). Rather than heating the fuel, HB11’s hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers whose pulses apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.

    “Tritium is very rare, expensive, radioactive and difficult to store. Fusion reactions employing Deuterium-Tritium also shed harmful neutrons and create radioactive waste which needs to be disposed of safely. I have long favored the combination of cheap and abundant hydrogen H and boron B-11. The fusion of these elements does not primarily produce neutrons and is the ideal fuel combination,” Professor Hora said.

    Most other sources of power production, such as coal, gas and nuclear, rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines. In contrast, the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity allowing for much smaller and simpler generators.

    The two-laser approach needed for HB11 Energy’s hydrogen-boron fusion only became possible recently thanks to advances in laser technology that won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

    2
    Schematic of a hydrogen-boron fusion reactor.

    Hora’s reactor design is deceptively simple: a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction.

    The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator.

    “The clean and absolutely safe reactor can be placed within densely populated areas, with no possibility of a catastrophic meltdown such as that which has been seen with nuclear fission reactors,” Professor Hora added.

    With experiments and simulations measuring a laser-initiated chain reaction creating one billion-fold higher reaction rates than predicted (under thermal equilibrium conditions), HB11 Energy stands a high chance of reaching the goal of ‘net-energy gain’ well ahead of other groups.

    “HB11 Energy’s approach could be the only way to achieve very low carbon emissions by 2050. As we aren’t trying to heat fuels to impossibly high temperatures, we are sidestepping all of the scientific challenges that have held fusion energy back for more than half a century,” Dr Warren McKenzie, Managing Director of HB11 Energy, said.

    “This means our development roadmap will be much faster and cheaper than any other fusion approach,” Dr McKenzie added.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
      • richardmitnick 2:40 pm on February 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Many people could not find this article. I had over 2000 views on the article in the blog. But not one signed up to receive the blog. I notified UNSW of the problem.

        Like

    • Mark Peak 10:11 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Richard,
      I’m happy to receive your blog. There did not appear to be link to request it. I am very interested in seeing the advances in more environmentally friendly forms of energy and being kept abreast of what is discovered and can be made available globally.

      Like

      • richardmitnick 10:43 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Mark- Thank you so very much for taking the blog. The events around this article are very strange. Apparently somehow the original article disappeared even though I found a copy. I am in the U.S. but for my blog I follow a lot of universities and institutions in Australia, which as a country is a hotbed of Basic and Applied Scientific Research, just up my alley. UNSW is a very important center for research. I generally do about ten blog posts per day and get around 250 views per day. For this post from UNSW I have received over 3,000 views. I did write to UNSW to let them know about this set of events. I am sure I am not the only person who notified the university. Again, thanks for your interest and your comment.

        Like

  • richardmitnick 3:08 pm on February 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Artificial atoms create stable qubits for quantum computing", Researchers describe how they created artificial atoms in a silicon ‘quantum dot’- a tiny space in a quantum circuit where electrons are used as qubits (or quantum bits)., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Artificial atoms create stable qubits for quantum computing” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    12 Feb 2020
    Lachlan Gilbert

    In a breakthrough for quantum computing, researchers at UNSW Sydney have made improved qubits using concepts from high school chemistry.

    1
    A silicon qubit high-frequency measurement stage, which is positioned inside a dilution refrigerator to cool the chip to around 0.1 degrees above absolute zero. Picture: UNSW/Ken Leanfore

    Quantum engineers from UNSW Sydney have created artificial atoms in silicon chips that offer improved stability for quantum computing.

    In a paper published today in Nature Communications, UNSW quantum computing researchers describe how they created artificial atoms in a silicon ‘quantum dot’, a tiny space in a quantum circuit where electrons are used as qubits (or quantum bits), the basic units of quantum information.

    Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak explains that unlike a real atom, an artificial atom has no nucleus, but it still has shells of electrons whizzing around the centre of the device, rather than around the atom’s nucleus

    “The idea of creating artificial atoms using electrons is not new, in fact it was first proposed theoretically in the 1930s and then experimentally demonstrated in the 1990s – although not in silicon. We first made a rudimentary version of it in silicon back in 2013 [Nature Communications],” says Professor Dzurak, who is an ARC Laureate Fellow and is also director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, where the quantum dot device was manufactured.

    “But what really excites us about our latest research is that artificial atoms with a higher number of electrons turn out to be much more robust qubits than previously thought possible, meaning they can be reliably used for calculations in quantum computers. This is significant because qubits based on just one electron can be very unreliable.”

    Chemistry 101

    Professor Dzurak likens the different types of artificial atoms his team has created to a kind of periodic table for quantum bits, which he says is apt given that 2019 – when this ground-breaking work was carried out – was the International Year of the Periodic Table.

    “If you think back to your high school science class, you may remember a dusty chart hanging on the wall that listed all the known elements in the order of how many electrons they had, starting with Hydrogen with one electron, Helium with two, Lithium with three and so on.

    “You may even remember that as each atom gets heavier, with more and more electrons, they organise into different levels of orbit, known as ‘shells’.

    “It turns out that when we create artificial atoms in our quantum circuits, they also have well organised and predictable shells of electrons, just like natural atoms in the periodic table do.”

    2
    Dr Andre Saraiva, Mr Ross Leon and Professor Andrew Dzurak in the UNSW lab where they ran the experiments on their quantum device. Picture: UNSW/Ken Leanfore

    Connect the dots

    Professor Dzurak and his team from UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering – including PhD student Ross Leon who is also lead author in the research, and Dr Andre Saraiva – configured a quantum device in silicon to test the stability of electrons in artificial atoms.

    They applied a voltage to the silicon via a metal surface ‘gate’ electrode to attract spare electrons from the silicon to form the quantum dot, an infinitesimally small space of only around 10 nanometres in diameter.

    “As we slowly increased the voltage, we would draw in new electrons, one after another, to form an artificial atom in our quantum dot,” says Dr Saraiva, who led the theoretical analysis of the results.

    “In a real atom, you have a positive charge in the middle, being the nucleus, and then the negatively charged electrons are held around it in three dimensional orbits. In our case, rather than the positive nucleus, the positive charge comes from the gate electrode which is separated from the silicon by an insulating barrier of silicon oxide, and then the electrons are suspended underneath it, each orbiting around the centre of the quantum dot. But rather than forming a sphere, they are arranged flat, in a disc.”

    Mr Leon, who ran the experiments, says the researchers were interested in what happened when an extra electron began to populate a new outer shell. In the periodic table, the elements with just one electron in their outer shells include Hydrogen and the metals Lithium, Sodium and Potassium.

    “When we create the equivalent of Hydrogen, Lithium and Sodium in the quantum dot, we are basically able to use that lone electron on the outer shell as a qubit,” Ross says.

    “Up until now, imperfections in silicon devices at the atomic level have disrupted the way qubits behave, leading to unreliable operation and errors. But it seems that the extra electrons in the inner shells act like a ‘primer’ on the imperfect surface of the quantum dot, smoothing things out and giving stability to the electron in the outer shell.”

    Watch the spin

    Achieving stability and control of electrons is a crucial step towards silicon-based quantum computers becoming a reality. Where a classical computer uses ‘bits’ of information represented by either a 0 or a 1, the qubits in a quantum computer can store values of 0 and 1 simultaneously. This enables a quantum computer to carry out calculations in parallel, rather than one after another as a conventional computer would. The data processing power of a quantum computer then increases exponentially with the number of qubits it has available.

    It is the spin of an electron that we use to encode the value of the qubit, explains Professor Dzurak.

    “Spin is a quantum mechanical property. An electron acts like a tiny magnet and depending on which way it spins its north pole can either point up or down, corresponding to a 1 or a 0.

    “When the electrons in either a real atom or our artificial atoms form a complete shell, they align their poles in opposite directions so that the total spin of the system is zero, making them useless as a qubit. But when we add one more electron to start a new shell, this extra electron has a spin that we can now use as a qubit again.

    “Our new work shows that we can control the spin of electrons in the outer shells of these artificial atoms to give us reliable and stable qubits. This is really important because it means we can now work with much less fragile qubits. One electron is a very fragile thing. However an artificial atom with 5 electrons, or 13 electrons, is much more robust.”

    3
    The trio will look next at how the rules of chemical bonding apply to artificial atoms to create artificial molecules. Picture: UNSW/Ken Leanfore

    The silicon advantage

    Professor Dzurak’s group was the first in the world to demonstrate quantum logic between two qubits in silicon devices in 2015 [Nature], and has also published a design for a full-scale quantum computer chip architecture based on CMOS technology [Nature Communications], which is the same technology used to manufacture all modern-day computer chips.

    “By using silicon CMOS technology we can significantly reduce the development time of quantum computers with the millions of qubits that will be needed to solve problems of global significance, such as the design of new medicines, or new chemical catalysts to reduce energy consumption”, says Professor Dzurak.

    In a continuation of this latest breakthrough, the group will explore how the rules of chemical bonding apply to these new artificial atoms, to create ‘artificial molecules’. These will be used to create improved multi-qubit logic gates needed for the realisation of a large-scale silicon quantum computer.

    Research collaborators and funding

    Other authors on the paper include Drs. Henry Yang, Jason Hwang, Tuomo Tanttu, Wister Huang, Kok-Wai Chan and Fay Hudson, all from Professor Dzurak’s group, as well as long-time collaborators Dr Arne Laucht and Professor Andrea Morello from UNSW. Dr Kuan-Yen from Aalto University in Finland assisted the team, while Professor Kohei Itoh from Keio University in Japan provided enriched silicon-28 wafers from which the devices were made. The qubit devices incorporated nano-scale magnets to help enable qubit operation, and these were designed with support from a team led by Professor Michel Pioro-Ladrière at Université de Sherbrooke in Canada, including his PhD student Julien Camirand Lemyre.

    The project was funded with support from the Australian Research Council, the US Army Research Office, Silicon Quantum Computing Proprietary Limited, and the Australian National Fabrication Facility, with Drs Saraiva and Yang acknowledging support from Silicon Quantum Computing. The Canadian team received support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and the National Science Engineering Research Council of Canada.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:33 pm on February 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "UNSW receives $17m in latest round of CRC-P funding", Professor Michael Kalloniatis, UNSW Engineering Associate Professor Yansong Shen, UNSW Engineering Dr Binghao Li, UNSW Engineering Professor Guan Yeoh, UNSW Science A/Prof Suzanne Neville, UNSW Science Scientia Prof Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW Science Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton, UNSW Science Scientia Professor Sven Rogge, UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “UNSW receives $17m in latest round of CRC-P funding” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    11 Feb 2020
    Yolande Hutchinson

    More than $17 million in grants received across optometry, recycled waste plastics, solar technology, silicon products, wireless technology and cobalt production.

    1
    A project developing AI capabilities to improve optometry accuracy for patient diagnoses and referrals received funding in the latest CRC-P funding round. Image: Shutterstock

    UNSW Sydney researchers have received funding for seven industry-led projects in the latest round of the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) program. The projects involving UNSW researchers received a total of over $17 million in grants across optometry, recycled waste plastics, solar technology, silicon products, wireless technology and cobalt production.

    A project developing AI capabilities to improve optometry accuracy for patient diagnoses and referrals has been awarded over $2.98 million. The project is led by global technology company Big Picture Medical, in collaboration with UNSW Science Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton and Professor Michael Kalloniatis, Director of the Centre for Eye Health (CFEH) which is a joint initiative of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and UNSW. The system will combine an optometrist’s expertise with AI capabilities that analyse patient eye health data to achieve high-level accuracy for diagnosis and referrals.

    UNSW Science Scientia Prof Veena Sahajwalla is involved in a project with Wosup Australia and Spark Furniture, developing micro-factories for recycling waste plastics into engineered products. The renewable waste project will receive $3 million. Single-use plastics are currently a significant national problem, currently stockpiled at Australian landfills and waste management sites. The project plans to turn this enormous challenge into an opportunity to create high quality engineered product for manufacturers via distributed micro-factories.

    Flame Security International Pty Ltd is leading a project team including UNSW Engineering Professor Guan Yeoh to commercialise a solar polymer membrane called Solar Skin. The project will receive $3 million in funding and aims to recapture Australia’s global leadership in solar technology. Solar Skin can generate power from both direct and indirect sunlight from vertical and horizontal surfaces, potentially turning every CBD and local government area into sustainable and green power stations.

    A project developing silicon products for the emerging Australian and international quantum computing network has been awarded $3 million. The project is led by Silex Systems Limited, in collaboration with UNSW Science Scientia Professor Sven Rogge and Silicon Quantum Computing.

    UNSW Science A/Prof Suzanne Neville is involved in a project led by Cobalt Blue Holdings Ltd to assess the production of battery-grade cobalt and sulphur. The project will receive $2.4 million and if successful, the new process will double Australia’s cobalt production.

    Roobuck Pty Ltd is leading a project team including UNSW Engineering Dr Binghao Li, to develop new wireless technology for underground mines. The project will receive $2 million to develop a world-first wireless network integrating four major wireless technologies into a single platform, improving the productivity and safety of mines.

    2
    A project recycling plastics by sensing and treating label contamination received funding as part of the eighth round of CRC-P funding.

    UNSW Engineering Associate Professor Yansong Shen is involved in a project led by Pegras Asia Pacific Pty Ltd to recycle plastics by sensing and treating label contamination. The project will receive $650,000.

    More than $25 million worth of grants were delivered to nine projects as part of the eighth round of the program announced by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews this week. The CRC-P Program supports collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. The focus is on linking researchers with industry to develop products with commercial uses.

    UNSW Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston is thrilled is to see so many UNSW researchers receive funding for collaborative research projects.

    “It’s very exciting to see so many of our researchers using their skills to solve industry problems. Developing strong relationships with industry and community partners is essential in translating our research into positive outcomes for society,” Professor Johnston said.

    More information and a full list of recipients can be found on the Federal Government’s Business website.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:09 am on February 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Problem solvers make technology accessible for everybody", , ‘Squeeze machines’ for people with autism, Connect Equip, Modifying existing gym equipment to make it accessible and safe for people with disabilities and injuries., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Problem solvers make technology accessible for everybody” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    05 Feb 2020
    Kristina Zhou

    UNSW students and people with disabilities are working together on creative ways to make technology usable for more people.

    1
    Dr Lauren Kark, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, received a Division of Equity Diversity & Inclusion Small Grant 2019.

    A pilot program that inspires UNSW Engineering students to develop innovative technology for people with disability has been named ‘best innovation’ by the University’s Division of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

    The program, Connect Equip, gives students the opportunity to connect with people living with disability and co-design a tailored device that enhances their quality of life and participation in society.

    Dr Lauren Kark, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, was one of five recipients awarded a $5000 Small Grant by the Division of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in 2019. The division’s grant program launched last year aiming to encourage and support students and staff to foster a campus culture that promoted equity, diversity and inclusion.

    Dr Kark started Connect Equip amid growing concern that technology was often unavailable and did not cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

    “In a lot of my research, I work with people with disability, and I can see the frustration of wanting to participate but not being able to because they can’t get their hands on the technology that they need to participate,” she said.

    Dr Kark identified that a major problem was the limited exposure some engineers had to people with a disability. “Many students graduate and go into the workforce designing technology intended to improve quality of life but have never encountered someone with a disability or chronic illness,” she said.

    Connect Equip aimed to change that by providing engineering students with the opportunity to work collaboratively with people with a disability and better understand their needs, design solutions and produce a prototype.

    The pilot program was initially designed as an elective unit that engineering students could enrol in to receive course credit. In just 10 weeks, students co-designed 21 projects to enhance the lives of people with disability.

    Connect Equip devices produced by students addressed a widening gap in the technology sector. Dr Kark said a lot of devices on the market were medical but Connect Equip aimed to design products that facilitated increased social participation in sporting, leisure and lifestyle activities.

    Devices included the creation of ‘squeeze machines’ for people with autism, and portable squeeze gyms they could travel with. Some children with neurological processing disorders, such as autism, require deep physical pressure. Squeeze gyms provide the temporary pressure and the ideal level of heavy work to help them function effectively.

    2
    People can place themselves between the poles of the ‘squeeze machine’ and have pressure applied to their bodies by the black foam rollers. [While I see no credit granted, this device is based upon the work of Temple Grandin in her work on animal husbandry.]

    UNSW Engineering students worked in the gym with an exercise physiologist, modifying existing gym equipment to make it accessible and safe for people with disabilities and injuries.

    “One group made something you can put onto a generic exercise bike to enable people with spinal cord injury or who’ve had a stroke to use their normal bikes rather than having to buy another custom-made bike,” Dr Kark said.

    Thriving under a tight budget, another group of students built a classroom device for only $50 that enabled students in wheelchairs to access whiteboards more effectively.

    “The bulk of the wheelchair means students can’t physically get close to the board, but also by their nature wheelchairs mean you’re sitting, so you can’t get up to the top of the board. Many students with disability in wheelchairs also don’t have the muscle control required to interact with the board,” Dr Kark said.

    “We want to be open year-round so that people can request technology at any time of the year.”

    “The students designed a special device that was weighted appropriately for the individual users and took advantage of the muscle control they had and made sure the muscle control they didn’t have wasn’t causing any accessibility issues,” she said.

    Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, said that “all five projects funded by the grants are wonderful”.

    “The EDI board had presentations from all five and found it so hard to decide which should be the overall winner. Connect Equip students captured the board’s attention for their genuine partnership with people with disability,” Professor Baldry said.

    “The students recognised people with disabilities’ expertise regarding their needs and what would make a difference for them. They then developed ingenious and affordable devices to assist in resolving whatever the particular issue was.”

    Sarah Anastopoulos, an engineering student who took part, said the experience humbled her and highlighted the importance of including people with disability in the production process.

    “It doesn’t matter how capable we are as engineers, we will never have the expertise that our end-user does when it comes to their own experiences, capabilities and needs,” she said.

    With the success of Connect Equip, Dr Kark said, there were plans to expand the program to an ongoing community service hub.

    “We want to be open year-round so that people can request technology at any time of the year and students can work on these projects for the required period of time,” she said.

    With 21 effective projects already developed in 10 weeks, Dr Kark said, it was exciting to ponder what Connect Equip could achieve over a longer time.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:14 pm on January 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Platypus on brink of extinction", , , , Human impact on the environment, UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Platypus on brink of extinction” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    20 Jan 2020
    Caroline Tang
    Media & Content
    02 9385 8809
    caroline.tang@unsw.edu.au

    Additional media contacts:

    Dr Gilad Bino
    Researcher, UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science
    gilad.bino@unsw.edu.au
    0404 796 809

    Professor Richard Kingsford
    Director, UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science
    richard.kingsford@unsw.edu.au
    0419 634 215

    New UNSW research calls for national action to minimise the risk of the platypus vanishing due to habitat destruction, dams and weirs.

    1
    New UNSW research shows the possibility of the iconic Australian platypus becoming extinct because of threats including climate change and human-related habitat loss. Picture: UNSW Science

    Australia’s devastating drought is having a critical impact on the iconic platypus, a globally unique mammal, with increasing reports of rivers drying up and platypuses becoming stranded.

    Platypuses were once considered widespread across the eastern Australian mainland and Tasmania, although not a lot is known about their distribution or abundance because of the species’ secretive and nocturnal nature.

    A new study led by UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, funded through a UNSW-led Australian Research Council project and supported by the Taronga Conservation Society, has for the first time examined the risks of extinction for this intriguing animal.

    Published in the international scientific journal Biological Conservation this month, the study examined the potentially devastating combination of threats to platypus populations, including water resource development, land clearing, climate change and increasingly severe periods of drought.

    Lead author Dr Gilad Bino, a researcher at the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, said action must be taken now to prevent the platypus from disappearing from our waterways.

    “There is an urgent need for a national risk assessment for the platypus to assess its conservation status, evaluate risks and impacts, and prioritise management in order to minimise any risk of extinction,” Dr Bino said.

    2
    The UNSW-led project raises concerns about the decline of platypus populations. Picture: Flickr

    Alarmingly, the study estimated that under current climate conditions and due to land clearing and fragmentation by dams, platypus numbers almost halved, leading to the extinction of local populations across about 40 per cent of the species’ range, reflecting ongoing declines since European colonisation.

    Under predicted climate change, the losses forecast were far greater because of increases in extreme drought frequencies and duration, such as the current dry spell.

    Dr Bino added: “These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas.”

    Documented declines and local extinctions of the platypus show a species facing considerable risks, while the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently downgraded the platypus’ conservation status to “Near Threatened”.

    But the platypus remains unlisted in most jurisdictions in Australia – except South Australia, where it is endangered.

    Director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science and study co-author Professor Richard Kingsford said it was unfortunate that platypuses lived in areas undergoing extensive human development that threatened their lives and long-term viability.

    “These include dams that stop their movements, agriculture which can destroy their burrows, fishing gear and yabby traps which can drown them and invasive foxes which can kill them,” Prof Kingsford said.

    3
    UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Ecosystem Science leads new research into the extinction risk of the platypus. Picture: Tahnael Hawke

    Study co-author Professor Brendan Wintle at The University of Melbourne said it was important that preventative measures were taken now.

    “Even for a presumed ‘safe’ species such as the platypus, mitigating or even stopping threats, such as new dams, is likely to be more effective than waiting for the risk of extinction to increase and possible failure,” Prof Wintle said.

    “We should learn from the peril facing the koala to understand what happens when we ignore the warning signs.”

    Dr Bino said the researchers’ paper added to the increasing body of evidence which showed that the platypus, like many other native Australian species, was on the path to extinction.

    “There is an urgent need to implement national conservation efforts for this unique mammal and other species by increasing monitoring, tracking trends, mitigating threats, and protecting and improving management of freshwater habitats,” Dr Bino said.

    The platypus research team is continuing to research the ecology and conservation of this enigmatic animal, collaborating with the Taronga Conservation Society, to ensure its future by providing information for effective policy and management.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:12 am on January 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Engineers ensuring Internet of Things devices work for and not against us", , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Engineers ensuring Internet of Things devices work for, not against us” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    06 Jan 2020
    Lachlan Gilbert

    UNSW engineers are exploring how Internet of Things devices will change our lives for the better, but not before they are made much more secure.

    1
    Dr Hassan Habibi Gharakheili with one of the sensors purpose-built to monitor the line length of people queuing for the bus at UNSW. Photo: UNSW

    Dr Hassan Habibi Gharakheili is excited about the potential that the Internet of Things (IoT) offers us, but is equally aghast at how insecure some IoT devices – that many people already have in their homes – are.

    We commonly associate IoT with smart home and building automation, where several devices are linked together on a common wireless network which we can control remotely over the internet using a mobile phone or PC. Think air-conditioners, fridges, lights, security cameras and baby monitors. But as Dr Gharakheili is showing, we have barely scratched the surface with the ways that we can use the IoT to improve our social and professional lives.

    The lecturer with UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications is part of a program that is examining low-cost and accessible ways to provide information about how public and commercial spaces are being used at any given time using real-time information.

    Using the UNSW campus as a testing ground, Dr Gharakheili and a team of engineering students are looking at patterns of how people use and move through the various campus spaces.

    For example, the use of lecture theatres reveals a typical pattern of being chock-a-block full of keen students at the start of a term and then sparsely attended by term’s end. If you had live records that were continually updated about the numbers of people using the theatres over time, the spaces could potentially be managed more proactively.

    But the question facing Dr Gharakheili and his students was – short of asking the lecturer to do a headcount every lesson – how do you work out how full the theatres are, all the while ensuring privacy isn’t breached?

    “Cameras might be a way to do it, but they’re not only expensive but intrusive,” Dr Gharakheili says. “We found there are fairly cheap, ‘beam counter’ sensors that do the job perfectly. So we mount some on the frame of each door which count how many people come in versus how many go out.”

    Similar technology can also be used to enable users to make planning decisions on the fly. Dr Gharakheili installed sensors that his own students built from scratch near a bus stop that was notoriously overcrowded. Long lines would snake their way up High street and well inside the gates of the campus as hundreds of students and staff converged for the commute home.

    With live data of the number of people waiting for the bus now available, decisions on whether extra busses need organising in those peak times become much more responsive.

    Other applications of Dr Gharakheili’s Smart Campus project include providing the number of car spots available in the University’s various car parks as well as sensors that can detect how a building’s rooms and corridors are used during the day – all achieved cheaply and anonymously.

    There is no question about the way IoT can make life easier for us all. But as Dr Gharakheili is all too aware, there is a darker side to the world of IoT devices.

    “It turns out most of these popular IoT devices marketed at the home consumer are insecure,” Dr Gharakheili says.

    “In other words, they can be easily hacked. The reason for this is that the primary concern of the manufacturer was to put together something which is fancy and that comes at a low price. But security was something they never really thought about because if you want to secure a device, you need to put in a memory CPU and you need software to protect and encrypt that. And that adds to the cost of the device and takes time.”

    IoT devices that are not secure are accessible from anywhere on the globe, Dr Gharakheili says. Hackers can launch cyber-attacks on companies by recruiting people’s insecure, exposed IoT devices without their owners having the faintest clue.

    “These devices communicate using plain text, it’s not encrypted. And in addition to your devices being used in a cyber-attack, in some instances, they’re giving away some of your personal data you’ve used to set up those devices.”

    To address these serious flaws of IoT devices, Dr Gharakheili is working on software that can be introduced to the home and business network that can make IoT devices safe. The first thing the software does is an audit of all the IoT devices on that network – not only how many, but which are operational.

    “Especially in businesses, many operators are blind to how many IoT devices they have on their networks,” Dr Gharakheili says. “What sort of device is it, what is its job, is it working properly, how is it being used – the answer is very unclear in most cases.”

    Unlike a laptop or smartphone, IoT devices have very distinct and unvaried ways of communicating that make them easy to identify.

    “IoT devices have prescribed functionalities by the manufacturer. For example, your security camera should not talk to Netflix, your smoke alarm should not be accessing news websites, your light-bulb should not be talking to a Google website. If they are behaving like this, then something is wrong.

    “Using AI and machine learning, we can pick this behaviour and isolate a device that has been compromised.”

    Dr Gharakheili says he and his colleagues including Professor Vijay Sivaraman have been working on the software identifying anomalies with IoT devices for the past two years. The group is hoping to commercialise their work by the beginning of next year.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:09 am on December 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mapping the Remains of Supernovae", , , , , , , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From UNSW via Scientific American: “Mapping the Remains of Supernovae” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    via

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    Scientific American January 2020 Issue
    Rachel Berkowitz

    A new tool provides detailed, 3-D chemical view of exploded star systems.

    1
    Light emitted by two supernova remnants. Green indicates charged iron. Credit: I. R. SEITENZAHL ET AL.

    When a dense stellar core called a white dwarf acquires enough material from a companion star orbiting nearby, it burns up in the nuclear fusion blast of a Type Ia supernova. This ejects freshly synthesized elements that mix with interstellar gas and eventually form stars and galaxies. But astrophysicists still don’t know the specific conditions that ignite these explosions.

    Ivo Seitenzahl, an astrophysicist at University of New South Wales Canberra, and his colleagues used the upgraded Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to build unprecedented 3-D chemical maps of the debris left behind by these supernovae.

    ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
    elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo,

    These maps can help scientists work backward to “constrain the fundamental properties of these explosions, including the amount of kinetic energy and the mass of the exploding star,” says Carles Badenes, an astrophysicist at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study.

    During a supernova event, heavy elements shoot from the white dwarf’s core at supersonic speeds. This drives a shock wave outward through the surrounding interstellar gas and dust, and another shock wave bounces backward into the explosion debris, eventually heating the ejected matter to x-ray-emitting temperatures. Scientists can learn about a supernova remnant’s composition from these x-rays—but current x-ray instruments lack the resolution to measure the movement of ejected material.

    Seitenzahl’s group used visible-light data from the VLT to analyze supernova remnants in a new way, described in July in Physical Review Letters. Basic models suggest that Type Ia supernovae produce most of the universe’s iron. That iron should hold a stronger electrical charge the farther it is behind the supernova’s shock wave and emit distinctive visible wavelengths of light; however, those emissions were too faint to detect before the VLT’s recent instrument upgrade.

    With the upgrade, the researchers detected concentric layers of charged iron within supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. From distortion patterns in light released by the charged iron, they determined the inward shock wave’s velocity in Type Ia supernova remnants for the first time. “This is exciting science that’s been enabled by new technology, used on precisely the type of [supernova] that needs it,” says Dan Milisavljevic, an astronomer at Purdue University, who was also not involved in the work.

    Seitenzahl’s group also found that one particular supernova originated from a white dwarf whose mass was thought to be too small to trigger such an explosion, suggesting there is still more to learn about this process. Further work could reveal more details about the chemicals produced in Type Ia supernovae, whether an explosion initiates on the surface or interior of the star and what conditions trigger the blast.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:04 pm on December 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Smart 'microrecycling' technology earns new funding", UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Smart ‘microrecycling’ technology earns new funding” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    17 Dec 2019
    Stuart Snell

    Technology from UNSW that can reform waste into new materials is closer to commercialisation thanks to new NSW government funding.

    1
    Veena Sahajwalla in a section of the Microfactorie. Photo: Anna Kucera

    UNSW Sydney’s SMaRT Centre has secured nearly $1 million in NSW government funding to help commercialise a technology that can reform waste materials into value-added products for use in the built environment.

    UNSW was one of five winners to share in $5 million from the new Physical Sciences Fund of the NSW Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer to help bring industry-changing ideas to market.

    The funding will help to commercialise UNSW’s Microfactorie concept, which can reform waste materials including glass, single-use coffee cups, used coffee grounds and textiles into ceramic-based panel products that can be used as tables, countertops and tiles.

    In announcing the funding recipients, NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the Physical Sciences Fund translated scientific innovation into tangible, real-world outcomes to benefit communities, the state economy and the environment.

    “NSW is renowned for its innovative science sector, which is why we’re not only investing in developing and nurturing ideas but commercialising them too,” Mr Stokes said.

    “Our inaugural winners are turning rubbish into luxe building products, using drones to save the environment, improving the efficiency of mines and the wine industry, and literally pulling water from thin air,” he said.

    NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said bringing great ideas to market was a challenge facing universities and small companies.

    “In addition to giving financial support, the Physical Sciences Fund provides advice and facilitates collaborations to ensure that each project’s scientific rigour is matched with seasoned entrepreneurial know-how,” Professor Durrant-Whyte said.

    The inaugural recipients include a light-weight data gathering drone, a magnetic resonance analyser, architectural surfaces manufactured from recycled materials, agricultural technologies and a device that produces drinking water from atmospheric moisture.

    Almost 60 applications were received for the fund, with the five winners assessed and selected by an independent expert panel.

    Director of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT), Professor Veena Sahajwalla said new funding would help advance commercialisation prospects of the team’s microrecylcing science.

    “We’ve developed manufacturing technology and capability so waste can be reformed into value-added materials and products, and kept out of landfill. Environmental benefits aside, this scientifically developed technology will help to drive the emerging circular economy, create jobs and enhance social and economic outcomes, not just for local communities but more broadly for the nation,” she said.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:18 pm on December 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Spying on hippos with drones to help conservation efforts", , , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Spying on hippos with drones to help conservation efforts” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    10 Dec 2019
    Caroline Tang

    A new UNSW study has shown that using a drone to film hippos in Africa is an effective, affordable tool for conservationists to monitor the threatened species’ population from a safe distance, particularly in remote and aquatic areas.

    1
    UNSW researchers have demonstrated that filming hippos with a drone is an effective tool for conservationists in Africa to monitor the threatened species’ population from a safe distance, because hippos can be aggressive. Picture: Victoria Inman

    Drones with cameras might be a nuisance to privacy in the suburbs, but in Southern Africa they are helping a UNSW Sydney research team to save a threatened species: the humble hippo.

    Wild numbers of the vulnerable Hippopotamus amphibius are declining because of habitat loss and hunting for meat and ivory, so monitoring their population is crucial for conservation management.

    “Even though hippos are a charismatic megafauna, they are surprisingly understudied, because of how difficult it is to work with nocturnal, amphibious and aggressive animals,” said lead author Victoria Inman, a PhD candidate at UNSW Science.

    Traditional methods of counting hippos include unreliable aerial surveys and hazardous land and water surveys.

    Ground-based observations are unsafe for surveyors because the hippo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and lives in inaccessible areas.

    Hippos also prefer an aquatic lifestyle and regularly submerge themselves in water, further complicating efforts to keep an eye on their population.

    These challenges inspired UNSW researchers, in collaboration with conservation organisation Elephants Without Borders, to take to the skies with drones to film hippo pods and thus, more accurately estimate hippo numbers.

    Their research, published in the international journal PLOS ONE on Friday, compared hippo counts from drone footage to land counts at the same lagoon with a resident hippo population in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana, across seven days.

    The researchers found the drone method just as effective as land surveys in estimating hippo numbers.

    2
    UNSW Science researchers flew a drone over hippos in Africa to effectively and safely count the threatened species’ population. Picture: Victoria Inman

    Ms Inman said researchers used a relatively low-cost drone, the multirotor DJI Phantom 4, to film hippos from various heights.

    “The bird’s-eye perspective the drone gave us made it a lot easier to differentiate between individual hippos, even when they were crowded together,” she said.

    “Our successful method can be repeated easily and avoids the dangers associated with counting hippos from land.

    “It was also great that the drone did not bother the hippos.”

    Ms Inman said the lower the drone flew, the more accurate the counting of the hippos because the video resolution was clearer.

    “Counting hippos from 40 metres above was the best method and about 10 per cent more accurate than land surveys,” she said.

    “Interestingly, we found that early morning was the worst time to survey because hippos were active and often submerging, making them difficult to count – this finding is counter to current advice.

    “Another important advantage with the drone footage was our ability to measure hippos’ body lengths in order to determine their ages.”

    3
    Hippos can be aggressive and are territorial, so filming them via drone is a safe and effective alternative for conservationists, a new UNSW study has found. Picture: Victoria Inman

    Drones can help broader wildlife conservation efforts

    Ms Inman said there was an urgent need to monitor hippo populations in Africa because of the species’ long-term decline in many parts of the continent.

    “Long-term statistics on animal populations are critical for understanding the nature and extent of species’ declines,” she said.

    “Drone data could be routinely collected in different river systems, providing a guide to the numbers in hippo pods, seasonal changes and the ability to track the long-term status of hippo populations.

    “Our study shows that small, commercially available drones are a simple, affordable and effective method for wildlife conservation organisations to monitor threatened species.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
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