Future Materials and Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In This Issue

Research News

Nano vaccine-delivery system a big winner
Researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) have shown that a vaccine delivered by a ‘Nanopatch‘ produces a similar protective immune response as a vaccine delivered by needle and syringe – but the Nanopatch uses 100 times less vaccine. The patch itself is smaller than a postage stamp and is made up of thousands of nano-sized projections.

Know your material

Synroc – tailor made for nuclear waste
Synroc stands for synthetic rock. It‘s a substance that safely locks up radioactive waste in a way that mimics natural rocks that have existed in the environment for millions of years. ANSTO has recently launched a new initiative involving Synroc technologies to treat difficult nuclear wastes. The initiative was launched in Washington DC in April.

Tin Tacks

Choice turns 50
Fifty years ago the Australasian Consumers‘ Association launched a new journal called Choice, and today this magazine is a trusted independent voice on the quality and value of a vast array of consumer goods and services. While Choice isn‘t immediately recognised as a magazine of materials science and engineering, it becomes clear as you look through its list of achievements over the past five decades that materials science is central to many of their investigations and campaigns.

Sensational Materials

Steel house passes trial by fire
CSIRO scientists have 'flame-tested' a steel-framed house near Mogo on the NSW south coast to see how the structure withstands realistic bushfire conditions. Constructed almost entirely from steel and featuring a non-flammable roof cavity, the house may provide a straightforward and affordable building option for bushfire-prone areas.

Nanofab powers up at UNSW
Australia‘s place in the international nanotechnology market has been strengthened with the opening of a $10m, state-of-the-art nanofabrication facility at the University of New South Wales. The facility is expected to contribute to improved cancer treatments, new solar power and communications technologies, and a next-generation bionic eye.

A shiny new luminescence lab
Maquarie University has opened a new Luminescence Laboratory to help in determining the age of a range of materials. The analyses undertaken by the lab will support research on climate change, natural hazards, coastal and river management and human-environment interactions.

Carla's Corner

Join the network

Carla Gerbo

The importance of networks and networking cannot be underestimated, especially in the area of materials science. Learning and sharing ideas leads to collaborations, often with productive outcomes.

The Australian Nanotechnology Alliance and Future Materials are continually seeking to foster networks in the area of materials science and technology so that all stakeholders benefit. We want you to learn more about the emerging potential in this field, to get to know the researchers that are making the breakthroughs and to make your own links.

This newsletter is one example of our output, with our trusty editor bringing you an array of stories from research institutions around the country. Each month Future Materials News is distributed to around 15,000 people working across the broad range of materials science. Our readers come from very large to very small businesses, research institutions and universities, government and community groups. The newsletter highlights latest developments (and the weird and wonderful) in the field of materials research, and you‘re always encouraged to make contact with the researchers featured in the story where you see potential for collaboration.

Our program of events is another example of successful networking, and it‘s great to see our workshops and seminars bringing together representatives from industry, academia and government. However, I‘m very aware that there are still many people, including industry players, that don‘t appreciate how they can benefit from the enabling technologies we represent.

Shortly we will be releasing to the public a range of bookmarks, postcards and a puzzle that will further raise the profile of the materials sector. We are also looking at updating our websites and our promotional material to make it more engaging.

These are the things we can do internally, but I would encourage you to also think about what our associations can do for you.

Through our members in Future Materials, we can service industry with a range of analytical services using state-of-the-art instrumentation, and provide expertise in surfaces, polymers and interfaces. We can arrange short term industrial consultations, with rapid turnaround and flexible problem solving. We understand that some problems require more intensive research and development engagement over a longer time, and we can help with this, too.

An example of some of the work we have undertaken includes (but is not limited to)

  • sources of paint delamination
  • treatment of metals prior to finishing
  • corrosion and fracture analysis
  • modified surfaces for printing and adhesion
  • particle analysis and identification
  • surface contamination
  • thin film analysis

We have worked with a broad range of manufacturing sectors including ceramics, metal forming and metal finishing, biomaterials, aerospace, automotive manufacturing, pharmaceutical, polymer manufacture, white goods, mineral processing, petroleum industry, paints, composites, forensics, building materials, waste disposal, fertiliser/Agricultural, chemicals, wood, paper and composite, glass manufacture and local councils on a broad range of issues.

I say it each month, but we are just an email or phone call away. Let one of our experts talk to you about how we can help. In the meantime, continue to enjoy reading our newsletter. 07 33653829 or c.gerbo@uq.edu.au.

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


Event Calendar

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


Notice Board

  • Nominations are open for The Prime Minister's Prizes for Science - Australia's pre-eminent annual awards for excellence in science and science teaching. Nominations close on May 21, with details click here.
  • The 2010 WA Innovator of the Year Awards has been launched with two components to the Awards - the Business Competition and the Schools Competition. The Business Competition is commercially focused, whilst the Schools Competition aims to promote innovation and excellence in design and technology in our State‘s schools. Applications close on June 14th with more information available here
  • The Federal Department of Innovation Industry Science and Research has released the Australian Innovation System Report. Click here to download.
  • The Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF) was successful in attracting $4.61M of LIEF funding, resulting in the extension of AMMRFs capability in the wake of increased user demand.
  • National Science Week takes place between 14-22 August. Check the web site for activities in your State. The Schools Theme for 2010 is Australian Biodiversity. Grants for schools to undertake activities can be found 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


Research News

Nano vaccine-delivery system a big winner

Professor Mark Kendall is leading the ground breaking research.

Researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) have shown that a vaccine delivered by a ‘Nanopatch‘ produces a similar protective immune response as a vaccine delivered by needle and syringe – but the Nanopatch uses 100 times less vaccine. The patch itself is smaller than a postage stamp and is made up of thousands of nano-sized projections.

This pioneering research, carried at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at UQ, has implications for many vaccination programs in both industrialised and developing nations confronting issues such as vaccine shortages and distribution. Being both painless and needle-free, the Nanopatch offers hope for those with needle phobia, as well as improving the vaccination experience for young children.

“The Nanopatch targeted specific antigen-presenting cells found in a narrow layer just beneath the skin surface and as a result we used less than one hundredth of the dose used by a needle while stimulating a comparable immune response,” says Professor Kendall, the scientist leading the research. “Our result is ten times better than the best results achieved by other delivery methods and does not require the use of other immune stimulants, called adjuvants, or multiple vaccinations.

“Because the Nanopatch requires neither a trained practitioner to administer it nor refrigeration, it has enormous potential to cheaply deliver vaccines in developing nations.”

Professor Kendall said the Nanopatch was much smaller than a postage stamp and comprised of several thousands of densely packed projections invisible to the human eye. The influenza vaccine was dry coated onto these projections and applied to the skin of mice for two minutes.

“By using far less vaccine we believe that the Nanopatch will enable the vaccination of many more people," says Professor Kendall. “When compared to a needle and syringe, a nanopatch is cheap to produce and it is easy to imagine a situation in which a government might provide vaccinations for a pandemic such as swine flu to be collected from a chemist or sent in the mail.

“This is an exciting discovery and our next step is to prove the effectiveness of Nanopatches in human clinical trials.”

Professor Kendall‘s team includes researchers from UQ's Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine and the Faculty of Health Sciences, as well as from the University of Melbourne. The work was supported by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Queensland Government's Smart State Scheme.

AIBN is a multidisciplinary research institute focused on addressing some of the intricate problems in the areas of health, energy and the environment.

More info: Professor Mark Kendall (07 3346 4203 or 0431 162 391)


Know your materials

Synroc - tailor made for nuclear waste

Synroc is an Australian developed treatment for locking up nuclear waste

Synroc stands for synthetic rock. It‘s a substance that safely locks up radioactive waste in a way that mimics natural rocks that have existed in the environment for millions of years.

Synroc was pioneered in 1978 by a team led by Professor Ted Ringwood at the Australian National University. Further development was undertaken in collaboration with the Australian National Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Over that time, the original Synroc, designed for the immobilisation of high-level waste (HLW) from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, has evolved into a broad family of formulations and associated process technologies.

ANSTO has more than 25 years of experience in the development of Synroc-type ceramic and glass-ceramic wasteforms and associated process technologies for the immobilisation and safe disposal of nuclear wastes. SynrocANSTO® has utilised this knowledge and experience to develop innovative Synroc waste-forms tailored for individual nuclear waste streams, including some which have no current disposal route.

The combination of ANSTO‘s waste-form design and processing technology also offers potential cost savings of billions of dollars to international nuclear waste cleanup programs.

The expertise of the SynrocANSTO® team lies in tailoring the chemistry of the wasteform and the associated process technology to suit the unique characteristics of the particular waste stream. Tailored Synroc designs can offer significantly improved durability. This enables the waste package to effectively retain the radioactive isotopes as they decay over tens to hundreds of thousands of years, significantly reducing the long-term environmental risk.

The wasteform formulation is the key component of the immobilisation process. It determines the type of nuclear waste that can be immobilised, the durability of the waste package and the waste loadings achievable.

ANSTO has recently launched a new initiative involving Synroc technologies to treat difficult nuclear wastes. The initiative was launched in Washington DC in April.

At the launch, ANSTO‘s CEO, Dr Adi Paterson, indicated that the US Department of Energy‘s (DoE) recent decision to select Hot-isostatic Pressing (HIP) technology to treat the radioactive wastes known as the ‘Idaho Calcines‘ is a game–changer for ANSTO.

“The suite of technologies known as Synroc, developed at ANSTO, is key to immobilising the most challenging nuclear wastes,” said Dr Paterson. “The DoE announcement is a turning point that will lead to widespread acceptance of the technology for legacy clean-up campaigns, not only in the United States, but around the world.”

As the global leader in HIP technology to treat wastes, ANSTO is planning to build a plant at its Lucas Heights site to process its waste from medical radioisotope production. In response to the growing global demand for this technology, ANSTO also announced the establishment of a dedicated business group to pursue these opportunities.

Interest has already been expressed by two European countries in specialised applications using this technology. Similarly, other producers of radioisotopes have indicated interest in early construction of plants to deal with their waste.

“The multi-mission capability in the treatment of difficult radioactive waste makes the technology platform unique and attractive for a range of clients,” said Dr Paterson.

The distinctive advantages of the approach include volume reduction – the holy grail of modern nuclear waste management - which is achieved by high waste loading in conjunction with HIP technology.

Secondly, enhanced durability delivering greater proliferation resistance and, thirdly, the modular plant construction which allows the technology to be applied on a wide range of challenging wastes.

More info (ANSTO Public Affairs Manager): Andrew Humpherson 0419 241 587


Tin Tacks

Choice turns 50

The cover of the first issue of Choice, now 50 years old.

Fifty years ago the Australasian Consumers‘ Association launched a new journal called Choice, and today this magazine is a trusted independent voice on the quality and value of a vast array of consumer goods and services. While Choice isn‘t immediately recognised as a magazine of materials science and engineering, it becomes clear as you look through its list of achievements over the past five decades (celebrated in their April 2010 issue) that materials science is central to many of their investigations and campaigns. Here are some examples:

In 1967, Choice carried out an in depth investigation on the flammability of children‘s night wear and lobbied to force manufacturers to use better labelling on clothing.

In 1968 they revealed that toddlers were contracting lead poisoning from eating flakes of paint and called for legislation to restrict lead in paint to less than one per cent.

Plastic lavatory seats came under their eagle eye in 1971, with 13 brands tested for strength and durability. They argued the virtues of a semi-rigid vs rigid plastic seat.

In 1976 they even compared barb wire, comparing 17 products for barbs, galvanising and cost. They concluded that thin is best.

Condoms were put through their paces in 1982 (using laboratory methods they assured readers) with disturbing results in leakage and bursting that could lead to unwanted pregnancy and disease transmission.

In 1986, baby bottle teats went under the microscope and they found unacceptable levels of carcinogens in many. Nitrosamines were the offending substances. While several other countries limited levels of these, Australia didn‘t.

In 1999 Choice raised the problem of eWaste. Back then, five million computers and six million mobile phones were destined for landfill, carrying with them a range of dangerous substances.

And they got to the bottom of things in their report on toilet paper back in 2001. Users panned the recycled and bleached brands saying the scored well for strength, but were short on smoothness, softness and absorbency. Sometimes it‘s rough being green.

And if they had problems with teats in 1986, they were just as unhappy with baby dummies in 2006. Six brands failed the standard (which unfortunately is not a mandatory standard).

And the materials testing continues to this day. So to Choice magazine, congratulations on making 50.

More info


Sensational Materials

Steel house passes trial by fire

Before, during and after the flame test

CSIRO scientists have 'flame-tested' a steel-framed house near Mogo on the NSW south coast to see how the structure withstands realistic bushfire conditions. Constructed almost entirely from steel and featuring a non-flammable roof cavity, the house may provide a straightforward and affordable building option for bushfire-prone areas.

CSIRO bushfire researcher Justin Leonard says experienced fire researchers consider that a house constructed predominantly of steel should be able to survive in the flame zone of a real bushfire, assuming that windows or other external openings have not been breached. The concept is that the entire non-combustible building façade, insulation and frame acts to protect the habitable space.

A range of bushfire conditions were used in the test, from ember attacks to engulfing the structure in flames.

"The flame-test will also provide information for building policies relating to bushfire areas by providing supporting evidence for use by building authorities across Australia," says Mr Leonard.

The test house is a small low-rise building approximately 8m x 4m x 5m high and includes most of the features of a domestic house. It consists of an elevated steel framed floor, steel wall framing with steel cladding and plasterboard lining and a steel truss roof with steel roof sheeting and a plasterboard ceiling. The house includes steel fascia and various soffit linings. The side that will face the fire front has two windows and a door.

New building codes, introduced after the Royal Commission following the Victorian bushfires in February 2009, specify that: "A building that is constructed in a designated bushfire prone area must be designed and constructed to reduce the risk of ignition from a bushfire while the fire front passes."

"This means that the building needs to be resistant enough to protect life and minimise the loss of the building," says Mr Leonard said. "This test house has been designed to meet this requirement and the trial burn will test how it shapes up against the performance requirements of the new building codes."

The test was staged at the Eurobodalla Rural Fire Service Training Facility near Mogo in NSW – the only facility in Australia with a bushfire flame front simulator that enables testing of different materials in the open under realistic bushfire conditions.

Bushfire researchers from CSIRO and the Bushfire CRC observed the house burnover from a safety area where they can monitor live feeds of data from numerous sensors and heat measuring devices embedded in the house fame.

The “home” was constructed in two weeks in March, almost entirely of Colorbond steel and contained materials that are affordable for the average Australian homebuyer. Data gathering instruments were placed throughout the interior of the building, to analyse the performance of the materials. The building received a mixed score card after the event.

“The floors and roof performed well but, with the walling system, we have a bit of work to do,” says Mr Leonard.

“What we were doing was trying to isolate certain parts of the house to see how they performed. We could have used the most expensive doors and windows, but we wanted to test the affordable options. Had the windows and doors held, there is every chance that the occupants could have survived.”

More info: Justin.Leonard@csiro.au

Nanofab powers up at UNSW

Precision work in the new nanofab facility‘s cleanrooms.

Australia‘s place in the international nanotechnology market has been strengthened with the opening of a $10m, state-of-the-art nanofabrication facility at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). The facility is expected to contribute to improved cancer treatments, new solar power and communications technologies, and a next-generation bionic eye.

The facility is the NSW Node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) and was recently opened by the NSW Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer, Professor Mary O‘Kane. She welcomed it as an important addition to the State‘s high-tech infrastructure.

Operating within state-of-the-art clean rooms, the NSW Node of ANFF provides advanced nanofabrication tools, training and specialist advice to industrial, academic and government researchers working in nanotechnology-related fields. UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Les Field said the NSW Node was vital to maintaining research at a level equal to the best in the world.

Nano-scale devices, which can measure just a few millionths of a millimetre, have applications in areas including computer chips, pharmaceuticals and building materials.

NSW Node Director, Professor Andrew Dzurak of the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, said the new facility will benefit academic research and, importantly, allow established industry groups and new start-up companies to conduct vital research and development without going offshore.

"The value of current investment and the expected market internationally at present is of the order of $1 trillion and over the next decade the value of the market for products incorporating nanotechnology is expected to increase to around $10 trillion," says Professor Dzurak.

"Already every computer chip incorporates nanotechnology and the applications of this area extend to every field of scientific research,” he says. “What we now have is a coordinated, national facility where researchers from universities, companies or government around Australia can directly access world-class equipment."

Key capabilities of the NSW Node of ANFF include high-resolution electron beam lithography tools for creating nano-scale devices and processing facilities for advanced silicon wafers for use in computing and solar power.

More info: Professor Andrew Dzurak a.dzurak@unsw.edu.au

A shiny new luminescence lab

Dr Kira Westaway extracting samples to be dated

Maquarie University has opened a new Luminescence Laboratory to help in determining the age of a range of materials. The analyses undertaken by the lab will support research on climate change, natural hazards, coastal and river management and human-environment interactions.

Luminescence is a dating technique that measures light sensitive signals that build up in buried sediments and is proportional to time since burial. It can be used to measure when sediments and archaeological artefacts and materials were either last heated (thermoluminescence - TL) or exposed to sunlight (optically-stimulated luminescence - OSL).

Esteemed scientist Dr Kira Westaway was the driving force behind the establishment of the new laboratory and is best known for her work on Homo floresiensis or ‘the hobbit‘, the small pre-human skeleton found recently in Indonesia.

“The question of time is central to disciplines understanding environments and fauna, including humans,” says Dr Westaway. “Luminescence dating is the most versatile dating technique for establishing numeric ages in environmental and human history over the last 200,000 years.”

Using luminescence techniques, the age of buried archaeological materials like bone and artefacts can be inferred, says Dr Kira Westaway. Westaway established the new laboratory to process these and other archaeologically-relevant samples from Southeast Asia and will be one of the many scientists making use of the new facility.

Westaway has a number of samples waiting from other research projects which will benefit from the availability of luminescence technology at the University.

“With this new laboratory in commission, I can finally work through the backlog of exciting samples collected over the last three years, including samples collected to establish the timing of the first occupation in Timor, a new chronology for the controversial Homo erectus site in Ngandong, East Java, and the timing of modern human arrival in Sumatra and Malaysia,” she says

As the first of its kind in the Sydney region, whether used for investigating climate change, natural hazards or coastal and river management, the laboratory will service the chronological needs of the geomorpological, sedimentological, climatological and archaeological research communities in five institutions and organisations across Sydney and greater NSW.


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