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Home > Press > UniSA launches research into the power of small things

Abstract:
On October 20 from 4.30 pm UniSA will officially open its Nano and Bio Materials Centre back to back with the new South Australian Node of Future Materials.

UniSA launches research into the power of small things

October 19, 2004

Some of the greatest wonders of the 21st century will probably occur on a small scale – in fact a tiny scale – smaller than a human blood cell, right down there at the level of atoms and molecules.

And the University of South Australia’s Ian Wark Research Institute is set to spearhead some of these tiny breakthroughs that will have an enormous impact on our everyday lives, improving the water we drink, the medicines we use, the food we eat and the materials we use to build everything from cars to computers.

On October 20 from 4.30 pm UniSA will officially open its Nano and Bio Materials Centre back to back with the new South Australian Node of Future Materials. The Nano and Bio Materials Centre is a research concentration set to spur on great South Australian discoveries and an engagement internationally with some of the most important research into nanotechnology in the world today. Future Materials will allow Australian companies easy access to materials characterisation and evaluation, help with problem solving through the investigation of contaminants and materials failures, studies and testing of new coatings, films and surface modifications, collaborative research to assist the development of new products and processes and expert independent advice on intellectual property matters.

The Nano and Bio Materials Centre will be opened by Chief Scientist for the Commonwealth of Australia, Dr Robin Batterham and the SA Minister for Science and Information Economy, the Hon Trish White, will launch the SA Node of Future Materials.

Director of the Ian Wark Research Institute, Professor John Ralston, says million-dollar funding under the Federal Government’s Backing Australia’s Ability Initiative will support continuing engagement with international partners to work on projects at the vanguard of nanotechnology and biomaterials innovation.

"The new centre builds on existing internationally competitive research strengths and involves leading Australian partners including Sola International, Schefenacker Vision Systems Australia, Research Laboratories Australia, Newmont Australia, AMIRA International, South Australia Research and Development Institute and Monash and Sydney Universities," Professor Ralston says.

The partnership also includes nine leading European Laboratories across the UK, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

"Nanotechnology is the new frontier of science and its potential impact is compelling," Prof Ralston said.

"Here at The Wark™ we are looking at how we can develop nanoparticles to remove contaminants from water. Using minute silica nanoparticles we are hoping to develop highly cost efficient contaminant capture system which will be of enormous importance for water quality here in Australia and in countries around the world where water quality is an issue.

"One of the biggest impacts of nanotechnology will be in the life science industries and researchers at the Centre are involved the development of components known as DNA microarrays. The microarrays allow researchers to evaluate thousands of genes at a time in an efficient manner.

"This technology is a pivotal building block for scientists investigating diseases and developing discrete treatments for cancer, diabetes, arthritis and a range of other chronic and terminal illnesses."

From 2005, The Wark™ is offering a brand new honours program and scholarships in the emerging fields of nano and biomaterials, as well as continuing to provide a variety of scholarships for PhD and summer vacation programs. The honours program will provide students with the unique opportunity to prepare for work and further study in both nano and biotechnology; fields attracting such keen national and global interest that the Australian Research Council has recently identified them as key research areas.

Professor Ralston said the foundation of the SA Node of Future Materials would have practical impacts right here in SA.

Founding partners in the network are the Australian National University, the University of NSW, UniSA’s Ian Wark Research Institute, Monash University, the University of Queensland, and the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Centre at the Central TAFE in WA.

Professor Ralston said already researchers were having an important impact on local industry by developing solutions to real manufacturing challenges.

"We have worked with international automotive industry components manufacturer, Schefenacker Vision Systems Australia, to help them assess the performance of a continuous structural foam moulding call microcellular injection moulding (MuCell). MuCell is very advantageous as it has the potential to mould thin-walled components at lower weight, reduce cycle times, improve dimensional stability, reduce warpage and improved power consumption during the manufacturing process. The moulding has been used in the manufacture of today’s more complex external automotive mirrors and The Wark™ has been able to assist in the performance testing.

"The charter of the SA Node of Future Materials includes a strong interface with industry and a directive to encourage and enhance technology transfer and diffusion."

Contact:

Professor John Ralston
(08) 8302 3066 or
Dr Terry Wilks
(08) 8302 3240

Media contact:

Michèle Nardelli
08 302 0966 or 041 8823673

Copyright © UniSA

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