Science in the spotlight at UNSW Canberra
This week Australia celebrates National Science Week, the nation’s annual celebration of science and technology. At UNSW Canberra, we’re celebrating the amazing science that takes place on campus every day. Here’s just a snapshot of some of the research you’ll find around the university:
UNSW Canberra kicked off National Science Week with our own Climate Scientist Dr Sophie Lewis being named ACT Scientist of the Year.
Dr Lewis’ work is making an impact globally as she co-authors the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC report).
Locally, she is inspiring Canberra’s young scientists.
“Teaching young scientists is my greatest motivator for my work,” she said.
“The students at UNSW Canberra are capable, passionate and engaged young people. They are keen to learn about natural disasters and management, because these are the issues they will be dealing with in their careers.
“I also teach science to pre-schoolers, and these very young little scientists make me so optimistic about our climate future.”
UNSW Canberra Space has more than 50 scientists and engineers – the largest space team in the country.
The University’s facilities allow them to design, develop and fly space missions from right here on our campus.
While space engineering often conjures up images of moon landings and interplanetary travel, space also has an important role in our everyday lives: from banking to internet access, weather observations to GPS.
UNSW Canberra Space has launched two satellites and there are more on the way.
UNSW Canberra is also investigating our wider universe and is home to a passionate team of astrophysicists. Astrophysics is the study of physics beyond the Earth and can be anything from the Sun, Moon and planets in our Solar System, to exploding stars, distant galaxies and even how the whole universe began.
From Dr Ivo Seitenzahl’s research into the evolution of supernovae to Dr Fiona Panther representing Australia at this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, our astrophysicists have been making their mark this year.
Dr Panther also gave us this handy guide on the antimatter you will find inside your fruit bowl.
Drones and unmanned vehicles
Our engineers and scientists are developing new technologies using drones and robots. These include swarms of autonomous drones and robots work as a team.
Associate Professor Matt Garratt explains that these swarms could be used in search and rescue operations.
“We’re trying to develop new technologies where robots can learn how to adapt to the situations they’re in and how to cooperate as a swarm, where a human can control a whole swarm at once and not have to control the individual robots – that reduces workload and makes it easier for the human,” Dr Garratt said.
The robots communicate using Wi-Fi and are designed to allow ease of operation – a crash site investigation may include a team of more than 50 robots in the air and on the ground.
The team has designed robots that can teach themselves to fly in the safety of the University’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Indoor Flight Centre.
You may have heard of supersonic travel – this is travel that is faster than the speed of sound. If you travel five times faster than this, it’s called hypersonic. UNSW Canberra is home to a hypersonic shock tunnel that can test these speeds and our academics are leading research in the field.
In the natural world, meteors and asteroids coming into the Earth’s atmosphere travel at hypersonic speeds. Space shuttles and other space vehicles can also travel at these speeds and the University’s experts are working on how these vehicles can be improved.
“The technology that we're developing will certainly inform the design of the next generation of hypersonic propulsion systems and planetary entry systems,” Associate Professor Sean O’Byrne explained.
“The work that we do tells people how these devices should work and helps them to make more efficient engines.”