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News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Australia's Ross River Virus (RRV) could be the next mosquito-borne global epidemic according to a new research study led by the University of Adelaide and The Australian National University. The virus has been thought to be restricted largely to Australia and Papua New Guinea where it is harboured by marsupial animals, specifically kangaroos and wallabies, and spread by mosquitoes. Published online ahead of print in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the research shows that the virus may have been circulating silently in the South Pacific ever since a large epidemic of more than 500,000 cases in 1979-80, thought to have been started by an infected Australian tourist who travelled to Fiji. "Ross River Virus is found naturally in Australia, where it was circulating in kangaroos and wallabies long before the arrival of the first Australians over 40,000 years ago," says one of the project leaders Professor Phil Weinstein, Professorial Research Fellow with the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences. "When humans arrived, first Aboriginal Australians and then Europeans, they were bitten by the same mosquitoes and became infected: they had all of the sore joints, fever, rash, and fatigue that we associate with the disease today. Although RRV has never killed anyone, it can be extremely debilitating for several months, and up to years in a few unlucky individuals." The 1979 epidemic in the Pacific Islands Countries and Territories was the first time that RRV had 'escaped' from its marsupial reservoir. But without marsupials, the epidemic burned itself out the following year - or so it was thought. "The first clues about local transmission in the Pacific Islands came when more recent tourists from New Zealand and Canada who had been to the South Pacific, but not Australia, were diagnosed with RRV when they returned home," Professor Weinstein says. In partnership with French collaborators in Tahiti and France, the researchers tested blood samples of American Samoans. "We were surprised to find that of those who were born after the 1979-1980 epidemic and had lived in American Samoa their whole lives, a massive 63% had antibodies to RRV, strongly suggesting local transmission of the virus after 1980," says Dr Colleen Lau, NHMRC Research Fellow in ANU's College of Medicine, Biology and Environment. "There are no marsupials in American Samoa, so the only reasonable conclusion is that the virus was able to circulate in local mammals rather than marsupials. If RRV can circulate in non-marsupials in the South Pacific, then it can find a home anywhere in the world. "Isolation of the virus from non-marsupials will provide us with definitive evidence that RRV can become endemic globally." Professor Weinstein says: "With the large number of Australians now travelling, it would not be unreasonable to expect one or more tourists to carry RRV overseas to seed a new epidemic. With the right conditions, this could take off globally in exactly the same way that Zika did."


News Article | February 27, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A new study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found seawater cycles throughout the Earth's interior down to 2,900km, much deeper than previously thought, reopening questions about how the atmosphere and oceans formed. A popular theory is that the atmosphere and oceans formed by releasing water and gases from the Earth's mantle through volcanic activity during the planet's first 100 million years. But lead researcher Dr Mark Kendrick from ANU said the new study provided evidence to question this theory. "Our findings make alternative theories for the origin of the atmosphere and oceans equally plausible, such as icy comets or meteorites bringing water to the Earth," said Dr Kendrick from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. Seawater is introduced into the Earth's interior when two tectonic plates converge and one plate is pushed underneath the other into the mantle. The study has overturned the notion that seawater only makes it about 100km into the mantle before it is returned to the Earth's surface through volcanic arcs, such as those forming the Pacific Ring of Fire that runs through the western America's, Japan and Tonga. The team analysed samples of volcanic glass from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans that contained traces of seawater that had been deeply cycled throughout Earth's interior. "The combination of water and halogens found in the volcanic glasses enables us to preclude local seawater contamination and conclusively prove the water in the samples was derived from the mantle," Dr Kendrick said. ANU collaborated on the study with the University of Tasmania, Institut Universitaire Europeen de la Mer in France, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, and the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Florida in the United States. The study is published in Nature Geoscience. To arrange interviews, contact Will Wright from ANU media on +612 6125 7979, +61 478 337 740 or media@anu.edu.au


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Research led by The Australian National University (ANU) on the use of magnets to steer light has opened the door to new communications systems which could be smaller, cheaper and more agile than fibre optics. Group leader Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) said the team's breakthrough would be crucial for developing tiny components to process huge amounts of data. "This technology is also expected to be applicable in sensors, data storage and liquid crystal displays," said Professor Krolikowski. Today's communication technologies aim to maximise data transmission rates and require the ability to precisely direct information channels. These technologies use electronic components for signal processing such as switching, which is not as fast as light-based technology including fibre optics. Professor Krolikowski said the team used a magnetic field to stimulate liquid crystals and steer light beams carrying data, which enables an innovative approach to data processing and switching. "Our discovery could lead to communications technology that could power a new generation of efficient devices such as compact and fast optical switches, routers and modulators," he said. Co-researcher Dr Vladlen Shvedov from RSPE said the team's innovation, based on liquid crystals with properties modified by light, promised a much more agile system than fibre optics. "This touch-free magneto-optical system is so flexible that you can remotely transfer the tiny optical signal in any desired direction in real time," Dr Shvedov said. Co-researcher Dr Yana Izdebskaya from RSPE said while the innovation was in the early stages, it was highly promising for future communications technology. "In the liquid crystal the light creates a temporary channel to guide itself along, called a soliton, which is about one tenth the diameter of a human hair. That's about 25 times thinner than fibre optics," Dr Izdebskaya said. "Developing efficient strategies to achieve the robust control and steering of solitons is one of the major challenges in light-based technologies." Dr Izdebskaya said controlling solitons in liquid crystals had only been achieved by applying voltage from inflexible electrodes. "Such systems have been restricted by the configuration of electrodes in a thin liquid crystal layer. Our new approach doesn't have this limitation and opens a way to full 3D manipulations of light signals carried by solitons," Dr Izdebskaya said. The research is published in Nature Communications: http://www. For media assistance, contact Will Wright from the ANU Media Team on +612 6125 7979, +61 478 337 740 or media@anu.edu.au


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: www.nanotech-now.com

Abstract: Research led by The Australian National University (ANU) on the use of magnets to steer light has opened the door to new communications systems which could be smaller, cheaper and more agile than fibre optics. Group leader Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) said the team's breakthrough would be crucial for developing tiny components to process huge amounts of data. "This technology is also expected to be applicable in sensors, data storage and liquid crystal displays," said Professor Krolikowski. Today's communication technologies aim to maximise data transmission rates and require the ability to precisely direct information channels. These technologies use electronic components for signal processing such as switching, which is not as fast as light-based technology including fibre optics. Professor Krolikowski said the team used a magnetic field to stimulate liquid crystals and steer light beams carrying data, which enables an innovative approach to data processing and switching. "Our discovery could lead to communications technology that could power a new generation of efficient devices such as compact and fast optical switches, routers and modulators," he said. Co-researcher Dr Vladlen Shvedov from RSPE said the team's innovation, based on liquid crystals with properties modified by light, promised a much more agile system than fibre optics. "This touch-free magneto-optical system is so flexible that you can remotely transfer the tiny optical signal in any desired direction in real time," Dr Shvedov said. Co-researcher Dr Yana Izdebskaya from RSPE said while the innovation was in the early stages, it was highly promising for future communications technology. "In the liquid crystal the light creates a temporary channel to guide itself along, called a soliton, which is about one tenth the diameter of a human hair. That's about 25 times thinner than fibre optics," Dr Izdebskaya said. "Developing efficient strategies to achieve the robust control and steering of solitons is one of the major challenges in light-based technologies." Dr Izdebskaya said controlling solitons in liquid crystals had only been achieved by applying voltage from inflexible electrodes. "Such systems have been restricted by the configuration of electrodes in a thin liquid crystal layer. Our new approach doesn't have this limitation and opens a way to full 3D manipulations of light signals carried by solitons," Dr Izdebskaya said. For more information, please click If you have a comment, please us. Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Research led by The Australian National University (ANU) on the use of magnets to steer light has opened the door to new communications systems which could be smaller, cheaper and more agile than fibre optics. Group leader Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) said the team's breakthrough would be crucial for developing tiny components to process huge amounts of data. "This technology is also expected to be applicable in sensors, data storage and liquid crystal displays," said Professor Krolikowski. Today's communication technologies aim to maximise data transmission rates and require the ability to precisely direct information channels. These technologies use electronic components for signal processing such as switching, which is not as fast as light-based technology including fibre optics. Professor Krolikowski said the team used a magnetic field to stimulate liquid crystals and steer light beams carrying data, which enables an innovative approach to data processing and switching. "Our discovery could lead to communications technology that could power a new generation of efficient devices such as compact and fast optical switches, routers and modulators," he said. Co-researcher Dr Vladlen Shvedov from RSPE said the team's innovation, based on liquid crystals with properties modified by light, promised a much more agile system than fibre optics. "This touch-free magneto-optical system is so flexible that you can remotely transfer the tiny optical signal in any desired direction in real time," Dr Shvedov said. Co-researcher Dr Yana Izdebskaya from RSPE said while the innovation was in the early stages, it was highly promising for future communications technology. "In the liquid crystal the light creates a temporary channel to guide itself along, called a soliton, which is about one tenth the diameter of a human hair. That's about 25 times thinner than fibre optics," Dr Izdebskaya said. "Developing efficient strategies to achieve the robust control and steering of solitons is one of the major challenges in light-based technologies." Dr Izdebskaya said controlling solitons in liquid crystals had only been achieved by applying voltage from inflexible electrodes. "Such systems have been restricted by the configuration of electrodes in a thin liquid crystal layer. Our new approach doesn't have this limitation and opens a way to full 3D manipulations of light signals carried by solitons," Dr Izdebskaya said.


News Article | February 10, 2017
Site: www.cemag.us

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have controlled wave-generated currents to make previously unimaginable liquid materials for new technological innovations, including techniques to manipulate micro-organisms. The new kind of dynamic material could be revolutionary, similar to other materials created in recent decades that have been used for invisibility cloaking, superlenses, and high-efficiency antennae. Research group leader Professor Michael Shats from ANU says the currents made a liquid behave like materials with regular structures such as crystals. "It's an incredibly powerful new tool that will work at the surface of almost any liquid," says Shats, from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. "By changing waves, we can change the flow patterns. This allows us to remote-control the nature of the material." The flow patterns can be changed at will, so the liquid-based materials are more dynamic and flexible than solid materials. "These flow patterns are effectively two-dimensional materials at the interface between the liquid and the gas above it," Shats says. The research is published in Nature Communications. Lead author Dr. Nicolas Francois from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering says each current was like a Lego brick. "Now we have created the brick, people will be able to make complex structures we cannot imagine now," he says. "If you use conducting liquids you can create an interface with designed electrical properties. Or with biocompatible substances you can guide micro-organisms or trap them." The team observed the flow patterns in a tank of water by generating a wave pattern with two oscillators and tracking fluid particles. They also modelled the flow with computer simulations and theoretical calculations. Dr. Hua Xia and Dr. Horst Punzmann from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering also contributed to the research.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

The new kind of dynamic material could be revolutionary, similar to other materials created in recent decades that have been used for invisibility cloaking, superlenses and high-efficiency antennae. Research group leader Professor Michael Shats from ANU said the currents made a liquid behave like materials with regular structures such as crystals. "It's an incredibly powerful new tool that will work at the surface of almost any liquid," said Professor Shats from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. "By changing waves, we can change the flow patterns. This allows us to remote-control the nature of the material." The flow patterns can be changed at will, so the liquid-based materials are more dynamic and flexible than solid materials. "These flow patterns are effectively two-dimensional materials at the interface between the liquid and the gas above it," Professor Shats said. The research is published in Nature Communications. Lead author Dr Nicolas Francois from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering said each current was like a Lego brick. "Now we have created the brick, people will be able to make complex structures we cannot imagine now," he said. "If you use conducting liquids you can create an interface with designed electrical properties. Or with biocompatible substances you can guide micro-organisms or trap them." The team observed the flow patterns in a tank of water by generating a wave pattern with two oscillators and tracking fluid particles. They also modelled the flow with computer simulations and theoretical calculations.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: phys.org

Group leader Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) said the team's breakthrough would be crucial for developing tiny components to process huge amounts of data. "This technology is also expected to be applicable in sensors, data storage and liquid crystal displays," said Professor Krolikowski. Today's communication technologies aim to maximise data transmission rates and require the ability to precisely direct information channels. These technologies use electronic components for signal processing such as switching, which is not as fast as light-based technology including fibre optics. Professor Krolikowski said the team used a magnetic field to stimulate liquid crystals and steer light beams carrying data, which enables an innovative approach to data processing and switching. "Our discovery could lead to communications technology that could power a new generation of efficient devices such as compact and fast optical switches, routers and modulators," he said. Co-researcher Dr Vladlen Shvedov from RSPE said the team's innovation, based on liquid crystals with properties modified by light, promised a much more agile system than fibre optics. "This touch-free magneto-optical system is so flexible that you can remotely transfer the tiny optical signal in any desired direction in real time," Dr Shvedov said. Co-researcher Dr Yana Izdebskaya from RSPE said while the innovation was in the early stages, it was highly promising for future communications technology. "In the liquid crystal the light creates a temporary channel to guide itself along, called a soliton, which is about one tenth the diameter of a human hair. That's about 25 times thinner than fibre optics," Dr Izdebskaya said. "Developing efficient strategies to achieve the robust control and steering of solitons is one of the major challenges in light-based technologies." Dr Izdebskaya said controlling solitons in liquid crystals had only been achieved by applying voltage from inflexible electrodes. "Such systems have been restricted by the configuration of electrodes in a thin liquid crystal layer. Our new approach doesn't have this limitation and opens a way to full 3-D manipulations of light signals carried by solitons," Dr Izdebskaya said. More information: Yana Izdebskaya et al. Magnetic routing of light-induced waveguides, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14452


The biggest challenge will be meeting the 2-3 hours of peak demand during the evenings, when wind generation happens to be low. This will require a mix of different technologies and strategies, including solar, wind, storage, and possibly a new interconnector to New South Wales. The issue is the variable nature of some renewable energy technologies – wind turbines only generate electricity when there's sufficient wind, solar panels when the sun shines. But peaks in demand occasionally coincide with periods of low renewable generation, as was the case during the heatwave a few weeks ago. Although sufficient gas-fired generated capacity existed to pick up the slack, it was not all available at the time and short, localised blackouts were implemented. Without strategic preparation, these events are going to be more difficult to handle in future as wind and solar farms grow, especially if the interconnector between SA and Victoria fails at a critical time. But here are some of the things we can do in the short term (the next 2-3 years) and medium term (the coming decade) to create a reliable system on the path to 100% renewable electricity. The key point is that the challenging periods will be infrequent and only last for a few hours. Coal or nuclear power stations, which operate best when run continuously at full power, are too inflexible in operation to pick up the slack at peak demand. They would also be too expensive, hazardous and slow to construct. In the short term, then, we need to install options that are flexible and dispatchable (i.e. able to generate when required). The options include open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs), preferably each with a dedicated gas storage; concentrated solar thermal power with thermal storage (CST); and batteries. With the right policies these technologies could make significant contributions to peak supply within 2-3 years. Currently 320 megawatts of OCGT capacity have been proposed for SA. These generators have the advantage of low capital cost and, as they would be operated infrequently, low annual operating cost. They can be started from cold in about 10 minutes, compared with up to a day for coal power. OCGT owners would be compensated for keeping their units on standby, ready to go when we need it. OCGTs are also sustainable when they operate on renewable fuels – biofuels, hydrogen and ammonia. There are already several proposals for CST power stations near Port Augusta. Initially about 100MW could be installed. Subsequently, as the global CST market expands and the cost declines, more modules could be added. To use CST for evening peak demand periods, we would need to pay a time-variable feed-in tariff or a contracted price that is highest for supply during those periods. Battery prices are declining rapidly as mass production takes off, so they could also make a significant short-term contribution. Together with solar panels on both residential and commercial rooftops, batteries could help reduce the overall demand on the grid. Residential and commercial solar owners should be given incentives to install batteries by raising electricity prices during peaks in demand, thus increasing the economic savings from self-consumption and the benefit of feeding-in any excess power generated. While extra solar and wind farms should be constructed, they should also be balanced by flexible, dispatchable renewable electricity generation. To drive the implementation of CST and large batteries in the absence of federal government support, SA could hold reverse auctions, as Canberra does. To offset, at least partially, increased peak electricity prices and to help electricity users reduce unnecessary demand, state and federal governments should also expand their energy-efficiency programs. Globally, we are at the beginning of a transition to "smart" grids, in which demand for electricity can be modified almost instantaneously by both the customer and the utility. For the utility to do this, a contract is needed to reward customers for being occasionally and partially "offloaded" (that is, having your air conditioning, refrigerator, or hot water turned off for a short period of time). Currently, only some huge electricity consumers such as aluminium smelters are subject to offloading. For this to be expanded to residential and smaller commercial customers, we need some kind of "smart" switch. These would be operated remotely, turning off supply to electricity-hungry appliances. While the technologies already exist for smart demand reduction, it could take 5-10 years to mass-produce and roll them out on a large scale. The cheapest form of electricity storage for the grid is pumped hydro. This is where excess electricity generated during off-peak periods – for instance by wind and solar in the middle of the day – is used to pump water from a low to a high reservoir. During peak periods, the water is then released from the upper reservoir and flows through a turbine, generating electricity. Pumped storage is well established and can even be found on the Tumut River as part of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. Although SA has negligible potential for hydro based on rivers, it appears to have considerable potential for pumping seawater up into many small reservoirs in coastal hills. A research group, led by Andrew Blakers at ANU and funded by ARENA, is investigating this. Another option is to build a new transmission line to join SA directly to eastern New South Wales via Broken Hill. Although such a line could take a decade to plan and build, and would be expensive, it would make the National Electricity Market grid more resilient and controllable, and would link up renewable energy generation in South Australia (wind and possibly future geothermal) and western NSW (solar and wind) with demand centres in the east. Since it would be valuable national infrastructure, the cost could be shared between the federal and state governments. Over the next 20 years it is entirely feasible for SA to aim for 100% continuous renewable electricity. The important requirements for reliability and stability are a diverse set of renewable energy sources, especially a balanced mix between variable and flexible-dispatchable technologies, storage, geographic dispersion of wind and solar farms, smart demand management, energy efficiency and possibly a new interconnector joining SA and NSW. Furthermore, CST, OCGTs, batteries with appropriate inverters, and synchronous condensers can all contribute to a stable and 100% renewable SA. As a driver of long-term investment, a national carbon price that steadily increases to a high level would compensate for the environmental costs of burning fossil fuels. Furthermore, the Renewable Energy Target (RET) should be extended from 2020 to 2030 and increased in scale. We should also create separate targets for CST with thermal storage and large-scale storage. Finally, the NEM Objective and several of its rules will have to be changed. However, even without national drivers, SA could transform its grid to one that is renewable, reliable and affordable – in the process showing other states how it can be done. Explore further: Switching is not so simple: 100% renewable energy sources require overcapacity


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

More than $5bn used for reforms to safeguard the Murray-Darling river system from drought has been largely in vain, new research has found. About $3bn of taxpayers’ funds used for improving farm irrigation had been a boon to private individuals but led to no cut in water use from the start of the last drought crisis, according to the Australian National University study. Quenton Grafton, the director of ANU’s centre for water economics, which has tracked water use under the plans since 2012, said policy makers needed to “go back to the drawing board”. Grafton said there was “no discernible impact in terms of reduced water use on a per-hectare basis, or in terms of reduced water diversions”. “More than $5bn in the past 10 years has been spent on recovering water by irrigators (on and off farm) or buying water entitlements, yet there is very little to show for it,” he said. The report, Water Reform and Planning in the Murray-Darling Basin, argues the plan’s target of recovering 2,750 gigalitres was not based in science but a bid “to help resolve a political impasse with the [South Australian] state government”. Grafton called for “focus on the evidence and facts rather than rhetoric and special interests”. He said the Murray-Darling plan failed to factor in climate change “in any meaningful way”. “Whatever reduced diversions are achieved over the 10 years of the basin plan, they may already be undermined by higher temperatures and a more variable climate.” The study found the buyback of water rights from willing sellers was the best use of taxpayer funds. But this was halted by federal legislation with bipartisan support in November. The Irrigators Council then welcomed the move, saying the removal of more than 4m megalitres of entitlements since 2004 had turned communities into “ghost towns”. The ANU study found investments in irrigation to lift “drop-per-crop” efficiency had failed to deliver water savings on a basin scale. “We found the average volume of water applied per hectare is virtually the same in 2014-2015 as it was in 2002-2003 at the onset of the millennium drought,” Grafton said. Grafton said the lack of meaningful water diversions back into the river system would “mean a whole range of negative implications for people that rely on the river, especially when the next drought comes”. Barnaby Joyce, the deputy prime minister and minister for agriculture and water resources, has been a champion of “on farm” irrigation improvements to deliver water savings to the Murray-Darling. In 2015, Joyce said: “Throughout the system we are actually ahead of the game with what we anticipated to be savings from on-farm measures. It shows the incredible nexus between agricultural and water resources, because you are not going to get the savings in water resources unless you have a clear understanding of the agricultural requirements.” But Grafton, in an editorial published in Water Reform and Planning on Tuesday, said giving subsidies to farms was “almost certainly not a good idea”. “It is one thing to put taxpayers’ funds into something if you get a public benefit,’’ he said. “But if all you are doing is putting billions of dollars into subsidies and getting little to show for it ... you are simply providing transfer payments to irrigators. “I am not against transfer payments, but you do it to people who are vulnerable.”

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