Thirteen Discovery Project 2020 grants for Monash engineers

Thirteen Engineering researchers have been successful in obtaining Discovery Project 2020 Round 1 grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC), in results announced today by the Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan.

Our funding contributed to a successful overall result for Monash University, who received $36.4 million for 83 Discovery Projects across all faculties, the largest amount received by any university in Australia. Our researchers will now pursue a diverse range of projects, including the long-term effects of autonomous vehicles on travel, modulation techniques for high-mobility wireless communications, and integrated composite electrodes for electrochemical synthesis of ammonia.

The full list of projects include:

Dr Daniel Duke; Prof David Schmidt - Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Project: Engineering an environmentally-friendly metered dose inhaler

This project aims to deliver a novel simulation framework to accurately predict the behaviour of metered dose inhaler sprays using advanced numerical methods for flash-evaporating turbulent flows developed by the investigators. The project expects to generate new knowledge of the complex physics which occur in these devices through a first of its kind combination of unsteady non-equilibrium thermodynamics, turbulence and spray models. Expected outcomes of this project include a novel ability to predict and optimise the performance of inhalers to suit environmentally-friendly replacement propellants. This will significantly benefit the pharmaceutical sector as it will accelerate the design of next-generation inhalers and propellants.

Prof Cordelia Selomulya; Dr Federico Harte; Prof Xiao Dong Chen - Chemical Engineering

Project: Towards new functionality in dairy Ingredients

The Australian dairy industry plays a significant part in the nation’s economy, with almost $3 billion in export revenue in 2016-2017. Powdered dairy products extend shelf life and ease of transport, with >20% annual growth in premium products, such as milk protein concentrates and infant formula powders. This project aims to support the development of value-added dairy powders by investigating the impact of a novel high pressure processing technology in enhancing the properties of dairy powders and/or introducing new functionality. Successful outcomes will help expand the offering of high value dairy ingredients and thus increase the global competitiveness of Australian dairy manufacturing.

Prof Elizabeth Croft; Prof Tom Drummond; Prof Hendrik F. Van der Loos - Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

Project: Advancing human-robot interaction with augmented reality
This research aims to advance emerging human-robot interaction (HRI) methods, creating novel and innovative, human-in-the-loop communication, collaboration, and teaching methods. The project expects to support the creation of new applications for the growing wave of assistive robotic platforms emerging in the market and de-risk the integration of collaborative robotics into industrial production. Expected outcomes include methods and tools developed to allow smart leveraging of the different capacities of humans and robots. This should provide significant benefits allowing manufacturers to capitalise on the high skill level of Australian workers and bring more complex high-value manufactured products to market.

Prof Emanuele Viterbo; Dr Son Hoang Dau; Dr Loi Luu; Asst Prof Chen Feng; A/Prof Yu-Chih Huang - Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

Project: Advanced error control coding techniques for scalable blockchains
The project aims to investigate the application of error-control coding theory in blockchains, focusing on reducing the storage, computation, and communication overheads, as well as increasing the throughput of blockchain networks. The ambition is to develop coding theory in a completely new territory: decentralised, untrusted, and peer-to-peer networks. The intended outcome is to greatly extend the current state of the art of the theory of error-control codes, previously investigated only in the context of centralised architectures, where a server coordinates every task. Practically, the project should provide significant benefits in terms of cost-effectiveness of blockchains, increase in their processing speed, and security enhancement.

Prof Graham Currie; A/Prof Md. Kamruzzaman - Civil Engineering

Project: The long-term effects of autonomous cars on land use, access and travel
Historically new transport technologies have significantly changed urban form in Australian cities with important business, economic, congestion, social and environmental impacts. Autonomous cars are said to revolutionise tomorrows transport but no research has yet considered long term impacts on land use and city structure. This project explores how land use and travel will change adopting innovative land use and transport models. Outcomes will better prepare Australia for an autonomous travel future.

Prof Huanting Wang; Dr Yinlong Zhu - Chemical Engineering

Project: Integrated composite electrodes for electrochemical synthesis of ammonia

This project aims to develop multifunctional composite electrodes for electrochemical synthesis of ammonia from water, nitrogen gas and renewable energy under ambient conditions. Hydrophobic subnanometre water channels will be integrated with an electrocatalyst to control supply of water as vapour, thereby effectively minimising hydrogen evolution reaction and enabling high-efficiency ammonia synthesis. Expected outcomes include enhanced capacity in developing electrochemical reaction systems, and new fundamental knowledge of electrocatalyst design and reaction engineering. This should provide significant economic and environmental benefits by developing a sustainable manufacturing technology to transform the century-old ammonia industry.

Prof Jian-Feng Nie - Materials Science and Engineering

Project: Super-formable magnesium and its alloys at room temperature

This project aims to reveal the origin of a new phenomenon that we recently discovered: intrinsically brittle magnesium becomes super-formable at room temperature when its grain size is reduced to about one micron. It will use state-of-the-art atomic-scale characterization and computation to determine the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon, and to explore some as yet uncharted dilute alloy composition territories for unprecedented formability. Expected outcomes are likely to form the scientific basis and a new pathway for designing and developing a new generation of wrought magnesium alloys.

Prof Joanne Etheridge; A/Prof Jennifer Wong-Leung; Prof Michael Johnston - Materials Science and Engineering

Project: Revealing the atoms that control performance in photoactive perovskites
This project aims to develop new electron microscopy techniques that will unambiguously determine the elusive structures of photoactive perovskite compounds under static and operational conditions, while correlating crystal structure with solar cell device performance. Photoactive perovskites are promising photovoltaic materials, however, many are sensitive to air and irradiation. This has impeded a huge international research effort to determine their structure reliably at the atomic scale. With these new techniques applied to leading compounds and devices, it is expected this project will reveal the structural effects controlling electrical properties and device performance and so enable the design of superior perovskite photovoltaics.

Dr Julie Karel; A/Prof Roman Engel-Herbert; Asst Prof Nasim Alem - Materials Science and Engineering

Project: Towards room-temperature multiferroics by doping and ionic liquid gating

This project aims to develop new multiferroic materials for high performance computing and data storage technologies. Semiconductor industry leaders have identified the development of these materials, operating a room temperature, as a key challenge in enabling future high speed, high performance logic and memory devices. The intended outcomes of this work are (i) the delivery of new multiferroic materials by magnetic doping of a semiconductor, strained to a ferroelectric state and (ii) the demonstration of a new paradigm in materials design to realise such materials. The key benefit of this work is the enabling of next generation computing and memory devices exhibiting higher speeds, reduced sizes and lower power consumption.

Prof Kerry Hourigan; Prof Mark Thompson; Dr Thomas Leweke - Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Project: The mechanisms determining the rolling motions of bodies

This project aims to investigate the mechanisms affecting the rolling motions of spheres and cylinders. This international project expects to generate new knowledge of the effect of surface roughness, cavitation and compressibility using novel experimental and computational methods. Expected outcomes of this project include the discovery of the explicit role of surface roughness in allowing bodies to roll, the means of modifying these motions, the wake mechanisms leading to body vibration, and the mixing induced by rolling bodies. This will provide significant benefits to the understanding of the motion of particles and bodies in a range of situations such as particle reactors and sedimentation processes.

Prof Wenlong Cheng; Prof Malin Premaratne - Chemical Engineering/Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

Project: Soft plasmene nanosheets for stretchable plasmonic skins

Conventional plasmonic sensors and devices are rigid, planar, and not stretchable. This project aims to apply plasmene materials developed at Monash's Nanobionics lab to design highly stretchable plasmonic devices (artificial plasmonic skins). Systematic experimental and theoretical studies will be undertaken to understand how the plasmonic skins respond to strains and how they can be used for fabricating novel stretchable devices. Such studies will generate important new knowledge of fabrication, characterisation, and modelling of stretchable plasmene, hence, contributing to further Australian standing in the field of nanotechnology and plasmonics. It may also incubate patentable technologies, bringing potential economic gains.

Dr Yan Wong; A/Prof Bijan Pesaran; Dr Nicholas Price; Dr Maureen Hagan - Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering/Science

Project: Oscillations as a mechanism for neural communication

The project aims to answer how billions of cells in the brain can work together to allow us to perceive the world. By using novel electrophysiological and engineering techniques, the project tests if a brain signal called the local field potential provides a way for different areas in the brain to communicate. The hypothesis is that the local field potential is used by cells to synchronise their activity to be most effective. This project would be a paradigm shift in how we currently understand how the brain works. Expected outcomes include answering long held questions about how we see and perceive the world. This should provide significant benefit to fields such as computer vision and the development of neural engineering devices.

Dr Yi Hong; Prof Emanuele Viterbo; Prof Ezio Biglieri - Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

Project: New modulation techniques for future high-mobility wireless communications

Future wireless networks will support huge amounts of mobile data traffic and numbers of terminals. To provide satisfactory service to emerging mass transportation systems such as self-driving cars, high-speed trains, and drones, it will be critical to incorporate the ability for wireless networks to function in high-mobility environments. The project aims to devise novel modulation techniques to support high-mobility communications with superior performance. The theoretical advances will be demonstrated using software-defined radios. These outcomes will provide fundamental scientific basis for deployment of future air interfaces. The project will benefit Australia in gaining a leading position in global telecommunications development.

Our warm congratulations to all researchers successful in obtaining funding in this round. For more information about these projects, visit the ARC website.