As the mercury rises and our focus turns to hitting the gym and shedding those cuddly winter kilos, we thought we’d take a look at a few ways we could be making our workouts really count.
While the idea of working up a sweat and electricity might sound like a recipe for disaster, you’d be surprised how people and businesses are using sport and exercise to create electricity – with a conscience.
Giving light to rural communities
A company in the US has created a soccer balled called Soccket which can generate three hours of light with just thirty minutes of play. The ball is being used in rural off-grid areas of Mexico. Soccket stores the kinetic energy built up while you play using a pendulum-like mechanism.
Creating greener stadiums
At the Homes Stadium in Kobe City, Japan, the floorplan has been designed to harness vibrations made by cheering fans to create electricity. The electricity generates is fed back into the stadium’s power supply. The more fans cheer the less power the stadium needs to take from the ‘grid’.
Building safe places for kids to play
Soccer superhero Pele recently teamed up with global energy company Shell to launch a new type of pitch in a Rio. It is made from tiles which capture kinetic energy created by the movement of the players. The light is being used to power the pitch at night, resulting in a safe and secure community space.
Keeping your gym green
A gym in the UK made history by becoming the first self-powered gym using the energy of bikes, cross trainers and ‘vario’ machines to power its lights. Each machine feeds around 100w per hour back into the gym’s power supply. Treadmills also generate enough energy to power their own information screens.
And for those of us who may not be able to book a round the world trip purely for exercise purposes, why not try signing up for our new Total Wellbeing Diet online trial? Visit the website for more information and to sign up.
We collect things. Lots of things.
You might have heard about our major collections – the National Wildlife Collection, National Fish Collection, National Insect Collection, National Herbarium. You might even have heard of the Cape Grim Air Archive. But what about the National Soil Archive? Let alone the Fungus Collection or the Algae Collection.
The National Soil Archive contains more than 70 000 soil samples from nearly ten thousand sites across Australia. They’re not just bits of dirt picked up from anywhere. Not only are the samples representative of soil types throughout Australia, they’re a time capsule of sorts as well. Quite a lot of the samples date from the early 1920s, before widespread pesticide use.
Having these old samples gives us an historical record of soil carbon, so they’re an important resource for our work on climate change. They also provide an interactive key to Australian soil classification, which is a handy tool for landcare advisors, agronomists, environmental consultants, ecologists, foresters, geomorphologists, land use planners and catchment managers, and they form the backbone of our SoilMapp tool. Who’d have thought?
And there are actually three different fungi collections. There’s the Wood-Inhabiting Fungi Collection, which is self-explanatory. Then there’s the WA-based Mycology Herbarium, which deals with fungi as parts of ecosystem biodiversity.
The third is a little more off-putting. It’s the FRR Culture Collection. It’s a comprehensive archive of filamentous fungi and yeasts of the kinds associated with processed food spoilage. To put it simply, the national mould collection is a real thing. It’s not in a student share house fridge, but carefully stored and catalogued at CSIRO.
We mustn’t forget the algae. We have a comprehensive collection – the Australian National Algae Culture Collection – stored in Hobart: more than 1000 strains of over 300 species. It’s an important resource for two reasons. The first is that the nutrient value of algae is of growing scientific interest. The second is – and this might come as a surprise – it’s aligned with CSIRO’s Microalgae Supply Service. This provides microalgal strains for ‘starter cultures’. They go to industry, research organisations and universities in more than 50 countries. We also supply starter cultures to the Australian aquaculture industry: microalgae are the essential first foods for larval and juvenile animals. They’re also the basis of our Novacq™ prawn food additive.
We think the contents of our cupboards are pretty interesting. They’re certainly unusual.
Surgery has come a long way since the days when it consisted of either cutting things out or cutting them off. But there are still conditions where amputation is the only alternative.
One of them, until recently, was bone cancer.
Len Chandler was facing the prospect of having his leg off below the knee when he was diagnosed with cancer of the calcaneus (heel bone). Until his surgeon, Professor Peter Choong from Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital, had an idea.
He knew about CSIRO’s work in titanium 3D, after reading about our work on producing an orthotic horseshoe in 2013. He got in touch with John Barnes, our titanium and 3D printing expert, asking whether his vision – a metallic implant which would support a human body’s weight – could become a reality.
At the time, CSIRO was working with the Victorian-based biotech company Anatomics on metallic implant technology. John brought Anatomics into the discussion, to draw on their experience as a certified custom medical device manufacturer.
Our Manufacturing Flagship worked with Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital and Victorian biotech company Anatomics on a world-first surgery, developing a heel bone implant printed in titanium on CSIRO’s state-of-the-art Arcam 3D printer.
Working from Anatomics’ schematics for the heel bone, teams at Anatomics and CSIRO developed the design requirements with Choong’s surgical team. These included smooth surfaces where the bone contacts other bone, holes for suture locations, and rough surfaces that would allow tissue to adhere to the implant. In the days before the surgery Anatomics and CSIRO produced three implant prototypes.
The entire process, from first phone call to surgery, took two weeks. Three months after the surgery, Mr Chandler has had his most recent check-up. He’s recovering well, and is able to place some weight on his implant.
It’s also a local manufacturing process: Australian companies producing implants for our own doctors and patients. That means we don’t have to rely on imported parts, and the design can be truly personalised to the patient.
We’re working with a number of major companies and SMEs across Australia to build capacity in biotech and manufacturing.
The plan, says John Barnes, is that, ‘At some point in the future we expect that local for-profit businesses will have the capacity to work on projects like this, and until that momentum is built up in local industry, CSIRO is here to help local industries gain that momentum’.
By Emily Lehmann
A world in which robots and humans live side-by-side is no longer just stuff dreamed up in fantastical sci-fi movies (thank you very much James Cameron). ‘Cos if we’re talking about industry, the smart machine era is already here.
Next-gen technologies like self-driving vehicles, remote augmented reality and fully-autonomous robots are now being used to help companies work better, from underground mines to the factory floor.
The latest and greatest in the ‘bots biz was all the talk last week at RoboBusiness 2014, where we took the opportunity to share our vision for the world of intelligent industry.
We want to create an environment where man and machine can work safely and productively side-by-side. To help us achieve this, we’ve developed Guardian technologies: a suite of intelligent, lightweight assistive robots that will increase the productivity and global competitiveness of manufacturing firms.
The robots include Guardian angel, mentor, helper and worker technologies, which all play their own important and unique role in assisting – but not replacing – people in the workplace.
For instance, Guardians can be used to hold or move heavy, awkward items, or be deployed in places not considered safe for humans to perform tasks – all while a person controls them remotely. Check out this video to see how they work:
We have some exciting news around one of our clever Guardian technologies, Zebedee, which is about to be enhanced with new features and improvements.
Zebedee is our leading handheld 3D laser mapping technology and the next generation version will allow manufacturers to create faster and more accurate 3D simulations of their factory production lines.
We’re also about to start a $2 million research and development partnership with UK-based start-up GeoSLAM on the developments to make this happen. You can read more about this on the IT Wire.
We’re looking for 5,000 Australians (from ages 18 to 74) to participate in a trial of a new online diet program based on our award-winning and bestselling Total Wellbeing Diet.
It’s easy as – by following a simple, customised eating plan and weighing in on the website once a week over a 12 week period, you can improve your diet and wellbeing. And to top it off, we will refund the $99 registration fee when you finish – but only if you’re quick enough to sign up first!
The good news is, we already know that the diet works – over half a million Aussies have already lost an average of 6.1kgs on the diet – so the online program is just making it easier for everyone out there with a smart phone, tablet or computer. We’re running this trial now to fine-tune the system before a wider public release next year.
So what’s the deal?
Our new Total Wellbeing Diet online diary is easy to follow and can be customised to suit your tastes, dietary preferences and lifestyle. Food journals are essential for successful weight management, but most journals only count calories. This diary instantly tallies your food groups and shows you where you’re going right and wrong with your eating plan.
The program will also include practical, realistic exercise programs to help maximise weight loss and wellness benefits. And best of all, you can do it all from your own smart phone.
The findings from this three month trial will be used to develop more engaging online dietary programs that can reach many more people, and will also help us assess how we can inspire healthy eating and provide more support to those that need to lose weight – a major goal of the Total Wellbeing Diet project.
We want to make this program as best as it can be… but we need your help.
If you want to get involved, registration starts from 19 October, and the trial starts on 3 November. Remember, you will need to check in each week with your weight to have the $99 fee refunded.
To register for the trial visit: www.totalwellbeingdiet.com
CSIRO has licensed Total Wellbeing Diet to SP Health for the development and management of an online next generation Total Wellbeing Diet program, in collaboration with the Glycemic Index Foundation.
In 1973 when Motorola engineer Martin Cooper created the first mobile phone prototype it weighed around 1.1 kilos (iPhone 6 weighs 129 grams) and had enough power for 20 minutes of talk time before requiring a ten-hour recharge. But back in the day that wasn’t an issue because most people weren’t strong enough to keep the brick-like handset hoisted to their ear for much longer.
Today, the problem we face is not developing forearms of steel to handle our phones, but how to keep them powered up with so many apps ticking away in the background. It turns out it is easier than you think. Forgotten your charger? Never fear. Chuck on a t-shirt, fire up the camp stove or grab your suitcase.
Roast some marshmallows
Ahhh, there’s nothing quite like the great outdoors. The hours of serenity provide the perfect time for quiet reflection as you feel yourself become at one with nature. But wouldn’t it be better if you’re phone wasn’t dead and you could share your favourite s’more recipes on Facebook? Now you can, thanks to a camping stove that converts heat from the flames into electricity.
Turn up the volume
A few years ago music lovers at the Glastonbury festival in the UK got to try out a new t-shirt that powered up their mobile phones while they pulled their moves. Made of a special material called piezoelectric film, the t-shirt turns vibrations from the music into an electrical charge.
Tee off like Tiger
Finally, golfers can be rewarded for playing poorly. Fitted to the handgrip of the club, the smart device harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the golfer repeatedly swinging the club. Depending on how good your game is, you could generate up to two hours of charge.
Run like Forrest
Keeping on the kinetic energy theme, so-called green gyms are using the energy burnt off by gym users to generate electricity. One gym in Berlin has installed special plug-ins to the machines that allow people to charge their phones with the energy they produce while working out.
Pack your suitcase
Designer Jung Inyoung has come up with the concept of a rolling suitcase that provides power to devices using kinetic energy. There are two gears on the bag’s wheels that collect energy as you stroll around the airport. You can plug your phone into the suitcase to charge it.
We have been working on new battery technologies for a number of years, including flexible batteries which can be integrated into fabrics and clothing. Read more about our wearable electronics work.
By Michelle Baker, CSIRO
Bats are the natural host species for Ebola and a variety of viruses, many of which can be fatal when transmitted to humans. More than 100 viruses have been identified in bats and this number is rising each year.
African fruit bats first transmitted Ebola virus to primates and other species through contact with bat droppings, half-eaten fruit or bodily fluids of diseased bats. People are thought to have contracted the virus through contact with infected bats and primates. Subsequent person–to-person transmission occurs through direct contact with infected body fluids: blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or faeces.
Interestingly, bats have the ability to harbour viruses such as Ebola and don’t display clinical signs of disease. Yet once the virus infects other species, it has the potential to cause widespread death and disease. How is it that bats are resistant to a disease that kills up to 90% of people it infects?
Ebola virus infection
The impact of Ebola virus in people is largely the result of the activation of the immune system, rather than the virus itself. During the initial stages of infection, Ebola shuts off the immune response to the virus, resulting in rapid viral replication and a delay in the production of antibodies.
The immune system is initiated only once the virus is out of control and then results in over-activation of the immune response. Although the role of the immune system is to eliminate the virus, when it is activated at extreme levels it becomes damaging to the host – in this case, an infected patient.
Like all haemorrhagic fevers, this results in widespread tissue damage, leading to internal and external bleeding, decreased kidney and liver function and ultimately, in many cases, death.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever recorded and is continuing to accelerate. Researchers and drug companies are racing to develop treatments and vaccines targeting the Zaire ebolavirus, the strain that is causing the current outbreak.
The first human trial to establish the safety of the vaccine and assess the immune responses of volunteers is underway. The researchers hope that by November there will be enough data to make an informed decision about whether to deploy the vaccine in Western Africa.
So far, studies in monkeys have demonstrated that the vaccine provides protective immunity for up to ten months.
Unlocking the bat immune system
Studying how bats control viral replication may unlock alternative mechanisms for tackling Ebola as well as other new and emerging infectious diseases. Increasing antimicrobial resistance of viruses, bacteria and fungi, for instance, is becoming a global concern and we need to think creatively to find solutions.
Bats and viruses have achieved an equilibrium that allows them to co-exist. Clues from studies of bat genomes have revealed differences in genes associated with the very early immune response that could help bats respond to infections. These genes appear to be evolving at a faster rate in bats compared with other species, providing evidence that they are likely co-evolving with the viruses that bats carry.
Functional differences in the immune system may also play a role. Unlike humans and mice, which activate their immune systems only in response to an infection, bats appear to have certain components of their immune system constantly switched on. This may allow bats to control viral replication much more efficiently compared with other species.
If we can redirect the immune responses of other species to behave in a similar manner to that of bats, the high death rate associated with diseases such as Ebola could be a thing of the past.
It’s tempting to look to culling as the answer to deal with bats as the natural hosts of Ebola. This suggestion was made during the spillover of Hendra virus from bats to horses in Australia. But it is not the answer; bats are an extremely successful group of mammals, making up 20% of all mammalian diversity. They are critical to ecosystems, with roles in insect control and pollination.
Rather than persecuting bats, we need to unravel the secrets of the success of this group of mammals. Understanding how bats control viral replication would not only assist in developing future therapeutics but may also help predict transmission events from bats into human and animal populations.
Michelle Baker receives funding from The Australian Research Council