ANSTO is collaborating on a project funded with an Australian Research Council linkage grant that will develop new materials and better systems for efficiently storing hydrogen gas. Hydrogen production and storage has been identified by the Australian Government as a strategic priority within the energy sector but one of the key technological challenges in this area is safe and efficient storage.
Research led by Prof Cameron Kepert and associates at the University of Sydney and A/Prof and ARC Future Fellow Suzanne Neville at UNSW is based on an interdisciplinary approach that targets the synthesis and detailed characterisation of two classes of molecular framework materials particularly well suited for the efficient storage and delivery of hydrogen gas.
Importantly, the linkage grant funds the development of an advanced hydrogen delivery canister by an industry partner.
Prof Vanessa Peterson, leader of the Energy Materials Research Project at ANSTO who has worked extensively in characterising materials for energy production and storage for over a decade using neutron scattering instruments, will contribute to the project as a partner investigator. This project is really about the realisation of the hydrogen economy in Australia with the development of safe storage and delivery systems, she noted.
The new systems will be based on two families of porous framework materials, leading solid adsorbents that allow hydrogen to be stored within the material pores by adsorption processes. These two material classes, Prussian blue analogues and carboxylate-based metal-organic frameworks materials, have been studied by Peterson and colleagues extensively, and have properties that make them efficient at adsorbing hydrogen gas.
Instrumentation and expertise at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering and Australian Synchrotron will contribute to the characterisation of these new materials, including assessments of hydrogen binding within the frameworks.
The investigators plan to synthesise and develop highly porous new materials based on these framework materials to capture hydrogen gas and use them to boost the storage capacity and function of storage cylinders. The materials can be used to produce low-cost materials for mid-to large-scale hydrogen storage applications that include stationary storage, as well as heavy transport and distribution technologies.
The investigators plan to scale up the synthesis of optimised materials and develop prototype systems for real-world testing of performance at variable temperature, as well as the mechanical durability of the system in high-pressure cycling tests.
Current hydrogen storage methods are inefficient and expensive due to the need for carbon-fibre reinforced tanks. These carbon-fibre reinforced tanks have limited storage capacity. By incorporating solid, porous materials inside the canisters, storage capacity and system efficiency can be increased. The prototype fuel cell canister being developed by RUX energy will be loaded with porous materials framework pellets.
Prof Vanessa Peterson will coordinate a range of investigations using multiple instruments and equipment at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering, the National Deuteration Facility, and the Australian Synchrotron. Testing of the system will be carried out using specialist equipment developed at ANSTO in prior work, including high-pressure testing with the prototype cylinders.
The project will create major national economic benefits through local production opportunities and training early career researchers in state-of-the-art analytical techniques. The outcome of the research is expected to generate significant advances in understanding how the uptake of hydrogen gas relates to the chemical and physical attributes of porous molecular systems.
After first working on hydrogen capture studies more than 16 years ago in the United States, Peterson is keen to engage in this research in one of her favourite areas of investigation and one in which she has excelled.
According to New Zealand’s latest research virtual reality to address mental health issues is showing potential. The new study was headed by a computer science senior lecturer and co-authored by a PhD student. The lecturer-student team is also conducting a Massey Strategic Research Excellence Fund-funded research project on intelligent customised VR for depression treatment. The project was inspired by the realisation that there is little study on using virtual reality to aid in the treatment of depression and even less work on providing patients with a tailored VR experience.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health, and it has already gotten a lot of press. The researchers conducted a scoping assessment of studies published between 2017 and 2021 that examined the use of virtual reality (VR) as a treatment for anxiety. Most studies found that using virtual reality to help the treatment of anxiety in a variety of situations was successful, and they suggested it as a tool for use in a clinical setting.
The ability to view the inside of the human body in Virtual Reality is not only useful for doctors, but also for patients. VR allows patients to be taken through their surgical plan by virtually stepping into a patient-specific 360° VR reconstruction of their anatomy & pathology. Hence, enhanced understanding of the treatment and consequently higher patient satisfaction.
New Zealand’s Otago University Mental Health Clinical Research Unit, Auckland Institute of Studies, Otago Polytechnic Auckland campus, and Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University collaborated on the study. It examined the ways VR exposure and interventions have been used in the treatment of mental health conditions, the technologies used, and how effective they have been as a treatment method.
The project’s original concept and outcomes were presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020) and the 13th ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction conference on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems, respectively (EICS 2021).
To increase the quality of psychological treatments and improve mental health outcomes for New Zealanders, the project draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers working at the intersection of mental health, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The senior lecturer in computer science believes the initiative will pave the way for the use of virtual reality in the mental health profession in New Zealand. “We believe our contribution can pave the way for large-scale efficacy testing, clinical use, and cost-effective delivery of intelligent individualised VR technology for mental health therapy across Aotearoa New Zealand in the future.”
OpenGov Asia reported that while many individuals are eager to get their vaccinations and prevent the deadly COVID-19 virus from spreading further, trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, is believed to be causing problems for a significant number of people across the country. Researchers from the University of Otago have collaborated with a tech firm to develop new software that uses virtual reality (VR) to distract patients who are frightened of needles so they can receive the injections they needed.
The programme had been tested out by patients in Christchurch when receiving influenza shots while wearing the VR headset. A patient claim that he could “barely tell” when the injection was taking place and that he would recommend the app to anyone who is afraid of needles. People with phobias or anxiety over things like flying, heights, spiders, and social situations could also benefit from it.
The application of virtual reality in mental health is a cutting-edge field with a lot of potential and that it will be fascinating to see where the field goes. This is especially true as standalone VR headsets become more inexpensive and certain models allow researchers to collect and analyse physiological data from participants.
A calculator to help people understand their risk factors for COVID-19 infection and vaccination has been launched by the Immunisation Coalition in collaboration with Australian researchers. The tool’s three co-lead researchers are University of Queensland virologist Dr Kirsty Short, CoRiCal instigator from Flinders University Associate Professor John Litt and GP Dr Andrew Baird.
It was noted that Immunisation Coalition COVID-19 Risk Calculator (CoRiCal) was an online tool to support GPs and community members in their discussions about the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccines. It was designed to help people make an informed decision around vaccination based on their current circumstances and also see their risk for getting COVID-19 under different transmission scenarios.
Users can access the tool and input their age, sex, community transmission and vaccination status to find out their personalised risk calculation. For example, users can determine their chances of being infected with COVID-19 versus their chances of dying from the disease. They can also find out their chances of developing an atypical blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine and see this data in the context of other relatable risks – like getting struck by lightning or winning OzLotto, Dr Kirsty Short said.
The CoRiCal Covid Risk Calculator is in its pilot stage but will be continuously updated in line with the latest health and scientific advice, including risk assessments on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pre-existing medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes, and long COVID.
The CoRiCal project included a team of GPs, medical scientists, public health physicians, epidemiologists and statisticians. Associate Professor John Litt, Immunisation Coalition Scientific Advisory Committee member, said he hoped that CoRiCal would help GPs save time and create an accurate assessment of an individual’s risk of COVID-19 or one of the vaccines.
GPs are spending a lot of time trying to explain the risks of COVID-19 and the various vaccines to their patients, Dr Litt said. An accurate, evidence-based tool that is transparent and unaligned with professional groups should help GPs in their task of facilitating COVID vaccination for their patients.
A Melbourne-based stated that CoRiCal was adaptable for booster doses, new viral strains, new vaccines, younger age groups, international markets and even for other infectious diseases. It was noted that the tool presents risk using simple bar charts so that it’s easy to compare the risks for different outcomes related to COVID-19 and vaccines.
CoRiCal may help Australia to move towards 90%, 95%, or even more of the 16-and-over population being fully vaccinated. The higher the rate of vaccination in the population, the better it will be for individuals, communities, mental health, health services, and the country.
CoRiCal had been developed for GPs and other health professionals, it was important that people could easily access this information online without a consultation. The online tool is a collaboration between the Immunisation Coalition, UQ, Flinders University, La Trobe University, and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Risk calculations in CoRiCal are based on a modelling framework developed by UQ School of Public Health’s Professor Colleen Lau and Dr Helen Mayfield, and QUT’s Professor Kerrie Mengersen.
Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town, is set to become a health district as part of a pilot programme aimed to assist residents in living healthier and more productive lives. The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University Health System (NUHS), and the National University of Singapore (NUS), in collaboration with several stakeholders from the public, private and people sectors, are embarking on a first-of-its-kind collaboration to establish the Health District @ Queenstown pilot.
Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information, oversees the Queenstown Health District, along with Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information, and Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Queenstown was chosen as the Health District’s pilot site because its demographics closely resemble Singapore’s expected national demographics by 2030. Currently, the municipality boasts one of the city-oldest state’s populations, with about one in every four Singaporeans aged 65 and above.
We will leverage the broad range of expertise of our partners to create integrated solutions to enhance the health and well-being of residents across their life stages.
– The Housing & Development Board, the National University Health System and the National University of Singapore
There are opportunities to pilot interventions for bettering citizens’ well-being, promoting health-seeking behaviours, and encouraging social connections in conjunction with other forthcoming development and rejuvenation plans for Queenstown. The trial will focus on facilitating intentional longevity by giving participants chances to volunteer, work, and engage in lifelong learning. It also aims to encourage residents to follow preventive health recommendations by moving services from hospitals to or near their homes.
In addition, NUHS will also launch an updated My Health Map initiative to boost residents’ access to preventative health services by providing health screenings to residents on-site when appropriate and holding community health lectures. They can also get suggestions for health exams and vaccines based on their demographics and health status using the app’s My Health Map function. Patients can also use the app to schedule in-person visits, register for a queue number, and view the number of patients ahead of them in the queue.
“The launch of the teleconsultation feature is extremely opportune considering the Covid-19 scenario,” said Ms Clara Sin, chief operating officer of NUH and NUHS’ group service transformation and medical records offices. The agency aims to ensure that all patients receive consistent care and that they do not have to travel to the hospital, especially the elderly.
In an interview conducted by OpenGov Asia, Associate Professor Thomas Lew, Group Chief Data & Strategy Officer, National Healthcare Group, explained that Singapore is a densely connected city-state where the complexities of an internet-enabled telehealth consultation compete with the standard physical visit to the doctor. According to Associate Professor Lew, telehealth must be contextualised for value, grounded on trust-based relationships, in areas such as real-time biological monitoring, and round-the-clock trusted advice and alerts.
“For the healthy population, the potential of health coaching for individuals and organisations has yet to be fully realised. To envision telehealth beyond transactional efficiency much remains to be done,” he explains.
Artificial intelligence and automation services and systems also significantly benefit healthcare. Yet, Associate Professor Lew believes, while AI is not in the consciousness of mainstream healthcare workers, it is ubiquitous without their realisation.
The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the National University Health System (NUHS) are also working together to develop affordable and usable technology to improve the lives of residents, beginning with solutions co-developed with residents, caregivers, and family/community support networks. Ultimately, the agencies said that they will collaborate with the industry to test and deploy applicable technology that allows individuals to remain self-sufficient, aids in illness prevention, and enhances healthcare delivery.
COVID-19 has highlighted the important work of the University’s researchers, and how their vital partnerships with government and industry can accelerate real-world outcomes. The University of Sydney announced that is part of the NSW Government’s announcement of a first-of-its-kind Australian pilot facility to develop mRNA and RNA drugs and vaccines to combat disease and save lives.
The $96 million facilities, to be established in partnership with all NSW universities, will include laboratories and pre-clinical trial spaces that will enable early-stage RNA-based drug development. This is a significant milestone in the creation of the RNA ecosystem and future R&D commercialisation, with academics playing a major role in driving developments here in NSW for decades to come. The pilot facility will commence subject to the approval of a final business case.
The region’s Premier stated that the State Government’s funding for the facility aims to attract commercial investment in mRNA and RNA production here in Australia. He noted that the COVID pandemic has demonstrated to the world that it is critically important that we can develop vaccines quickly and for the country to have sovereign capability. He added that the advent of mRNA vaccines and the crucial role they’ve played in getting NSW back on the road to a pandemic recovery is just the beginning of what this incredible emerging medical technology can do.
The University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal was delighted that the University of Sydney is a founding partner on the facility which supports local mRNA and RNA drug and vaccine development. The University will contribute its world-leading expertise and infrastructure to the development and analysis of RNA-based medicines for COVID-19 and a range of other medical conditions.
The Treasurer felt that the facility would be an investment in NSW’s position as a global force in medical research and therapeutics. Supporting the development of high-growth emerging industries such as RNA therapeutics allows the region to not only lead the way in the fight against disease but to boost productivity through innovation and create high-skilled jobs for the future.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier said that the NSW government’s Accelerating R&D in NSW Action Plan will lead future industries and jobs by building strong partnerships between local universities & industry. The NSW government has already announced the formation of the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance which brings together the best and brightest at the region’s leading universities and research institutes to advance RNA research, development and manufacturing.
The Convener of the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee stated that the investment in the pilot facility is a significant signal that the NSW Government is considering a deeper investment in R&D capabilities that will, in turn, empower the pilot facility to become more commercially viable and attractive to industry investment.
The medical technology sector in Australia is worth $6.1 billion and employs over 36,000 people. Of these businesses, nearly 40 per cent are located in NSW; making the medical technology industry in NSW the largest in Australia. While the sector is growing, there are significant opportunities to accelerate this growth. It is estimated the medical technology industry has the potential to create an additional 28,000 jobs and $18 billion in the gross domestic product (GDP) nationally by 2025.
The NSW Department of Industry has consulted with medical technology stakeholders in the state to develop the NSW medical technology industry development strategy 2018. It consists of a set of five key strategy areas underpinned by initiatives to promote further growth and innovation in the industry. The strategy aims to:
- support industry in commercialising research and development
- grow exports and attract investment into the NSW medical technology sector
- support skills development
- improve connectivity and collaboration within the NSW medical technology industry
- improve the business environment.
To help farmers manage climate-related risks such as flooding, drought, and saline intrusion, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has launched the Climate-Smart Maps and Adaption Plans (CS-MAP). CS-MAP integrates local knowledge and science-based research to provide location-specific risk maps and adaptation plans for rice production. The project currently covers five ecological regions of Vietnam and was developed by the Ministry’s Crops Production Department and CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security in Southeast Asia (CCAFS SEA).
CS-MAP engages experts from the national and local levels to:
- Identify climate-related risks
- Determine potentially affected areas and their risk levels using technical, infrastructure and topographic data, and local knowledge
- Assess and improve proposed adaptive measures
- Develop integrated adaptation plans for rice production from regional to provincial levels
Maps of flooding and salinity intrusion risks were developed by integrating scientific evidence provided by researchers and experts with local knowledge of stakeholders on topography, infrastructure, hydrological management schemes, and land use plans. Based on the risk maps, adaptive rice production calendars for moderate intensity and duration (normal year) and extreme intensity and prolonged duration (severe year) were generated. Through a series of consultations with provincial and regional stakeholders, the cropping schedules were proposed, not only to address various climate-related risks, but also to ensure sharing of resources and the harmonisation of policies concerning water, labor, infrastructure, and information.
According to a news report, a conference for the launch of CS-MAPS was held in Hanoi last week, organised by the Department of Crop Production (DCP) of CCAFS SEA. The socio-economic impact of the project at both a national and international level was discussed, as well as ways policies can be developed in support.
At a local level, CS-MAP is a tool for climate change adaptation and disaster prevention. It will likely be included in the socio-economic plan for the period 2021-2030, an action plan to respond to climate change for the period 2021-2030, and agricultural land use planning including rice land conversion. At the event, an instructional video and five atlases were inaugurated to help guide the use of CS-MAPS. Using colourful illustrations and animations, the video is an easy-to-understand and enjoyable reference to materials on CS-MAP.
DCP and CCAFS SEA have also published a guidebook, to help technical officers and professional agencies at different administrative levels implement CS-MAP. Both the guidebook and instructional video are available in English and Vietnamese. Five compilations of CS-MAP’s, for the major agro-ecological regions of Vietnam, were launched at the event. These publications contain maps, both for normal and extreme years, covering 43 provinces of the country. All materials are publicly accessible on CCAFS SEA websites.
Vietnam’s agricultural export turnover reached US$41.53 billion, an increase of 3.3% compared to 2019. Particularly in the first 9 months of this year, export of agricultural products reached US$35.5 billion, up to 18% over the same period last year. Of that, the export of crop products reached US$15.8 billion.
Chairing policy dialogue on the use of CS-MAP, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Le Quoc Doanh, noted that the CS-MAP would be helpful to farmers in planning production schemes and increase the efficiency of soil and water resource use. Doanh said that Vietnam’s agriculture plays an important role in ensuring food security, social stability, and livelihoods for over 60% of the population in rural areas, contributing 14.85% of the country’s GDP. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and natural disasters, agriculture has maintained a high growth rate, ensuring food security for nearly 100 million people in Vietnam in 2020.
CS-MAP can be integrated into national and local policies and plans, such as in the National Plan to Adapt to Climate Change, Nationally Determined Contribution to Climate Change Mitigation in the Agricultural Sector, and the National and Regional Agricultural Restructuring Plan for the Period 2021-2025.
Sydney’s Tech Central precinct is set to become a global technology hub with an Australian tech giant getting ready to establish its headquarters at the site. The tech company has planning approval to build its $546 million, 40-storey headquarters on the YHA site at Central Station, while the neighbouring Parcel Post building has been rezoned to accept other technology tenants at the site.
Tech Central will house 25,000 jobs in the world’s tallest hybrid timber tower, spanning over 24ha of land, once fully developed. Atlassian’s headquarters alone will accommodate 5,000 operational jobs. The construction of the tower is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2022, with completion expected by 2026.
The Planning and Public Spaces Minister for the region noted that approval of the precinct is a significant milestone in what would be the largest government-led urban renewal in NSW. He felt that the revamp of Central Station and delivery of Tech Central will create a commercial core in the City’s south that would include a public domain with new open space, shops and cafes all on top of the rail corridor.
The Minister for Jobs and Investment noted that with the tech company’s HQ set for construction and the Western Gateway sub-precinct rezoned, the planning controls are now in place to transform this tired transport hub into something to rival Silicon Valley.
About Central Precinct
Central Precinct is a State Significant Precinct (SSP) surrounded by leading universities and businesses. Central SSP covers 24 hectares. The local government is working with Transport for NSW (TfNSW), the City of Sydney and the Greater Sydney Commission to transform Central SSP into a technology and innovation precinct.
The precinct will be a leader in innovation, collaboration and jobs for the future as well as the epicentre of Tech Central. Stretching from Central Station to Camperdown, Tech Central will house start-ups, scale-ups and innovation ecosystem partners in 250,000 sqm of office space.
As the future focal point of Sydney’s innovation and technology community, Tech Central will create a vibrant innovation and technology precinct in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, with strong links to international markets, Greater Sydney, and the rest of NSW.
Home to the Sydney Quantum Academy and future Space Industry Hub, Tech Central will future proof and diversify the New South Wales economy and cement its position as a leader in:
- Fintech, Cyber and e-Health
- Digital and deep technology including quantum, blockchain, AI, robotics, IoT and analytics
- Creative industries including VR and game design
Tech Central will provide up to 250,000 square metres of space for technology companies, including 50,000 square metres at affordable rates for start-ups and scaleups, in a connected location brimming with heritage, culture and activity.
An NSW Government funding package of $48.2 million has kick-started development and the aforementioned tech giant is confirmed as the anchor tenant. It will locate its headquarters in the precinct, bringing over 4,000 employees.
Highly ranked nearby institutions including the University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and CSIRO’s Data61 are looking to further collaborate with businesses on joint research, commercialisation and graduate programs.
We are all familiar with the iconic black and white square design of a QR code today. The steadily increasing penetration of smartphones and access to high-speed internet has resulted in the widespread use of QR codes.
One of the most significant advantages of using QR codes is that it allows for instant payment. When compared to other modes of payment, paying with QR codes is extremely fast. To process the payment, a user only needs to open the QR code scan app, scan the QR code, and confirm. The payments are made in a matter of seconds.
In addressing this, electronic payments, which have grown in popularity since the government-imposed movement restrictions at the start of the pandemic, are expected to increase even more with the use of QR codes for payments. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) payment system is said to be using the quick response (QR) code as a catalyst to drive digital payments in the country.
An executive vice president of a commercial bank in the Philippines mentioned in a virtual briefing that the interoperability of the codes under the QR PH programme, which uses QR technology in financial transactions, provides significant potential for electronic payments.
He noted that the bank’s app-based digital prepaid bank account product will benefit greatly from the QR PH programme, particularly with the increase in merchants with whom account holders can easily transact.
“We see a lot of potential for these QR payments. We have onboarded a lot of merchants and definitely, coupled with the QR PH interoperable QR PH QR codes, we see more digital payments,” he added. QR PH is among the programmes of the central bank eyed to increase the share of digital payments in the total financial transactions in the country.
In addition, the BSP recently unveiled the QR PH person-to-merchant (P2M) payment facility, an electronic payment system that allows buyers to pay for small-value transactions such as jeepney or tricycle fares, as well as payments of goods and services to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) at no cost to the buyer.
This payment technique involves the buyer scanning the seller’s or service provider’s QR code to pay for an item or service. The central bank wants digital payments to account for roughly 20% of all financial transactions in the country by 2020, which the BSP stated has been significantly exceeded, and to account for around 50% of the total by 2023.
OpenGov Asia in an article reported that the QR PH P2M runs its operations using one of the two electronic payment facilities provided by the central bank’s National Retail Payment System (NRPS). He then noted that they anticipate an increase in the number of QR PH P2M participants in the coming days and that using the QR code is less expensive than using a point-of-sale (POS) terminal. It is also mentioned that the QR PH empowers consumers by allowing them to choose their digital payment service through the interoperability feature of QR PH payments, which is in line with the United Nations’ principles on the responsible use of digital payment.
The Philippines’ central bank has announced that digital payments have surpassed the central bank’s target of 20% of total monthly payment volume by 2020.
According to the executive vice president, the bank responded to the central bank’s request by launching a digital prepaid card in the fourth quarter of 2019 that has nearly 2 million customers. Users of digital prepaid bank accounts can access their accounts, make virtual fund transfers, pay bills, conduct electronic loading, and pay with a QR code, among other things.