Assessing the broader impact of pesticides used to control locust plagues that threaten vital agricultural industries, designing more efficient batteries and building safe and durable roads and railways for faster and heavier traffic are among the projects that have been funded in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grants.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham recently announced that six UOW-led projects connecting researchers with industry partners have been awarded $2.1 million in grant funding.

The ARC funding, which demonstrates UOW’s experience and capability in engineering, electrochemistry, information communication technology and environmental sciences, is augmented by cash contributions of $3.5 million from partner organisations in Australia and overseas.

Senator Birmingham said the industry cash and in-kind support across the suite of projects funded in 2016 represented $2.01 for every dollar from the Commonwealth and highlighted the value of research done at Australian universities and labs.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper congratulated the successful researchers and acknowledged that the university performed particularly well in materials science, information sciences, engineering and biological sciences.

“More than ever it is vital for industries to innovate and thrive in increasingly competitive markets. We can do this by connecting our researchers with businesses that will collectively support new and emergent industries and future jobs,” said Prof. Raper.

The UOW Linkage projects funded are:

‘Enhancing the longevity of roads and rail tracks for freight’
Distinguished Professor Buddhima Indraratna (pictured), Associate Professor Cholachat Rujikiatkamjorn and Dr Ana Heitor
ARC funding: $590,000
This project will use compacted industrial waste materials such as coal wash and fly ash for use in road and rail construction. This will help create sustainable and more resilient transport infrastructure to deal with increasing demand for safe and durable roads and railways that support faster and heavier traffic.
Partner Organisations: Douglas Partners Pty Ltd; Infra Tech Pty Ltd; Roads And Maritime Services; South32 Limited; Stabilco NSW Pty Ltd.

‘Assessing the impact of pesticides to control locusts’
Professor Kristine French
ARC funding: $410,000
This project aims to understand how a range of native animals are affected by pesticides used to control locust plagues. It will develop a model for aerial pesticide spraying that improves our understanding of how mammals, lizards and invertebrates are affected by pesticides in order to improve environmental outcomes in pest management.
Partner Organisation: Australian Plague Locust Commission

‘A new seating system for heavy vehicles to increase safety’
Associate Professor Haiping Du and Professor Weihua Li
ARC funding: $365,000
The project will develop a comfortable and ergonomic seating system for use in agriculture, transportation, mining and construction vehicles that reduces exposure to vibrations from uneven road surfaces, vibrating tools, and vibrating machinery. Long-term effects of poor seating design can lead to increased fatigue and reduced safety, as well as cause neck and shoulder pain, lower back injuries, and spinal injuries.
Partner Organisations: Changzhou Wan-An Automotive Component Technology Ltd; Applied Measurement (Australia) Pty Ltd.; Futuris Pty Ltd

‘A next-generation battery storage system’
Distinguished Professor Shi Xue Dou, Dr Wenping Sun, Dr Khay See, and Mr Jianzhong Wang
ARC funding: $360,000
The project aims to significantly improve the energy density, safety and robust storage performance of lithium batteries with reduced cost. Intelligent features will make the whole energy network a next-generation battery storage system, with mechanisms to protect the battery from hazardous and inefficient operating conditions.
Partner Organisation: Tianjin Benefo Machinery Equipment Group Central Research Institute

‘Develop a lithium-free sulphur battery system’
A/Professor Jiazhao Wang, Distinguished Professor Hua Liu, Professor Zai Guo, Dr Konstantin Konstantinov and Dr Shulei Chou
ARC funding: $210,152
This project aims to replace lithium metal with other anode materials to improve the safety of the system and drive Australia’s competitive advantage in the field of energy storage. Commercialisation of the technology will also drive overseas demand for Australian raw materials for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.
Partner Organisation: Nipress TBK, PT

‘Improving voice communication in video conference technology for distance-based learning’
A/Professor Christian Ritz and Professor Farzad Safaei
ARC funding: $197,048
This project aims to reduce audio echo and improve stability for video conferencing technology, which are barriers to wider use of the application in education. A key benefit will be a significantly enhanced product that provides a commercial advantage as well as a solution to remote learning for Australian students and educators.
Partner Organisation: Isee Vc Pty Ltd

Industrial Transformation Training Centre in Additive Biomanufacturing

UOW is also a partner in a new training centre that will position Australia as a world-leader in 3D bioprinting for medical applications.

Federal Government funding of $3.7M has been awarded to establish the ARC Training Centre in Additive Biomanufacturing – a collaboration between universities, companies and clinicians, under the Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme.

Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace and Dr Stephen Beirne from UOW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science are co-investigators of the training centre which is being led by Professor Dietmar Hutmacher at the Queensland University of Technology.

The training centre aims to bring together leading researchers and industry to develop and translate key technology platforms for personalised treatments of challenging medical conditions.

The centre expects its research will lead to synergistic and innovative technologies needed for personalised therapies including: modular additive biomanufacturing platforms; advanced bio-inks for regenerative medicine; and additive manufactured tools for surgical planning and education.

Anticipated impacts are that Australia will be a world-leader in additive biomanufacturing, and that the research will change the fields of science, health and biotechnology.