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university technology

6 Disruptive University Technologies

All of these international innovations seek collaboration with businesses for co-development and knowledge transfer. Find out more on the university technology collaboration platform, IN-PART. To find industry-ready technology from Australian universities, visit Source IP.

Interacting with Virtual Reality

Credit: IN-PART
Credit: IN-PART

What is it?

A technology that allows users to interact with and control 3-dimensional virtual images through natural hand gestures.

What are the benefits of this university technology?

This new concept offers an immersive, engaging and responsive experience for users. Using positional trackers a touchless interface can register hand movements to move a 3D visualisation generated through stereoscopy – a technique that creates the illusion of depth in an image. This technology, developed by university researchers from the UK, can be applied in high and low cost applications including mobiles phones, video games, teaching aids, and also visual interfaces for medical purposes. What’s more, depending on the specific technology, the user may not even need to wear a head set!


A Gene Therapy for Major Depression

Credit: Brett Keane, Youtube

What is it?

A method that can change the genetic expression of a protein (p11) responsible for regulating the response of serotonin receptors – the chemical messenger related to mood, appetite and sleep.

Why is this innovative?

Using a virus-mediated gene transfer to alter the protein’s expression, researchers at an Ivy League US university have been able to normalise depression-like behaviour. The advantage of using gene therapy in patients with depression is, that unlike antidepressants or talking therapy – which may not always be effective in the long-term – this innovation provides durable relief from major depressive disorders and treatment-resistant depression.


Solar Power for a Changing Climate

Credit: Karen and Brad Emerson, Flickr
Credit: Karen and Brad Emerson, Flickr

What is it?

An all-weather combined photovoltaic-thermoelectric solar cell, designed to perform under extreme and varying conditions.

What makes this tech so special?

This hybrid solar cell, invented by academics from the Sunshine State, is adaptive and smart. By efficiently transforming excess heat uncaptured by the photovoltaic process, it generates surplus energy and avoids the increased resistance that traditional solar cells face under high temperatures. In snowy situations it can call upon this thermoelectric energy to keep ice-free, and during extreme heat it minimises operation to ensure a prolonged lifetime. All these are vital functions for a solar cell in a climate tending towards extremes.


Harvesting Energy from Vibrating Skyscrapers

Credit: Matthew Wiebe, Unsplash
Credit: Matthew Wiebe, Unsplash

What is it?

A system that can transform earthquake and wind-induced oscillations in high-rise buildings into electricity.

Why is it cool?

With the transition to a sustainable energy economy it’s imperative that every spare vibration is captured. This unique system, developed by researchers at a London university, offers simultaneous vibration suppression and energy harvesting from dynamically excited structures, aka – skyscrapers! The system can be tuned to weather forecasts and early-warning earthquake systems. And to the pleasure of office workers, it’s an on/off system; oscillation dampener by day, renewable energy capture by night.


Wearable Tech to Ward Off Deadly Pests

Credit: Erik F. Brandsborg, Flickr
Credit: Erik F. Brandsborg, Flickr

What is it?

A wearable device that releases micro-doses of scents (such as insect repellent) in response to the sound of a mosquito buzzing.

How might this change lives?

Preventing the transmission of mosquito-borne disease such as the Zika virus, malaria and the West Nile virus is an ongoing global health priority. This technology is being developed by researchers at a prestigious UK university to detect the sound of buzzing mosquitoes within a certain range, and then release repellent within that range to deter the offending pests. The device – which will be able to recognize the sounds of over 2500 breeds of mosquito! – can be easily embedded into an item of jewellery, piece of clothing, or even camping equipment and furniture.


Tunable Manipulation of Advanced Materials

Credit: IN-PART
Credit: IN-PART

What is it?

A micro-scale composite structure, designed so that its surface adhesion can be controlled by the application of a shear force.

Why is it needed?

As our ability to make increasingly delicate and complex materials rapidly grows, so does our need to be able to manipulate and work with these materials in manufacturing processes. In some cases, advanced materials cannot be suitably handled using vacuum or mechanical handling, and glue residues from traditional adhesives are unacceptable. This scalable composite, developed by researchers at an Ivy League university, could be used to manipulate thin layers of delicate materials without damage – simply by applying or removing a force on the composite.


The innovations in this article are hosted on the IN-PART university technology repository, based in the UK. All actively seek engagement and partnerships with businesses. Register to the platform for free to learn more and connect with the researchers.

To view industry-ready technology from Australian universities seeking partnerships, visit Source IP.

This article on disruptive university technology was first shared by IN-PART on 12 July 2016. Read the original article here.

Engineering solution

Engineering solutions

From a purely engineering perspective, all real world problems are solvable. Nobody would choose to be a design engineer unless they deeply believed in their own ability to solve problems through creativity and a deliberate methodology – identify the problem, analyse it, build a prototype, test it, iterate, deliver the solution.

In the real world, of course, the challenges are much more difficult. Social, political and economic considerations prevail, often ruling out the elegant solutions that an engineering approach would suggest.

Let me give you an example: climate change. The problem is clear: global temperatures are rising, ice sheets are melting and oceans are acidifying. The analysis is clear: human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels for energy, are leading to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and are driving the problem. The imperative is clear: cut emissions – and do it quickly.

The pure engineering solution would involve massive installations of solar and wind, backed up by natural gas turbines, hydrogen storage, pumped hydro storage and battery storage to handle the intermittency, and investment in new hydroelectric and nuclear electricity generation.


“The challenge for engineers when it comes to these large-scale, socially complex issues is to work closely with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to build solutions that communities can and will take forward.”


Once the existing electricity supply is decarbonised, the amount of low emissions electricity generated would be doubled or tripled so that liquid fossil fuels for transport and natural gas for heating could be rapidly replaced by low emissions electricity.

If only human affairs were so straightforward!

The challenge for engineers when it comes to these large-scale, socially complex issues is to work closely with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to build solutions that communities can and will take forward.

But not all challenges are as wicked as climate change. The engineering method delivers handsomely in the corporate world, most often in collaboration with marketing, psychology and customer support systems. Smartphones, automobiles, improved building technologies and advanced materials are just some of the myriad examples.

The engineering method is also very applicable to organisational management. The evidence based, non-ideological problem solving approach of engineering can serve leaders from the shop floor to the corporate board.

When it comes to politics, in some countries (such as Germany) engineers are highly valued. But in Australia, they’re far less visible. I don’t know why that is so, but perhaps we need to be teaching charisma as a graduate attribute in Australian engineering faculties.

At the very least, we should be making crystal clear to our engineering students their opportunity to contribute to society outside of their profession.

Dr Alan Finkel AO

Australia’s Chief Scientist

Read next: Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech on Innovation in Australian life sciences.

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