5 cool innovations happening at Sydney

27 July 2017

As Innovation Week approaches, we take a look at the projects that some of our most creative minds are working on.

Idea bubbles with innovations expressed as icons

1. What a load of garbage

University of Sydney scientists are leading new space investigations that could change the way we think about our universe. Dr Paddy Neumann and his team from the School of Physics are creating a spacecraft engine that uses electricity from solar panels to rip ions from pieces of metal. This innovative design has smashed the current records for fuel efficiency held by NASA. Current spacecrafts that are launched into space become space garbage once they run out of fuel.

Neumann’s design is able to collect fuel from debris and defunct satellites already in space, rather than relying on liquid fuel. By exploring the far reaches of the solar system, Dr Neumann and his team are searching for alien life and developing new technology to build on our knowledge of infinity and beyond.

2. More than skin deep

Professor Tony Weiss from the Faculty of Science has developed a new biomedical tropoelastin technology that instructs the body on how to repair itself. This artificial skin acts as a self-assembling elastic protein that allows the body to repair elastic tissues in the skin, arteries, bladder and lungs.

By replicating human tissue and its behaviour, this synthetic technology is able to halve skin wound healing time as well as reduce the need for skin grafts. Ranging from dermatology, scar remodelling, tissue repairs and surgical implants, Professor Weiss has been a pioneer in exploring the functions of tropoelastin.

“Its potential to benefit the sick and injured, from cardiac patients to accident victims, from burns victims to wounded children, is incalculable”.

3. Bringing things to a head

The University’s new Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) program is a key initiative in our 2016-20 Strategic Plan to support some of our brightest up-and-coming researchers. One of our SOAR fellows, Professor Michael Valenzuela is working with new brain imaging technologies to better understand adult stem cells and their capabilities in preventing and treating dementia.

Using stem cells, animal models, brain tissues, neuroimaging and human clinical trials, Professor Valenzuela is dedicated to the advancement of human health through innovative research approaches. In fact, Michael has discovered fascinating parallels with canine and human dementia that is leading to a better understanding of the disease.

4. Good bones

With the aid of 3D technology, Professor Hala Zreiqat has developed a unique bio-ceramic material that acts as a scaffold on which the body can generate new bone. Designed for those suffering from bone loss due to injury, infection and disease of abnormal skeletal development, this technology has the ability to kickstart bone regeneration and improve the quality of life of millions of people globally.  

Professor Zreiqat leads a team of researchers studying human bone and cartilage and how it reacts when in contact with engineered biomaterials. By designing technology that resembles natural bone, it allows blood and nutrients to penetrate and encourage normal growth while the artificial bone gradually degrades. Through this, Professor Zreiqat and her team have been able to prove that the synthetic bone will not be rejected by the body.

5. Breakthrough diabetes technology

SOAR program researcher Professor Xiaoke Yi, leader of the communications, computing and security research theme at the Australian Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology, has developed a needle-free, risk-free and pain-free method to improve diabetes wellbeing and prevent ketoacidosis. This new technology in diabetes monitoring has increased the efficiency, consistency and accuracy of ketone measurement and improves the quality of life of those living with diabetes.

Current monitoring methods are invasive and need to be done multiple times throughout the day. This new development works like a breathalyser, detecting breath ketone in a simple, non-invasive way. Professor Yi’s cross-disciplinary research has used engineering, science and medicine to keep people healthy and prevent hospital admissions.

To find out about more of the creative and innovative projects that are happening around the University of Sydney, join us at Innovation Week from 14 to 18 August 2017.