Future Materials and Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In this Issue

  • Research News

    From nuclear waste to wonder material - Research at the Curtin University of Technology suggests that the decay of radioactive isotopes may be used to create new materials for use in industrial processes. The finding could lead to a new branch of materials science.

  • Know your material

    New charge for diamonds - Diamond may well be the material of choice in emerging quantum industries, driven by its outstanding properties and recent rapid improvements in the quality of synthetic single-crystal diamond materials. Being made of carbon, it is also bio-compatible.

  • Tin Tacks

    Analysing engineering failure - CQ University’s Professor Richard Clegg has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Engineering Failure Analysis.

  • Sensational Materials

    Crab material makes for a better car fabric - Researchers at RMIT are using a natural biopolymer found in crustaceans to create odour-repellent fabrics for use in the automotive industry. The hope is that these specialised fabrics could resist odours and stay cleaner for longer.

    A powdery future for wool and silk - New research is investigating ways of converting natural fibres such as wool and silk into ultra-fine powders potentially leading to a new range of products such as artificial skins, medical bandages and pollution absorbers.

    Flexible Electronics - Imagine portable electronic devices where the plastic casing is actually a solar cell or rollout TV screens. Sounds incredible but the convergence of nanotechnology, conducting polymers and methods for controlling polymer structure on a molecular level is turning these ideas in to reality.

Event Calendar

For more information on international conferences in minerals, metals and materials click here and here.


The strategic alliance between Future Materials and the Australian Nanotechnology Alliance encapsulates our belief in collaboration through open innovation principles. Aligning Future Materials’ foundations within research organisations and the ANA’s industry focus provides a catalyst for economic development utilising new and advanced materials


Future Materials
School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences (Bld 68)
University of Queensland
ST LUCIA QLD 4072
Australian Nanotechnology Alliance
PO Box 609
HAMILTON QLD 4007

Phone: 07 33653829 • Email: c.gerbo@uq.edu.au
www.future.org.auwww.nanotechnology.org.au


Notice Board

If you haven’t registered for ICONN in Sydney (22-26 February) time is running out. As the most significant nanotechnology conference attracting international and domestic research leaders from academia, public research facilities, industry and government, it should not be missed.


While at ICONN visit the Queensland Government stand for a range of exhibitions and entertainment. The stand showcases a collaborative approach Queensland research facilities apply with other research facilities and industry.


The ANA and Future Materials will also have a stall at ICONN, come visit us and go into the drawer for an iPod Nano and docking station, plus great daily prizes.


NICNAS would like to remind stakeholders that the period for comment on two public consultations will be ending on Friday 12 February 2010:

1. Proposal for Regulatory Reform of Industrial Nanomaterials (click here for papers), Contact Nicola Hall or 02 85778871

2. Proposal for Regulatory Reform for Hard Surface Disinfectants (click here for papers), Contact: Stephen Zaluzny or 02 85778883)


Carla's Corner

Material-active all over Australia

Carla Gerbo

Welcome to 2010, and a special welcome to all the Australian and international visitors attending the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN) in Sydney between 22 and 26th February. To all ICONN visitors, I invite you to visit the Australian Nanotechnology Technology Alliance/Future Materials booth (number 12) and try your luck winning one of our great prizes (including the major prize of an iPod Nano and docking station), naturally while finding out more about our organisations.

During ICONN we’ll be hosting the NSW Chief Scientist as part of our Executive Series program in conjunction with patent attorney firm Davies Collison Cave (DCC). If you’re interested in hearing about NSW’s plans for innovation, let me know and we’ll extend an invitation your way.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne on the 16th February we commence a new series examining the Melbourne science precinct of Clayton. It aims to bring together researchers, industry and government to learn how these key facilities interact with stakeholders. The series titled “Clayton’s Marriage Between Industry and Research. It starts with the Australian Synchrotron’s Head of Science, Professor Ian Gentle, and the Melbourne Centre for Nano Fabrication’s Director, Professor Ian Boyd. The second event in this series, which is co-hosted by the Victorian Small Technology Cluster and DCC, will showcase CSIRO and Monash University.

In March there are two Executive Series events in Melbourne. On March 18th we’ll be hearing from Retired Marine Brigadier General Michael Wholley, General Counsel at NASA's Office of the General Counsel. Brig Gen Wholley has a keen interest in materials science and applications from NASA into other sectors of the economy. On March 25th we will look at the importance of science in sport with guest Professor Gordon Wallace of the University of Wollongong. He’ll be talking about his work with the Geelong Football Club utilising sensors. And then A/Professor Darren Martin of the University of Queensland will discuss his work with golf balls.

Up in Brisbane we’re running a series of events in conjunction with the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF-Q) which will soon be up and running. This series will be providing info on its research and what opportunities are available to link in and utilise their facilities.

Adelaide and Hobart come into the program starting March and the ANA and Future Materials looks forward to showcasing activities in those cities. Added to the Adelaide program will be the 2010 ARNAM/ARCNN Joint Workshop for early career researchers and PhD students. It takes place between 19 and 23 July at Flinders University. If you’re interested in attending this event, check the website for more details.

As the peak bodies in our respective sectors, ANA and Future Materials see ourselves with the important tasks of working with organisations to ensure we do our very best to encourage knowledge transfer and collaboration between our stakeholder members. I was fascinated (and at times bewildered) when during my annual leave in early December I attended the Materials Research Society’s (MRS) Fall Meeting in Boston. With close to 7,000 attendees and 50 symposia, my eyes were opened to the size of our global community, and the importance of having a domestic and international vision. Through this year I look forward to report to you on how some of the international linkages made at this conference will progress with benefits to us all.

On February 22 there will be the launch of the much anticipated National Emerging Technology Strategy (NETS) from the Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the Hon Senator Kim Carr. I hope this provides opportunities to organisations like the ANA and Future Materials’ to keep our agenda on track and continue to move with our domestic and international programs. I look forward to reporting on the strategy in the March newsletter or click into the Department’s webpage.

Finally, the ANA team has been expanded with the commencement in Victoria of Dr Gary Day as Manager - Business & Research Solutions. Gary has worked in a range of Australian nanotechnology based companies from bio to coatings, and has a wealth of experience and networks. To contact Gary email him at gary@nanotechnology.org.au.

Remember, I’m just an email or phone call away (07 33653829 or c.gerbo@uq.edu.au.)

Carla Gerbo
National Co-Ordinator - Future Materials
Director & CEO - Australian Nanotechnology Alliance


Research News

From nuclear waste to wonder material

Assoc Professor Nigel Marks

Research at the Curtin University of Technology suggests that the decay of radioactive isotopes may be used to create new materials for use in industrial processes. The finding could lead to a new branch of materials science.

The work is being carried out by Associate Professor Nigel Marks who has been working with Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Chao Jiang, Chris Stanek, Kurt Sickafus and Blas Uberuaga. The researchers have been running atomic-scale simulations on nuclear waste.

“This research changes many things we thought we knew about atomic structures, how they work and the physical objects they make up,” says Associate Professor Marks, who has conducted the research in the newly-opened $116 million Curtin Resources and Chemistry Precinct.

As with many breakthroughs, Marks says they made their discovery by accident. The computer simulations were originally intended to track the decay of radioactive caesium-137 in the form of caesium chloride. When the caesium decays, it transmutes into a non-radioactive element, barium. Marks expected to see a small amount of salt and metallic barium as a result of this decay. Instead, what the simulation showed was a previously-unseen crystal. The structure had never been observed before and defied conventional thinking about ionic compounds.

“Based on traditional bonding arguments, we would expect it to form barium metal and a salt,” says Marks. “Instead, through a process of chemical evolution, we had a material form that does not fit into the categories that you are taught as an undergraduate.

“With further understanding, we may be able to use this process in the future to create materials for industrial use with novel properties that are too difficult or costly to make any other way. This could eventually be the way that some high value, low mass materials could be manufactured for scientific purposes, electronics and a number of other uses. With this sort of fundamental breakthrough, the possibilities are nearly endless.”

“This structure just doesn’t occur in nature,” says Marks. “It’s completely new, which is why we’re so excited by it. It doesn’t fit into any of the traditional ways of describing matter. We can only guess at its properties.”

This type of transmutation is already in use commercially. For example, silicon semiconductors for use in electronics are made by placing blocks of pure silicon in nuclear reactors. Some of the silicon atoms take up neutrons released by decaying uranium, and transmute them into phosphorus. The resulting silicon-phosphorus conductor is central to anything electronic.

Prof Marks says that this property can equally be used for safe disposal of nuclear waste, since it works for all sorts of radioactive materials.

“Ordinarily we take the waste from a reactor and say ‘what is the most stable form I can put this in right now? Instead we can say ‘what can I do with this now, so that it will become stable - and useful - on its own?’”

Associate Professor Marks and Dr Uberuaga recently presented their research at the Fall Meeting of the Materials Research Society in Boston.

More info: N.Marks@curtin.edu.au


Know your materials

New charge for diamonds

Atom-scale Research Laboratory members (L-R): Chris Pakes, Martina Wanke, Mark Edmonds, Qi-Hui Wu and Kevin Rietwyk

According to Chris Pakes from La Trobe University: “Diamond may well be the material of choice in emerging quantum industries, driven by its outstanding properties and recent rapid improvements in the quality of synthetic single-crystal diamond materials. Being made of carbon, it is also bio-compatible.”

A La Trobe team led by Pakes is using the Australian Synchrotron to investigate how to control the electronic properties of the diamond surface by adding one or more layers of carbon in the form of fullerenes. Fullerenes (short for buckminsterfullerenes - named in honour of R. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes) are hollow spheres of 60 carbon atoms arranged in five- and six-membered rings.

The group’s findings are expected to further stimulate the development of diamond-based electronic devices. Key to the current study is that fullerenes on the hydrogen-terminated surface of diamond can act as electron acceptors, introducing a charged layer to the underlying diamond.

“This enables a new approach to molecular-scale electronics,” says Pakes. “However, the development of diamond as a material for electronic applications is still in its infancy.”

Martina Wanke, Qi-Hui Wu, Kevin Rietwyk and Chris Pakes visited the Australian Synchrotron recently to study fullerene-diamond interfaces on the soft x-ray spectroscopy beamline, together with La Trobe University colleagues Qihui Wu, Martina Wanke and Kevin Rietwyk and research collaborators Philip Moriarty and Peter Sharp from the University of Nottingham.

The researchers used the soft x-ray beamline to track the accumulation of charge at the diamond surface, indicated by how the diamond's Fermi energy changes as fullerene layers are added. The shift in Fermi energy was lower than expected - an issue that has been seen by several researchers and is not well understood.

Chris Pakes and colleagues also used a technique called NEXAFS (near-edge x-ray adsorption fine structure) to probe the fullerene-doped surface. This indicated that the likely cause of the Fermi-level pinning was the presence of a non-diamond defect state in the band-gap of the diamond samples.

The group’s next steps include planning for a series of synchrotron measurements to optimise the hydrogen-terminated surface and to study a range of candidate acceptor molecules with different functional properties.

The synchrotron results are also valuable to the group's overall objective, which is to study and manipulate single-surface fullerenes using low-temperature scanned-probe instrumentation housed in La Trobe University's new Atom-scale Research Laboratory.

This is an edited excerpt from a story that originally appeared in Lightspeed, the newsletter of the Australian Synchrotron's.


Tin Tacks

Analysing engineering failure

The Director of the Process Engineering and Light Metals (PELM) Centre at CQ University in Gladstone, Professor Richard Clegg, has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Engineering Failure Analysis.

Engineering Failure Analysis is a major engineering journal which publishes case studies of engineering failure analyses and scientific investigations related to failure mechanisms in engineered components. In 2009 it published over 2700 pages of scientific output with a rejection rate of over 60%. It has a strong international following, not just in academia but also with practicing engineers and legal and insurance practitioners trying to understand the causes of equipment failure. The journal aims to publish research papers in the field and articles demonstrating world best practice in the field of engineering failure analysis.

Richard Clegg is a metallurgist who holds degrees from the University of Queensland and the University of Cambridge, where he studied with D.R.H.Jones, founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal. Richard has been involved in engineering failure analysis since 1985, first at the consulting company ETRS Pty Ltd in Brisbane and later at the University of Cambridge, University College London, QUT and CQ University.

Image of a failed propeller (left) showing an unusual faceted fatigue fracture surface (right).

His main research interests are in developing understandings of failure mechanisms operating the mining and mineral processing industries and the role of engineering failure analysis in plant reliability engineering. He has worked as a consultant and expert witness on several major engineering failures in the Queensland minerals industry, as well as in a wide range of other forensic engineering activities.

Richard currently heads a group of materials engineers and reliability specialists at PELM working on reliability engineering and engineering failure analysis issues.

More info: Richard Clegg (r.clegg@cqu.edu.au


Sensational Materials

Crab material makes for a better car fabric

Chitosan from crab shells has excellent antimicrobial properties

Researchers at RMIT are using a natural biopolymer found in crustaceans to create odour-repellent fabrics for use in the automotive industry. The hope is that these specialised fabrics could resist odours and stay cleaner for longer.

Dr Rajiv Padhye, from RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles, said the researchers were working on various concepts for a number of automotive companies including automotive fabrics that have anti-odour and antimicrobial properties, and anti-stain fabrics.

For the anti-odour research, various fragrance oils were applied to 100 per cent polyester woven automotive fabric - the predominant fabric used in the industry - in combination with chitosan.

Chitosan is a natural biopolymer sourced from the structural element in the exoskeleton of crustaceans such as crabs and shrimps. The biopolymer was selected for of its ability to form films and its antimicrobial properties.

Masters student Saniyat Islam has been working on new car fabrics

The study found that by combining chitosan with a fragrant oil that a durable fragrance finish was produced in the fabric. And this finish possessed excellent antimicrobial properties. Master student Saniyat Islam carried out the research under the supervision of Dr Olga Troynikov.

“We would also like to undertake research on reducing the consumption of fuel by running car airconditioners for shorter periods of time using phase change materials (PCM) in car designs,” says Dr Padhye. “These materials will help to have a big impact on environmental issues.”

Based in Brunswick, RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles is a major provider of education and training for the textiles, clothing and footwear industry, both in Australia and internationally.

The School’s core research focuses on digital design and technology for functional performance textiles, with research clusters based around advanced technology, performance and sports apparel textiles, fashion and merchandising, sustainability, and textile design. Projects range from intelligent protective textiles to wearable technologies and textiles for monitoring human body performance.

More info: rajiv.padhye@rmit.edu.au

A powdery future for wool and silk

Professor Xungai Wang

New research is investigating ways of converting natural fibres such as wool and silk into ultra-fine powders potentially leading to a new range of products such as artificial skins, medical bandages and pollution absorbers.

The research is part of an international collaboration between Deakin University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Tufts University in the United States.

“This is an exciting journey which may lead to a new range of environmentally friendly products which can be used to absorb and clean up pollutants,” explains Dr Suzanne Smith, an ANSTO Senior Research Fellow involved in the project. “These would be biodegradable and have extraordinary behaviour characteristics such as faster and higher absorption rates than current products.

“Natural powder products such as wool and silk are biocompatible therefore are potentially ideal for wound protection, artificial skin or even drug delivery. Ultimately the goal is to produce a platform technology with 'green' organic micro- and nano-particles that have a wide range of applications.”

Ultra-fine powders made from sheep’s wool could be the base of a new protein fibre industry.

Professor Xungai Wang, project leader and head of Deakin University’s Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation believes that as well as discovering potential new uses for natural protein fibres, the research could also have implications for industry sustainability, particularly the wool industry.

The work could underpin the development of a future sustainable protein fibre industry. It will also assist in recycling and reducing current high levels of product lost to waste.

ANSTO will develop novel “nuclear sensors” to probe the binding and surface properties of these ultra-fine powders. The information will be used to refine processing methods in order to optimise the design of silk and wool materials. The project is expected to run over the next three years.

More info: xungai.wang@deakin.edu.au

Flexible Electronics

Polymer science will contribute to a plastic electronics revolution. (Image CSIRO)

Imagine portable electronic devices where the plastic casing is actually a solar cell - flat batteries will be a thing of the past. Or how about a rollout or foldout screen from your mobile phone that allows you to watch full colour TV or a movie. Sounds incredible but the convergence of nanotechnology, conducting polymers and methods for controlling polymer structure on a molecular level is turning these ideas in to reality.

Flexible electronics is a key focus of CSIRO's Future Manufacturing Flagship. The Flagship was formed with the aim of adding further value to existing high value-adding segments of the manufacturing industry and creating a new wave of niche industries based on nanotechnology.

CSIRO’s increased investment in flexible electronics research will act as a catalyst to the creation of world-leading Australian businesses in the field of polymer electronics. The Flagship is using its world-class leadership in polymer science to develop the molecular building blocks and architectures that will form the basis of this plastic electronics revolution.

CSIRO’s investment in flexible electronic research will act as a catalyst to the creation of world-leading Australian businesses in the field of polymer electronics.

CSIRO’s Flexible Electronics Theme has two major research streams: organic photovoltaics and integrated plastic electronics. Through this research it’s hoped a range of products will emerge including new photovoltaic cells and printable polymer electronics.

The research effort is supported by state-of-the-art facilities and instrumentation for structure/property characterisation, for scaling up laboratory procedures to pilot plant volumes, through to device fabrication and testing. Materials discovery and optimisation is based on high-throughput methodologies integrating computational modelling, design of experiments and parallel and high-throughput synthesis, purification and characterisation.

CSIRO’s scale-up facilities are equipped with temperature controlled reactors with capacities ranging from several litres up to 500 litres for polymer and precursor production.

More info: Dr Gerry Wilson (Gerry.Wilson@csiro.au)


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