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Online tool to help Australians vote better informed

Photo Credit: Australian National University

In preparation for the upcoming Australian Federal election, the Australian National University has recently launched smartvote Australia, in partnership with a media company.

According to a recent press release, smartvote Australia is an innovative online tool that allows Australian voters to compare their views with candidates and parties during the Federal election.

How does it work?

The platform was developed by a team from the University’s School of Politics and International Relations based on a platform that was first established by a politically neutral, non-profit organisation in Switzerland.

The platform has been informing voters in over 200 elections throughout Switzerland and Europe since 2003.

Analysis generated by this new Australian version of the platform is based on candidate answers to 35 questions posed by researchers from the University across a wide range of current policy issues.

By answering the same questions, voters are matched to candidates and parties in a more sophisticated way.

This matching is shown as a ranked list and through visualisations. Candidate comments on each question are also accessible where provided.

What does it aim for?

According to a Professor from the School of Politics and International Relations, smartvote Australia is a continuation of the University’s path-breaking work on elections and political behaviour.

smartvote helps cut through the rhetoric and negative campaigning to offer a deeper level of issue-by-issue analysis and comparison-not just of political parties, but of candidates in every electorate.

With this new, more sophisticated online tool, voters are empowered to make informed choices about who they vote for based on the issues that matter to them, not the agenda set by politicians.

Improving solar energy

In other news, an international research team led by the University has made a new type of silicon that better uses sunlight and promises to cut the cost of solar technology.

This invention can help reduce the costs of renewable electricity below that of existing coal power stations. Plus, it can lead to more efficient solar cells.

Silicon was used as the raw material for solar cells because of its abundance, low-cost and non-toxicity. However, the standard form of silicon does not use all the available sunlight.

How was it developed?

By merely poking silicon with a tiny hard tip, the team created more complex silicon capable of absorbing more sunlight than the standard type commonly used in solar cells.

They have proven that they can make this new kind of silicon, which was previously thought to be unobtainable under normal room temperature and pressure.

The team was exploring a little-known property of silicon – its ability to exist in different crystal forms.

The new type of silicon created is called r8-Si. Instead of the atoms being square or cubic like in standard silicon, it is more complex, shaped a bit like a diamond on playing cards, only it is in 3D.

It is an exciting field and there is a multi-billion dollar industry built around silicon manufacturing, so silicon is a super important material that is worth optimising.

The material needs to be measure at how well it absorbs light and behaves electrically.

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