Chris Hale in The Age: Rail stations need major investment

Dr Chris Hale from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering was featured on page 3 of The Age yesterday, calling for an overhaul of Melbourne’s rail stations, which he said are well behind world standards.

Dr Hale has recently received $156,000 in seed funding for his project examining the rejuvenation of rail stations.

The article is available via The Age.

University archives receive Michell papers

By Katie Wood (University Archives)

AGM Michell

In the 150th year of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, the University of Melbourne Archives has received a significant donation of papers relating to one of the School’s most distinguished graduates, AGM Michell.

Anthony George Michell (1870-1959) studied civil and mining engineering at the University, graduating with first-class honours (BCE 1895, MCE 1899). He is most renowned for his brilliant invention of the tilting pad thrust bearing, which allowed for the development of larger, faster and more powerful ships and is still the standard used in shipping today, over one hundred years later.

The Victoria Branch of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) made the recent donation in recognition of the importance of Michell’s contribution to their profession. The material was in the possession of their member Alan H Taylor OAM, a pre-eminent Australian marine engineer and the first non-British President of the international body since it was established in 1889.

The University of Melbourne Archives was selected as the place of deposit because of the existing Michell collections and because of Michell’s lasting association with the University and Melbourne. This association extends to the creation of the Michell Hydraulic Laboratory and permanent exhibition in the School of Engineering and the awarding of the Michell Prize in Engineering.

The donation consists of a box of correspondence, technical data and original blueprints of thrust and journal bearings. The blueprints are of obvious significance, but the correspondence is the first cache of correspondence from Michell that has been donated to a public archive anywhere in the world, as his papers are widely thought to have been destroyed.

The material appears to have originated from the company established by Michell and his English partner, Henry Newbigin, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It seems that it was created as a correspondence file maintained by the general manager, H.B Scott. Most of the correspondence is between Scott and Michell, concerning the running of the company, the development of bearings and market opportunities. There is an interesting debate about the defects of ball bearings as opposed to pad bearings; Michell obviously preferring the latter. The correspondence also contains a couple of letters to John Bogert, Michell’s US representative, and Albert Kingsbury, who had developed a US patent on thrust bearing that was invented independently and prevented Michell’s entry to the US market.

It appears that the two engineers had developed similar concepts at roughly the same time, which has inevitably caused consternation regarding the ownership of the invention. A letter to Kingsbury on November 11, 1931, notes, “As you know, I desire to make due acknowledgment, whenever there is occasion, of your early work on lubrication and the independence of our respective shares in the pioneer development of thrust bearings.”

The recent donation complements a number of existing ones that together represent the largest extant collection of Michell papers. There is a small file in the papers of Ronald East concerning the development of the AGM Michell laboratory and permanent display in the School of Engineering. There is also a collection of over 2,000 drawings of Michell’s crankless engine, created by the Crankless Engines Co. Finally, there is a collection of material donated to the Engineering School by the son of AJ Seggel, Michell’s partner in the Crankless Engines Co., which contains Michell’s 1939 Kernot Medal from the University of Melbourne and his 1942 Watts Medal from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, as well as a couple of Michell’s viscometers.

In 1905 Michell took out his patent, “improvements in thrust and like bearings” (London, Jan-July 1905, no. 875 and Australia Sept 1905, no. 4114). The first working Michell bearing was incorporated in pumps made by Weymouths for Murray River irrigation in Cohuna. From there it spread and is now regarded as having revolutionised shipping on an international scale.

In 1985, GH Vasey wrote “Today we praise George Michell for his brilliant cerebral invention – no lucky hunch, pure science and logic – in a field that needed the break-through, but whose leaders disbelieved the answer when they saw it.” The 150th year of Engineering at Melbourne, and the donation from the Institute of Marine Engineers, is another fitting reason to celebrate the achievements of one of Australia’s greatest engineers.


MSE successes in recent ARC and NHMRC grant funding

The Melbourne School of Engineering has done well in the recent round of ARC and NHMRC research grants. Overall the School had a 26% success rate for Discovery Grant applications, a 45% success rate for Linkage Projects and an 80% success rate for Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grants. In addition, the Department of Mechanical Engineering achieved a very high application success rate of 80%.

Congratulations to Dr John Provis, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who has been awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA); one of only four awarded to University of Melbourne researchers. Dr Provis’ project entitled “Will geopolymer concretes stand the test of time?”, will develop new ‘green’ materials to replace traditional, high-carbon dioxide cements and concretes that are as durable as traditional options. The project will enable prediction of the durability of low-carbon dioxide geopolymer concrete, using laboratory tests, cutting-edge structural analysis and computations.

Funding has been received for 17 Discovery Projects: 16 lead and 1 non-lead; 6 Linkage Projects – 5 lead and 1 non-lead; 9 LEIF grants – 4 lead, 5 non-lead; and 3 non-lead NHMRC grants.

Other Discovery Grant successes include:

“Electromechanical controls of membrane transport phenomena” – Associate Professor Toby Allen, Dr Ronald Clarke.
This joint computational-experimental project will explain transport processes carried out by biological membranes under different physiological and pharmacological conditions, to understand the actions of viruses, toxins, antimicrobial peptides and membrane proteins, for novel therapeutics, drug delivery and biosensing applications.

“Influence of additives in solvent extraction processes” – Professor Geoff Stevens.
This project directly supports innovative change in the solvent extraction industry in Australia. This industry is responsible for generating in excess of $600 million dollars annually of export earnings for Australia. The project aims directly at developing efficient and innovative processes for this industry.

“Language engineering in the field: preserving 100 endangered languages in New Guinea”  – Associate Professor Steven Bird
Efforts to preserve the world’s endangered linguistic heritage are labour-intensive, and unable to keep up with the pace of language loss. This project investigates a new approach to language preservation, using techniques from language engineering, and leveraging the labour of mother-tongue speakers.

“Networked system identification, estimation and control: performance optimisation under communication and resource constraints” – Professor Subhra Dey, Associate Professor Girish Nair, Associate Professor Erik Weyer.
Design and analysis of performance optimised networked system identification, estimation and control algorithms will make the implementation of large-scale wireless sensor and actuator networks a distinct possibility, thus contributing to significant technological advances in critical areas such as health care, defence and industrial automation.

“Efficient computational methods for worst-case analysis and optimal control of nonlinear dynamical systems” – Dr Peter Dower, Professor William McEneaney
Natural and technological systems can exhibit extremely complicated behaviour in worst-case scenarios. This project will develop efficient mathematical and computational tools that will enable this behaviour to be understood and controlled.

“Energy efficient sensing, computing and communication” – Professor William Moran, Dr Mohammad Rezaeian, Associate Professor Peter Farrell, Professor Yuliy Baryshnikov.
This research will study trade-offs in resource use:  bandwidth, power, and computational capacity of systems of sensors such as cameras, radars, and distributed sensor networks based on a statistical mechanical theory of information processing, leading to practical algorithms to optimise resource use in the design of such systems.

“Extremum seeking control: a systematic design framework”, Professor Dragan Nesic, Dr Ying Tan, Dr Peter Dower, Professor Andrew Teel.
Design of engineered systems whose operation is “best” or optimal in some sense is essential in tackling a range of socioeconomic problems facing our society. This project will provide a methodology for design of such systems that would improve performance of various irrigation, optical communications, economics and power generation systems.

“Overseeing the internet: new paradigms of network measurement” – Professor Darryl Veitch, Professor Francois Baccelli.
Like the electricity network, the internet is a core infrastructure, and so must be reliable and efficient. A gap in bandwidth supply is like a blackout in terms of lost business and productivity. This project will provide the measurement breakthroughs to ensure that network behaviour can be accurately and comprehensively monitored.

“From environmental monitoring to management: extracting knowledge about environmental events from sensor data” – Associate Professor Matt Duckham, Dr Allison Kealy, Dr Kai-Florian Richter, Associate Professor Stephan Winter, Mr Stuart Kininmonth, Assistant Professor Alexander Klippel, Dr Patrick Laube, Mr Jarod Lyon, Dr David Medyckyj-Scott, Dr Tim Wark.
This project will produce resources for researchers of the Spanish renaissance vihuela de mano embodying all available source material and scholarly research in a public website and a comprehensive monograph. This will provide 21st century researchers, performers and readers with tools for them to interact with the assembled knowledge sources.

“Understanding cultural and ecological triggers for policies against water catchment degradation” – Dr Yongping Wei, Professor John Langford, Professor Raymond Ison, Professor Qi Feng, Professor JD Tabara.
You cannot step into the same river twice. This project aims to understand the co-evolution of science, culture and management policy in water catchment for improving the predictability and preciseness of water management policy.

“A new method for identifying actual groundwater contributions to base flow using both stream flow and groundwater head data” – Professor Andrew Western, Professor Jeffrey McDonnell.
Estimating the groundwater contribution to river flow is difficult but critical for managing water resources and protecting stream environments. This project will deliver better methods for estimating these contributions using existing stream flow and groundwater data.

“Towards an event based model of combustion generated sound” – Associate Professor Michael Brear, Professor Timothy Colonius, Dr Peter Hield.
This proposal will develop new tools for predicting combustion generated sound. Since combustion noise often limits system performance, these new tools could be used to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from power generation and transportation.

“Advancing a first-principles basis for the prediction and manipulation of turbulent wall-flow transport” – Professor Joseph Klewicki, Dr Kapil Chauhan, Assistant Professor Christopher White, Professor Manoochehr Koochesfahani.
This project aims to advance the design of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly processes and devices by developing analysis tools that tell us how to predict and control the heat and momentum transport caused by turbulent flow near a solid surface. The expected outcomes are ways to accomplish these aims via the direct use of the basic physical laws.

“Optimising flex fuel engine performance”, Associate Professor Chris Manzie, Dr William Moase, Associate Professor Michael Brear.
This project will enable alternative fuels to be used optimally in engines for transport and distributed electricity generation. This will benefit Australian industry through better engine control technology and the Australian public through reduced emissions and cost in running engines using natural gas or LPG.

“Integration of high-speed dynamic x-ray imaging and patient-specific computational modelling for non-invasive assessment of knee-joint function” – Professor Marcus Pandy, Dr Kay Crossley, Professor David Hunter, Professor Ego Seeman, Dr Anthony Schache.
The project will establish a new capability for the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis that will place Australia at the forefront of biomedical engineering research internationally. The ability to integrate high-speed, mobile, x-ray imaging of joint motion with patient-specific computer modelling is unique globally.

“Artificial Intelligence meets Wireless Sensor Networks: Filling the gaps between sensors using spatial reasoning” (non-lead) – Associate Professor Jochen Renz, Associate Professor Matt Duckham, Associate Professor Sanjiang Li.
Monitoring potential disaster regions and integrating available information with expert knowledge can prevent disasters and save many lives. This project will develop a key component for intelligent systems that can autonomously monitor the environment, make the correct inferences and issue appropriate warnings and recommendations.

Lead and non-lead Linkage Projects are:

“Bacteriophages for foam control in wastewater processing” – Dr Sally Gras, Dr Daniel Tillett, Dr Gregory Martin, Dr Anthony Strickland, Professor Peter Scales.
This project will develop new strategies to reduce troublesome foaming at sewerage treatment plants in Australia. It will enable water authorities to prevent foaming events, increase wastewater treatment safety and efficiency, decrease environmental and human health impacts and aid recycling of urban and industrial wastewaters.

“Growing old and staying connected: touch screen technology for ameliorating older people’s experience of social isolations” – Dr Frank Vetere, Associate Professor Elizabeth Ozanne, Dr Lars Kulik.
Social isolation affects many older people. This project investigates novel technologies to prevent and to ameliorate social isolation experienced by older adults. This project will implement and trial a software application over an 18 month period, using a 3G connected touch-screen tablet, and evaluate its impact on alleviating social isolation.

“Implementation of cognitive radar techniques in resource limited radar systems” – Professor William Moran, Professor Efstratios Skafidas, Dr Jerome Vethecan.
Cognitive radar technology enables a multiple functional radar system to be built on a single chip, to be of high efficiency and low cost. Waveform design and scheduling play a key role in such a system. This project will investigate and design waveforms and scheduling methods for building a real cognitive radar system in the extremely high frequency band.

“Creating a smart city through an internet of things”, Professor Marimuthu Palaniswami, Professor Rajkumar Buyya.
This project will deliver smart new ways of urban monitoring using ubiquitous sensing and data analysis for city management and sustainability. It will deliver researcher training, global clientele for local technology and a platform for local industry growth.

“Precision timekeeping infrastructure: bridging the hardware/software divide” – Dr Julien Ridoux, Professor Darryl Veitch.
Accurate time is essential for critical services from telecommunications to banking, and increasingly, must be performed with software clocks within computers, using hardware clocks accessed over the Internet. This project will bridge the hardware/software divide to deliver reliable and cost-effective access to precise timing.

“Optimising blood flow in stented arteries: a fluid mechanics approach to incorporating optical coherence tomography” (non-lead) – Associate Professor Peter Barlis, Professor Andrew Ooi, Professor Ivan Marusic, Dr Jason Monty, Dr Stephen Moore.
Constriction in coronary arterial blood flow is a leading cause of death in Australia. Insertion of stents can rectify this problem but potentially lead to further complications.  This project will use medical imaging data to construct computer models to study blood flow and particle motions in coronary arteries and improve stent designs.

Lead and non-lead LIEF grants are:

“Biomaterials characterisation facility” – Professor Frank Caruso, Professor Kerry Hourigan, Professor Stephen Kent, Professor George Simon, Professor Geoff Stevens, Professor Paul Komesaroff, Dr Georgina Such, Dr Qizhi Chen, Dr Angus Johnston, Professor Jaye Chin-Dusting, Dr Julian Quinn.
The convergence of nanotechnology and biotechnology offers new opportunities to prepare nanoengineered materials for applications in biomedicine. The Biomaterials Characterisation Facility will provide equipment to characterise such nanoengineered materials to underpin advances in therapeutic drug delivery and tissue engineering.

“Internet of things testbed for creating a Smart City” – Professor Marimuthu Palaniswami, Professor Priyan Mendis, Professor Michael Taylor, Professor Edward Chung, Associate Professor Pubudu Pathirana, Professor Rajkumar Buyya, Associate Professor Chris Leckie, Associate Professor Matt Duckham, Professor Doraisamy Nandagopal.
The Internet of Things Testbed facility replicates the conditions of a city-wide distribution of sensors and data collection applications to model in real time the functioning urban sensing elements of a smart city, translating vast amounts of sensor data into meaningful information and ultimately action.

“Macromolecular characterisation and purification facility” – Professor Greg Qiao, Professor Qipeng Guo, Professor George Simon, Professor Xungai Wang, Professor Sandra Kentish, Associate Professor Tong Lin, Professor Wayne Cook, Professor George Franks, Dr Anton Blencowe, Dr Paul Gurr, Dr Yan Zhao, Dr Nishar Hameed.
In-depth characterisation of  biomacromolecules and nanomaterials is fundamental to understanding their properties and application to advanced materials and technologies. The three new instruments at this facility dedicated to the purification, separation and characterisation of these compounds will provide an essential resource for polymer/materials research.

“Coherent detection based characterisation facility for ultra broadband photonic and RF systems” – Professor William Shieh, Professor Benjamin Eggleton, Professor Rodney Tucker, Professor Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas, Associate Professor Christina Lim, Professor Efstratios Skafidas, Dr Mark Pelusi, Dr Jochen Schroeder, Professor Michael Austin, Dr Thach Nguyen, Dr Lam Bui.
The new infrastructure will allow detection of ultrahigh-speed optical and wireless signals. The facility adopts coherent detection based technologies providing superior performance in resolution, sensitivity, and bandwidth. It will play an important role in supporting research activities to accommodate phenomenal Internet growth.

“A 700 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer for the Melbourne Biomolecular NMR Network: A high throughput resource” (non-lead; Dr Sally Gras)
The Melbourne Biomolecular Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Network will enable NMR experiments aimed at discovering new molecules for diagnosing, treating and preventing disease, and identifying and eradicating pests. The new equipment will allow researchers to work with large numbers of samples, to identify the biomarkers of disease and to find new drug candidates quickly.

“Advanced macro scale test chamber to simulate ground conditions for the development of new sustainable and renewable energy technologies” (non-lead; Professor Saman Halgamuge)
The Advanced Macro-scale Testing Chamber (AMTC) is a novel laboratory testing device capable of recreating deep geological conditions which can occur at depths of up to 13km underground. The AMTC will help scientists and engineers understand the Earth’s behaviour during deep geological activities such as geothermal energy collection, pollutant disposal, underground mining and earthquake modelling.

“Wind profiler network for planetary boundary layer research” (non lead;  Nick Hutchins).
Understanding winds in the lower atmosphere is of great fundamental and practical importance. This new wind monitoring network will help Australian scientists to better predict propagation of tropical cyclones, to improve the efficiency of wind energy production, and to better understand atmosphere-ocean interactions affecting weather and climate.

“Characterisation facility for materials in extreme environments” (non-lead; Dr John Provis)
X-ray powder diffraction is a powerful technique for determining the structure of matter at the atomic scale. This project will establish a new Australian capability for X-ray powder diffraction under extreme conditions that emulate real harsh service environments for advanced functional materials.

“Testing facilities for clean energy generation technologies” (non-lead; Professor Sandra Kentish)
As the world approaches peak oil production, the use of gasification to convert solid fuels to hydrogen and liquid fuels provides a low carbon footprint approach to the cleaner transformation of energy. This testing facility for clean energy transformation technologies will enhance the competitiveness of Australian science and engineering, contributing to the development of new technologies.

Non-lead NHMRC Grants

Associate Professor David Grayden and Dr Leigh Johnston, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, will work with Professor Mark Cook from St Vincent’s Hospital on “Non-invasive Methods for Localising Epileptic Brain Activity”. Associate Professor Grayden will also work with Associate Professor Sarah Wilson, from the Psychological Sciences Academic Centre, on “Signals and noise: a study of the neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning habituation to noise in normal and damaged hearing”.  Professor Justin Zobel and Honorary Fellow Adam Kowalczyk, from the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, will work with Professor John Hopper from the Department of Population Health on “Complex statistical analyses of genome-wide association studies related to breast and prostate cancers using high performance supercomputing”.

ARC Future Fellows and Discovery Early Career Research Awards (DECRA) will be announced later this month.

Mud, sludge and custard tamed?

Professor Richard Buscall, Principal of MSACT Consulting (UK) will present the next MERIT Visiting Scholar Lecture.

Mud, sludge and custard tamed? Well, that is the aim of SERCh*

*Suspension Engineering Rheology Chart

3pm, Tuesday 8th November 2011

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Theatre,Building 165, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Refreshments to follow after the lecture.

Suspensions of fine particles are ubiquitous in industry, the environment and in the home. A few examples include fabric softeners, pharmaceutical suspensions, ceramic, catalyst and pigment precursors, mineral processing streams, mining and oil and gas tailings for disposal and water-recovery, river water for purification, wastewater for disposal or recycling. Trillions of dollars of material are formulated and sold in suspension form world-wide and many billions of tonnes of material are otherwise processed. The processing of suspensions is much more problematic than processes involving simple liquids and gases. Likewise the stability of formulations can be difficult to predict and control. In both instances the complex and variable nature of the physical (or rheological) properties of suspended matter is a major complicating factor.

Despite these difficulties, substantial and steady progress has been made. For example, over the last 25 years or so, we have developed a much better understanding of sedimentation and thus suspension stability. Similarly, scientists and engineers at the University of Melbourne, and others, have made substantial progress with the prediction, control and scale-up of processes that can be thought of as quasi-1-dimensional, like pipeline-transport together with some of the simpler operations used to concentrate suspensions, to isolate solids and to purify water, like pressure filtration and batch settling. By no means all processes can be regarded as quasi-1-d though, indeed, many important processes are not and the challenge now is develop the knowledge and methods needed to predict, scale-up and control processes involving mixed flows and deformations in two or more spatial dimensions. This is a grand challenge, as it has been to the polymer processing community.

Professor Buscall has spent much of his career working for one of the world’s leading chemical companies, ICI and was the youngest and longest serving ICI Fellow. At ICI he led the activity in colloid and interface science and rheology for many years, collaborating on a continuing basis with world-leading universities. Professor Buscall holds several honorary academic appointments, and divides his working time between pro bono research in suspension mechanics and training and consulting work for various blue-chip companies. He is a past Chairman and Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Colloid & Interface Science Group and a past President of the British Society of Rheology (BSR) and has received many awards for his work.

For more information contact Anthony Strickland from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Michael Stewardson wins Eureka Prize for water research

Dr Michael Stewardson

Dr Michael Stewardson, from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, at the University of Melbourne, has won the 2011 Eureka Prize for Water Research and Innovation, along with colleagues from the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University, Professor R. Quentin Grafton, Dr Hoang Long Chu and Professor Tom Kompas.

The research team has developed a dynamic river flow model, which will be used to manage river systems to achieve the right balance between the demands of agricultural irrigation and the health of river ecosystems. The model determines the optimal amount of water that can be extracted by irrigators and the right volume that can be used without damaging the environment.

The model is the first in the world to allow decision-makers, in real time, to allocate water while considering the state of the river system. Factors that the model accounts for include, level of water storage, current and past weather patterns, flooding history and environmental effects. The amount of water that can be used for irrigation extraction and environment releases is then calculated to maximise ‘social return’, taking into account net profits from irrigated agriculture and the environmental impact or cost of drought, ensuring both economic and environmental returns.

Dr Stewardson, who completed his BE (Civil) (Hons) in 1991 and PhD in 2000 at Melbourne, said that it has been a tremendous opportunity for him to work with some top researchers from different disciplines.

“This project links economics, ecology and water resource management. The innovation has been in aligning these different disciplinary perspectives of the Murray-Darling Basin into a single system for analysis,” Dr Stewardson said.

“We have developed a practical solution to achieving a better balance between environmental and irrigation use of water,” he said.

“Winning the award is a real boost for us to extend this work and drive its adoption for sustainable water management in Australia and overseas. We already have Stage II in the pipeline and plans beyond that.”

The National Water Commission Professor Peter Cullen Eureka Prize for Water Research and Innovation is awarded to an individual, team or organisation for research and innovation that has made or has the potential to make an outstanding contribution to the sustainable use and management of Australia’s water resources and that can lead to a substantial change in the way Australia uses and protects its water resources, particularly in rural Australia. The prize is sponsored by the National Water Commission. The prize is part of the annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, the most prestigious awards in Australian science.

Prize winners were announced at an award ceremony on September 6, 2011.

Read “The cost of rivers running free” by Stephen Matchett, The Australian, Sept 7, 2011.

Read “River Flow Model Tests the Water for Farms and Planet” on the Eureka Prize web site for more details.

(Featured blog slideshow image courtesy of River Murray online, photography by Shane Strudwick.)

Explainer: What is Net Neutrality?

Dr Aaron Harwood from the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering has written for The Conversation about Net Neutrality – the belief that internet service providers must treat all internet content equally.

Dr Harwood provides an overview of the concept and discusses how Australia is not Net Neutral, a fact that may be a surprise to many.

Read Dr Harwood’s article at The Conversation.


Carbon trading needs carbon training

It seems that everyone is talking about the Gillard Government’s carbon plan. Some are yelling. Meanwhile, an essential legislative precursor – the ‘National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act’ – was enacted in 2007 without a peep. This act requires all organisations with emissions and energy consumption above certain thresholds to report this data to the Federal Government. We have to know ‘who produces what’ regardless of whether we are to tax them, have them trade permits or undertake Tony Abbot’s ‘direct action’.

An interesting question arises:  How does an organisation know if they are above the mandatory reporting thresholds? Answer: They only know after they have determined their data to the NGER requirements.

In other words, just being a ‘smaller polluter’ doesn’t mean that the effort of complying with the NGER Act can be avoided. The work still needs to be done in-house, or consultants brought in, even if it is just to determine that nothing needs to be reported!

NGER compliance can pose particular challenges for such organisations. Our biggest organisations can usually afford in-house specialists in energy and emissions. However, many organisations cannot, leaving some scrambling in achieving reporting compliance, let alone having enough time to think about how best to improve their energy and greenhouse performance.

The Australian Industry Group is on the record as saying that many such organisations see both these compliance and strategic tasks as areas of significant skills shortage. This is backed up by the NGER data itself – the Federal Government has to date received significantly fewer NGER reports than anticipated. This could be in part conspiracy rather than cock-up, but given that most organisations were already flat out prior to passage of the NGER Act, the latter seems much more likely. Once carbon is priced, all of this starts to directly affect the bottom line, so the workload should increase.

(As an aside, the University of Melbourne sees this as an opportunity and has established a degree aimed at addressing this need – the Master of Energy Systems.)

It will take us a while to get the hang of such a major change to business. It is therefore good policy to fix the price on carbon whilst we are in ‘carbon training’ – trading can wait until we really know what we are doing. Let’s wait and see when the Government of the day decides that our training is complete and allows trading to commence.

Which brings us to important questions: How accurately can I determine my organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions and how does the government know if I am telling the truth? This is particularly an issue for methane emissions from both coal and natural gas. Given methane’s high global warming potential, relatively small errors in its emissions can lead to significant changes in CO2 equivalent emissions. This, in turn, poses many other important operational questions: Are my gas meters accurate and regularly calibrated? How do I know if I have significant gas leaks? The list goes on.

Our carbon training is therefore very much a work in progress. As this new world unfolds, we will work out how to do all of this much better – more accurately, quicker and cheaper. Auditors, technical and business consultants will be an important part of our developing national capability.

Indeed, might this government-mandated training result in export opportunities for consulting firms, as other countries work out their own greenhouse plans?

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the Winter 2011 edition of National Outlook Magazine. Michael Brear is an Associate Professor of the Melbourne School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne.




SIAM award for Dr Michael Rotkowitz

Congratulations to Future Generation and Senior Research Fellow Dr Michael Rotkowitz, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who has been awarded the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Control and Systems Theory Prize for 2011.

Dr Rotkowitz has been recognised for his significant contributions to the theory of optimal controller synthesis for decentralized systems subject to information and control constraints.

The international prize is awarded every two years to a young researcher for outstanding research contributions to mathematical control or systems theory.

Meet the Founder: Robert Klupacs

Robert Klupacs

Date: Thursday 28 July, 2011
Time: 5.00pm (canapés) 6.00pm start
Venue: The Brown Theatre, NICTA Victoria Research Laboratory, Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville. MAP.

The next session in NICTA and The Melbourne School of Engineering’s Meet the Founder seminar series will feature CEO and Managing Director of Circadian Technologies, Robert Klupacs.

Robert Klupacs joined Circadian Technologies Limited in August 2005 and was appointed Managing Director in March 2008. Robert was the driving force behind the founding of Vegenics Limited, Circadian’s major subsidiary, which has become the major business of Circadian and has led the transformation of Circadian from biotechnology investment fund to focused developer of new antibody-based drugs for cancer.

He is an intellectual property expert and entrepreneur with an extensive history of launching and managing successful ventures in the biotechnology industry.

For further information, see the event flyer. (PDF)

Please RSVP to Katya Baxter at NICTA by Tuesday 26 July 2011.

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