By Andrew Warren
Deep in the bowels of our Lab 22 manufacturing facility in Clayton, Melbourne, we’ve created something extraordinary – components for the world’s first 3D printed jet engine.
These engines aren’t just remarkable because they’ve been 3D-printed, but because they were created by using a range of different additive manufacturing technologies and successfully combined into a finished product that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.
We used our Arcam Electron Beam Melting printer in combination with cold spray technology to produce a range of components for the engines, which also used a new titanium metal powder we developed that performs better than previously used products, and is also cheaper to use.
The 3D-printed jet engines (one was featured at the International Air Show in Avalon) prove that test parts can be produced in days instead of months. This could result in incredible benefits for the international aeronautical industry.
Here’s a video produced by the team at Monash that shows the process behind the printing.
Monash University’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing led the project in collaboration with our Lab 22 researchers and Deakin University. The project was supported by funding from the Science Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).
SEIF is a Fund that strategically invests in scientific research for the national benefit – helping Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community or contributing to the achievement of Australian national objectives. The fund supports collaborative partnerships between scientific, research and tertiary institutions, with an emphasis on exchange of scientific knowledge and ideas.
As we continue to expand our range of additive manufacturing machines at Lab 22, we’re able to further push the boundaries by developing new techniques that harness the expanded commercial and technical capabilities available.
Projects like this are helping put us at the forefront of the global aerospace industry and attract the attention of international companies looking to create stronger ties with Australian manufacturing.
By Dr Narelle Fegan and Dr Andrew Leis
Keeping our food safe
The recent outbreak of hepatitis A, which is thought to be associated with the consumption of frozen berries, has highlighted food safety concerns and sparked debates around country of origin labelling and testing of imported foods. Ensuring the safety of our food supply can be a complex process that involves maintaining good hygienic practices in the production and handling of foods at all stages between the farm and consumption.
With some foods, we can reduce the risk of foodborne illness through a heating process, which includes practices like cooking, canning and pasteurisation. However, with fresh produce (such as leafy green and fruits), a heating step is less desirable – we have to rely more on hygienic production to deliver a safe food product. There are quality assurance schemes in place to ensure that fresh produce is grown, harvested, packed and transported to limit contamination by foodborne pathogens.
These schemes rely on people involved in all parts of the production chain following the procedures outlined, to deliver a product that is safe to consume. Such quality assurance schemes operate across the globe and imported products are required to meet the same hygienic standards as food produced in the importing country.
Can testing of food ensure it is safe to eat?
Microbiological testing of foods is only one aspect of quality assurance schemes designed to help keep our food safe. Scientific evidence and history tells us that testing of products for pathogens is not an efficient way of determining if food has been contaminated.
This is particularly true of pathogens that occur very rarely in food (such as hepatitis A) as only a very small amount of the food will be contaminated, and we can’t guarantee we will sample the portion of food where contamination occurs. The difficulties associated with pathogen testing of foods include:
- Contamination is not evenly distributed within the food and only certain portions of the food may contain the pathogen.
- Testing for foodborne viruses destroys the portion of food that is tested.
- Because the food is destroyed during testing, not all of the food can be tested as there would be nothing left for us to eat. Only some of the food can be tested – but sampling plans have been developed to try and maximise the chances of detecting foodborne pathogens.
- Testing methods for foodborne viruses in particular can be difficult to perform, as we have to try and isolate viruses and their genetic material from foods which are often very complex in nature (containing fats, sugars and salts, which can all make it more difficult to detect pathogens).
For these reasons testing of food is only one part of quality assurance schemes, with more attention focusing on hygienic production to limit the opportunities of food becoming contaminated with pathogens.
Why would frozen berries be at risk of carrying hepatitis A?
Freezing is a highly effective and convenient way to increase the shelf-life of foods, and unlike heat-based sterilisation techniques, it preserves most of the nutritional value of the food (some components, like vitamins, are quickly destroyed by heat). Freezing not only prolongs shelf life but also allows us to enjoy very seasonal products, such as berries, at any time of the year.
Preservation of viruses and bacteria during freezing is affected by the rate of freezing and the amounts of sugars and other molecules nearby that help to slow the growth of ice crystals. In a household freezer, water freezes quite slowly – consider the time it takes to freeze water in ice cube trays. Slow freezing favours the formation of ice crystals. As the crystals grow in size, they can kill some bacteria and viruses. On the other hand, high local concentrations of sugars and other molecules can protect the microorganisms from damage.
Frozen berries are generally safe to eat, and have only occasionally been involved in foodborne outbreaks. Hepatitis A virus infection as a result of eating contaminated food (not just berries) is also very rare, particularly in Australia where on average only five cases a year are associated with food consumption in Australia. This is very small compared to other foodborne pathogens in Australia such as Norovirus, where an estimated 276,000 cases a year are associated with food and bacteria, or Campylobacter where 179,000 cases are associated with the consumption of food.
What can we do to ensure the food we eat is safe?
It is not possible to ensure safety by testing a final product. Therefore, systems based on hazard analysis and identification of critical control points have been developed and adopted by governments and food producers through food regulations, industry guidelines and quality assurance schemes. However, human error through poor planning or poor execution can lead to one or more failures along the supply chain. The best thing we can do to ensure the food we eat is safe is to foster a culture of food safety. This means better educating all those involved in the food industry, as well as governments and consumers, so that they understand the safety risks associated with the production, manufacture and consumption of foods.Food safety needs to be seen as an investment, not a cost.
For more information, visit our website.
It’s been a momentous couple of days in the history of Australian space exploration. Just yesterday, the newest antenna in NASA’s Deep Space Network was officially commissioned at our Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, five years to the day from its original ground breaking ceremony.
The new dish, Deep Space Station 35, incorporates the latest in Beam Waveguide technology: increasing its sensitivity and capacity for tracking, commanding and receiving data from spacecraft located billions of kilometres away across the Solar System.
The Canberra Complex is one of three Deep Space Network stations capable of providing two-way radio contact with robotic deep space missions. The Complex’s sister stations are located in California and Spain. Together, the three stations provide around-the-clock contact with over 35 spacecraft exploring the solar system and beyond. You may remember this technology being utilised recently for the Rosetta and Philae comet landing; and for communicating with the ever so far-flung New Horizons spacecraft on its journey past Pluto.
As a vital communication station for these types of missions, the new antenna will make deep space communication for spacecraft and their Earth-bound support staff even easier.
But don’t put away the space candles just yet. For today marks the 55 anniversary of the signing of the original space communication and tracking agreement signed between Australia and the United States, way back on the 26th February 1960.
It is a partnership that has that has led to many historic firsts and breakthrough discoveries – the first flybys of Mercury and Venus, the vital communication link and television coverage of the first Moonwalk, robotic rover landings on (and amazing views from) the surface of Mars, the first ‘close-ups’ of the giant outer planets and first-time encounters with worlds such as Pluto.
So, we say welcome to the newest addition to the Deep Space Network and happy birthday to our space-relationship with the US. Here’s to another fifty five years of success!
P.S. We couldn’t finish the blog without including this little gem:
He has founded six successful companies, holds 20 patents and began his career as an engineer with a PhD in physics. And, a month ago, he took the reins as Chief Executive of CSIRO. We sat down with Dr Larry Marshall to hear how he’s settling in.
You’ve been in the job for a month now. What are your first impressions of CSIRO?
Well, I know it’s only been a month, but I already feel like there’s so much research happening here that I’ll need another lifetime to discover it all.
It’s clear to me that people who work here want to make a difference. They really care about science and the opportunities it can offer to the community, the environment and to the economy. They’re supportive of each other and really want us to be the best we can be.
Is there any research you’ve heard about at CSIRO that particularly stands out to you?
I could inundate you with examples. Just off the top of my head, we recently helped someone walk again by 3D printing a titanium heel bone that his surgeon was able to implant.
We’ve developed a technology that helps remotely control longwall mining equipment so miners are safer and productivity is boosted by 10%.
We’ve used our maths and informatics skills to develop a tool to predict the number of people who will go to hospital emergency departments and by helping the hospitals better plan, we’ve saved them tens of millions of dollars and reduced the time people wait for a bed.
Right through to other examples like the work we’ve done to breed the perfect prawn that by 2020 will add more than $120 million to the value of the industry.
I could keep going, but I should probably stop there.
There’s been some conjecture around your views on water divining recently. Is there anything you’d like to say on that subject?
My grandfather was friends with a tribal elder who would walk our land trying to feel where the river had gone – he explained to me as a kid that the river was still there just hidden beneath the ground. He was very successful in figuring out where Granddad should drill. Drilling is very expensive so you need all the help you can get.
Now clearly, that wasn’t a scientific experiment and I was wrong to quote figures for success – I said it right the first time – “have you seen farmers find water?” – but later realised I shouldn’t have used the word “dowsing” which to me means find water, but apparently there are more narrow interpretations.
I was surprised by the reaction but also by the number of letters of support I received from people who clearly got what I was trying to say, which was: Entrepreneurship is about seeing a problem and imagining a solution, then inventing the technology to solve it. The inventor of the flip phone at Motorola was doubtless inspired by Star Trek.
A couple of years back, CSIRO’s Materials Science and Engineering team came up with a way to miniaturise atomic clocks and do what the Grace satellites do to detect water via gravitational anomalies. Entrepreneurship, like science, isn’t about playing it safe – if we aren’t failing we aren’t trying hard enough.
For me there is no such thing as failure, there is only learning – we can always do better (especially me with the media).
CSIRO has been through a lot of changes in the past year. Is that all over now?
That’s true. We are emerging from some rapid structural changes and I can’t promise that change is now over – that would be unrealistic in a world moving as fast as ours.
What I want to do is help our organisation focus on how we can contribute to the innovation, discovery and growth that Australia has come to expect from its premier research organisation.
So how do you do that?
We’ve got to focus our efforts and continually measure and demonstrate our impact. We’ve got to be more entrepreneurial and agile. We’ve got to get our overheads down and create value for our customers, and we’ve got to create some more headroom for exploration.
The first step is to get the framework right and that comes down to our strategy. That’s my big priority and something we’ll be locking down before June.
I have learned a lot about lean innovation and focussing on where we are unique. You’ll hear more about this, but let’s just say we’re learning from the lean innovation movement. Each and every person in our organisation will have a voice in this…
The genius and the power of CSIRO is distributed – it’s in our people, our partners and our community. We know a diversity of views is critical to innovation performance.
The more I learn about this place, the more conversations I have, the more amazing things I discover about CSIRO. I will be endeavouring this year to meet as many staff as possible, to hear about their work, and to learn from our customers and stakeholders about what we need to do to make CSIRO even stronger and more successful.
And do you think we’ll be starting our dragon research anytime soon?
I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes out in the strategy. We should check in with Sophie about it.
By Simon Torok
Tropical cyclones are an ongoing threat during Australia’s cyclone season, which generally lasts from November to April. On average, the Australian region experiences 13 cyclones a year.
But as the coastlines of Queensland and the Northern Territory are threatened on two simultaneous fronts (Marcia and Lam), we’ve asked our climate scientists what we can expect from tropical cyclones in the future, as Australia’s climate continues to change.
1. Has the frequency of tropical cyclones changed?
Some scientific studies suggest no change and others suggest a decrease in numbers since the 1970s in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones in the Australian region.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s satellite record is short and there have been changes in the historical methods of analysis. Combined with the high variability in tropical cyclone numbers, this means it is difficult to draw conclusions regarding changes.
However, it is clear that sea surface temperatures off the northern Australian coast have increased, part of a significant warming of the oceans that has been observed in the past 50 years due to increases in greenhouse gases. Warmer oceans tend to increase the amount of moisture that gets transported from the ocean to the atmosphere, and a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and so have greater potential for intense rainfall events.
2. Will the frequency of tropical cyclones change in future?
The underlying warming trend of oceans around the world, which is linked to human-induced climate change, will tend to increase the risk of extreme rainfall events in the short to medium term. Studies in the Australian region point to a potential long-term decrease in the number of tropical cyclones each year in future, on average.
On the other hand, there is a projected increase in their intensity. In other words, we may have fewer cyclones but the ones we do have will be stronger. So there would be a likely increase in the proportion of tropical cyclones in the more intense categories (category 4 or 5). However, confidence in tropical cyclone projections is low.
3. What are the impacts of tropical cyclones?
Today, coastal flooding is caused by storm tides, which occur when low-pressure weather systems, cyclones, or storm winds elevate sea levels to produce a storm surge, which combines with high or king tides to drive sea water onshore. Although rare, extreme flooding events can lead to large loss of life, as was the case in 1899 when 400 people died as a result of a cyclonic storm surge in Bathurst Bay, Queensland.
4. How will impacts of tropical cyclones change in future?
With an increase in cyclone intensity, there is likely to be an increased risk of coastal flooding, especially in low-lying areas exposed to cyclones and storm surges. For example, the area of Cairns’ risk of flooding, by a 1-in-100-year storm surge, is likely to more than double by the middle of this century.
5. How can we adapt to expected changes?
Almost all of our existing coastal buildings and infrastructure were constructed under planning rules that did not factor in the impacts of climate change. However, governments are now taking account of changes in climate and sea level through their planning policies. Just as the building codes and rules for Darwin changed in the wake of Cyclone Tracy, so they should now be re-assessed for each region and locality in Australia to take account of climate change.
You can track both Tropical Cyclone Marcia and Lam using our Emergency Response Intelligence Capability tool (ERIC).
And we also have more information about our latest climate projections here.
Aww. It’s Valentine’s Day today in many countries around the world, meaning the annual bombardment of hearts is upon us again: sugary-sweet hearts, super-sweet hearts, super-sized hearts and even some super-strange hearts. But the iconic curvy ‘love heart’ might have originated from a simplistic drawing of the human heart, which long ago was seen as the place in the body where the soul (and, presumably, romance) lived.
Nowadays, thanks to science, we have much less poetic notions about what the heart actually does (although, to compensate, what we know now is much, much more likely to save your life). We all know, for example, that the heart is the powerhouse that keeps your blood circulating.
So, just for fun, we thought that this Valentine’s Day it’d be fun to compare the power of the human heart to the power we can get from some of the different technologies we’re working at CSIRO.
The power of the heart
We can work out the average power of the heart by multiplying the peak pressure inside the heart (120 mmHg, or 16 kPa) by the rate of blood flow (say about 6 litres per minute, or 0.0001 m3/s). This gives us the magic number we’re going to use for the heart’s power: 1.6 Watts. Over the course of a day, this adds up to an energy output of 140 kJ (or 33 Cal) each day.
So we created a thing called the Heart-o-meter. It shows the power output of some of our energy technologies from our National Energy Centre in Newcastle, in a unit we’re pretty sure we’ve just pioneered here at CSIRO – equivalent human hearts. Aww. Who said science can’t be romantic?
You can see that yesterday the photovoltaic cells in our Virtual Power Station had a power output that equalled, at one point, the total number of people’s hearts in Newcastle. That’s a lot of love.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
This article was originally published in February 2013.