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Innovative research projects awarded $6.4 million in ARC funding

From smart sensors for the visually impaired to guidelines for interacting with children during digital play

University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers have been awarded $6.44 million in funding from the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) grants.

Federal Minister for Education the Hon. Dan Tehan announced the funding outcomes this week.

The successful grants include 10 Discovery Projects (DP) and five Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA). UOW also received one of only 12 Indigenous Discovery grants awarded nationally.

The successful projects ranged from smart sensors to help the visually impaired navigate through crowds, to guidelines for parents on how to interact with children during digital play; and from modelling sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in order to mitigate their effects, to understanding why commuter cycling is standing still while leisure cycling participation rates grow exponentially.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Will Price said the ARC grants highlighted the University’s world-class research across a wide range of academic disciplines.

“I would like to congratulate our researchers for their success. These projects vary greatly, but the one thing they have in common is that they seek to understand and solve complex, real-word problems,” Professor Price said.

ARC grant recipients


A place-based model for Aboriginal community-led solutions, $498,000. Will investigate the unique approaches used by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to enable community ownership of holistic health and social programs in complex community settings. (Professor Kathleen Clapham, Professor Dawn Bessarab, Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, Associate Professor Kate Senior, Professor Valerie Harwood, Professor Helen Hasan, Associate Professor Peter Kelly, Ms Marlene Longbottom.)


Assistive micro-navigation for vision impaired people, $389,326. Aims to help vision-impaired people navigate freely in crowded areas by developing novel algorithms to transform cameras into smart sensors able to detect obstacles, recognise objects and traffic signs and convey step-by-step instructions to the user. (Professor Abdesselam Bouzerdoum, Dr Son Lam Phung.)

Magnetic skyrmion materials for next generation spintronic-based devices, $410,000. Magnetic skyrmions are a novel class of materials with unique spin arrangement, making them suitable for the next generation of information processing and storage with ultrahigh density and extremely low energy consumption. (Professor Zhenxiang Cheng, Professor Xiaolin Wang, Professor Wenhong Wang, Professor Hongxin Yang, Hon. Professor Elliot Gilbert.)

Bayesian inversion and computation applied to atmospheric flux fields, $505,000. By using of unprecedented sources of measurements from remote sensing and in situ data, this project will estimate the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases around the globe in order to help develop cost-effective mitigation strategies. (Professor Noel Cressie (pictured above), Dr Andrew Zammit Mangion, Dr Ann Stavert.)

Zhengyi Jiang 1200x690Two of Professor Zhengyi Jiang's projects received ARC funding, one for a thin-strip metal production technology, the other for a micro-manufacturing technology.

 Mechanics of the shape of thin strip with varying thickness, $360,000. Benefits from this project to develop innovative technology for the production of thin strip metals will include reduced weight, fuel consumption and construction time of automobiles and aircraft, reducing manufacturing costs and negative environmental impacts. (Professor Zhengyi Jiang, Dr Jingwei Zhao, Professor Dr Ming Yang.)

Net-shape micro manufacturing of composite micro channels, $540,000. This project aims to develop a high precision net-shape micro manufacturing technology, enhancing the production of commercial micro channels, which have extensive applications in micro-electromechanical systems, health, medical and communications industries. (Professor Zhengyi Jiang, Professor Dr Ming Yang.)

Quality in adult-child interactions during digital experiences, $368,704. Researchers will investigate possibilities for adult-child interactions, guidance for educators and ways to measure quality in interactions, aiming influence how mobile technologies and applications are used in early childhood contexts. (Associate Professor Lisa Kervin, Associate Professor Irina Verenikina, Professor Susan Danby, Dr Steven Howard, Hon. Professor Iram Siraj.)

Attila Mozer 1200x690Associate Professor Attila Mozer is leading a project that aims to improve the efficiencies of solar energy conversion and photo-catalytic processes.

 Faster interfacial electron transfer: the effect of molecule shape and size, $300,000. This project will explore the effect of shape and size of pi-conjugated molecules on interfacial electron transfer reactions, which are fundamentally important in photo-electrochemical conversion and storage of energy. Has potential to improve significantly the efficiencies of solar energy conversion and photo-catalytic processes. (Associate Professor Attila Mozer, Dr Pawel Wagner, Dr Andrew Nattestad, Associate Professor Shogo Mori, Professor Keith Gordon.)

A smart functional lubricant for hot strip rolling, $535,000. This project will make a significant contribution to improved product yield, prolonged service life of work rolls, better strip surface quality, and overall improved process efficiency. (Professor Kiet Tieu, Dr Shanhong Wan, Dr Vitor Sencadas, Professor Jingcheng Hao.)

Island fauna evolution through deep time: the Flores experiment, $324,000. By analysing fossils, artefacts and environmental data spanning 1.4 million years, this project aims to reconstruct how fauna on the island of Flores, including Homo floresiensis (“the Hobbit”), adapted to insular conditions and environmental fluctuations. (Dr Gerrit van den Bergh, Dr Mark Moore, Associate Professor Nick Milne, Dr Hanneke Meijer, Dr Yousuke Kaifu, Dr Samuel Turvey.)

Pedalling for change: cultural geography for traffic congestion innovation, $373,000. To help improve policies for encouraging commuter cycling as a mode of transport,this project aims to understand why commuter cycling has failed to increase while leisure cycling grows exponentially. (Professor Gordon Waitt, Associate Professor Teresa Lea, Professor Ian Buchanan, Associate Professor Glen Fuller.)

Gerrit van den Bergh 1200x690A project led by Dr Gerrit van den Bergh will examine how fauna on Flores, including the "Hobbit", evolved over a 1.4-million year time span.



Dr Zhi Li, $359,174, Engineering of exotic electronic properties in atomically thin antimony: The advanced materials engineering techniques and exotic phase of matter identified in this project will support the development of next-generation electronic device technologies.

Dr Zhixiong Li, $325,000: A novel intelligent prognostics platform for complex cyberphysical system: This research will produce major advancements in extending core components’ life and durability in complex cyberphysical systems, bringing economic benefit for Australia industry.

Dr Yan Lu, $408,000: Nanostructures derived from metal-organic frameworks for sodium-ion batteries: The project outcomes will promote the commercialisation of sodium ion batteries and power Australia’s sustainable economy in the long run.

Dr Valentina-Mira Wheeler, $360,000: Curvature flow of clusters: optimal partitioning and merging fire fronts: The mathematical tools developed by the project will have broad applicability, not only to space partitioning but also notably to bushfires, especially on the dynamics of merging fire fronts.

Dr Tengfei Zhou, $384,000: Interphases and interfaces of nanomaterials in potassium-ion batteries: This project should give Australia a competitive edge in the globally emerging sustainable manufacturing and energy-storage technologies.

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