The Palaszczuk Government is supporting ground-breaking joint research - including revolutionary solar battery development to drive down household energy bills, predicting crop yield from space, and treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said today (Tuesday) the projects were recipients of this year’s Queensland-Chinese Academy of Sciences (Q-CAS) Collaborative Science Fund.
The Q-CAS fund provides individual grants of up to $250,000 over two years to assist researchers and companies to undertake highly innovative research and development projects.
“The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) will work with the Chinese Institute of Process Engineering – Chinese Academy of Sciences to develop a cost-effective solar battery with improved off-grid electricity storage capacity and a longer lifespan,” Ms Enoch said.
“Coming up with a high-performance, cost effective battery that could be used to store solar electricity could have huge implications for driving down household energy bills - providing people with greater energy self-sufficiency and offering the potential to revolutionise the car industry by making electric vehicles more affordable.”
Led by Professor Debra Bernhardt from the AIBN and Professor Dan Wang from the Institute of Process Engineering in Beijing, the project has set out to develop a new generation of lithium ion batteries.
“Battery technology is at a point where home energy storage systems are commercially available, but efficiency and cost are still major drawbacks,” Professor Bernhardt said.
“Our research is looking to lithium-rich cathode materials. These offer greater energy density than traditional cathode materials. However, they need further improvement to become commercially viable and this is where our research comes in.”
The project partners will work closely with key industry groups in Queensland and China, looking to translate their research into products that make their way into the market and out to consumers.
The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), based at the University of Queensland, will work with the Beijing-based Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI) to develop crop yield prediction systems using earth observation data and biophysical crop modelling systems.
Led by Dr Andries Potgieter from QAAFI and Dr Miao Zhang from RADI, the project aims to help producers and industry better cope with seasonal weather extremes and climate change.
“Queensland is more exposed to climate variability and extremes than any other state in Australia. Farmers in both Queensland and China are facing the increased risk of volatile seasonal weather hanging over their heads,” Dr Potgieter said.
“We will use Earth Observation data to predict crop yield at field scale. This will hopefully lead to improved prediction of farmer yields at field and farm levels.
“The project will also allow both countries to strengthen their collaborative ties in the crop science and earth observation research disciplines. We hope in this way to mitigate the impacts of climate risks and extreme weather events within a cropping season.”
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute will work with China’s National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology to develop new approaches to treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.
Led by Professor Greg Anderson from QIMR Berghofer and Chinese researcher Professor Guangjun Nie, the project will look at delivering iron chelators to the brain.
There is a strong association between excess iron in the human body and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Anderson said removing iron from the brain using drugs known as iron chelators represented a very attractive therapy, but better strategies were needed to cross the blood brain barrier – the brain’s defence system.
“Our project is looking to deliver iron chelators to the brain by encapsulating them in nanoparticles that can be targeted to the blood vessels in the brain,” he said.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is one of the world’s eminent scientific organisations, with two universities and 110 specialist institutes across China.
The Queensland Government and CAS agreed in 2009 to establish the Queensland-China Science and Technology Collaboration Program. To support the program, the Q-CAS Fund was set up. The fund aims to foster collaborations and industry networks in the areas of biotechnology and food research, human health, and energy.
The Q-CAS Fund 2017-2018 round is now open for applications. For further information see http://advance.qld.gov.au/uni-researchers/qld-chinese-science-fund.aspx
Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch