Don’t slag this off: steelmaking goes green

Molten slag is spun out into droplets and cooled to be used in cement manufacture.

The fiery heart of Dry Slag Granulation. The molten slag is spun out into droplets and cooled to be used in cement manufacture.

You may have heard it in the playground, but today we’re bringing you the word ‘slag’ in another form altogether: one that’s good for the environment and good for business. In steelmaking, slag is a legitimate term used to describe the glass-like waste product created during the process of refining or smelting ore. Our smart technology has found a way to turn that waste into a new product to make cement, while reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions.

How? With the power of Dry Slag Granulation (DSG). These may be three of the most uninspiring words ever strung together to form a phrase, but know this: DSG technology has the potential to save 60 billion litres of water, 800 petajoules of heat energy and 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The potential savings are equivalent to 14 per cent of Australia’s energy use and about 10 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Wouldn't it be nice to put slag heap's to better use?  Image: wikipedia

A whole heap of slag: wouldn’t it be nice to put it to better use? Image: wikipedia

For a major industrial nation like China, where 60 per cent of the world’s iron waste is produced, there is clearly an opportunity to put this unloved by-product to better use.

That’s where DSG comes in. The technology is fitted to blast furnaces in the form of a spinning disc and granulation chamber. This separates molten slag into droplets under centrifugal forces. Then, using air to quench and solidify the droplets, the DSG process extracts a granulated slag as well as heated air.

The granulated slag can be reused for cement and the heated air (extracted at a trifling 500-600°C) can be used onsite for drying, preheating or steam generation.

This isn’t something we just cooked up. We’ve been working on developing DSG for over a decade with business partners Arrium and BlueScope. This week we announced a new commercialisation trial with the Beijing MCC Equipment Research & Design Corporation in what we hope to be the first step to commercialising this technology globally.

If DSG hasn’t frightened you off yet, watch this video to see the seething bubbling cauldron of science in action.

For more information about our work, visit the mineral resource flagship page.

Engaging the disengaged with science

Not all science demonstrations will appeal to all people. Melanie Davies/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Not all science demonstrations will appeal to all people. Image: Melanie Davies/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

By Craig Cormick, CSIRO and Suzette Searle, Australian National University

Just as we don’t all have the same tastes or preferences for football codes or teams – or even genres of music or flavours of ice cream – so too we don’t all have the same tastes or preferences when it comes to science.

Last year the CSIRO released the results of a major survey into public attitudes towards science and technology, and found four key segments of the population that view science in very different ways:

A: Fan Boys and Fan Girls. This group is about 23% of the population and they are very enthusiastic about science and technology. Science is a big part of their lives and they think everyone should all take an interest in it.

B: The Cautiously Keen make up about 28% of the public. They are interested in science and technology, but can be a little wary of it. They tend to believe that the benefits of science must be greater than any harmful effects.

C: The Risk Averse represent about 23% of the population. They are much more concerned about the risks of science and technology, including issues such as equality of access. Most of their values about science are framed in terms of risk.

D: The Concerned and Disengaged make up 20% of the population. They are the least enthusiastic and least interested in science and technology. Many of them don’t much trust it. They believe the pace of science and technology is too fast to keep up with and that science and technology create more problems than they solve.

Segment A are further away from the community average than any other segment

If you are reading this article you are probably an A – and have self-selected to read the article as something you are interested in. But that is one of the problems: most audiences of science communications activities self-select from the As.

Interesting the disinterested

The research builds upon several other earlier surveys and its findings complement a 2014 survey designed by the Australian National University and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the Inspiring Australia program.

This survey segmented Australians on the basis of how frequently they interacted with information about science and technology. It found that only half of the population could recall listening to, watching or reading something to do with science and technology, or even searching for science and technology information, at least once a fortnight. Also, 14% had much less frequent interactions with science and technology information.

So, while Merlin Crossley is quite right that we are increasingly well served by high-quality science communication activities, rather than simply needing even more, we believe we need a broader spread of activities, designed for different audiences who have different attitudes to science.

With science communication activities growing, the Fan Boys and Fan Girls have never had it so good. There are great science stories almost everywhere you turn, if you’re interested in those stories, of course.

But the CSIRO data showed that as many as 40% of the Australian public were unengaged, disinterested or wary of science – little changed since a similar Victorian government study in 2011.

So the growth in science communication is not necessarily growing its audience. To do that we need to align our science communication messages and channels with those that the disengaged and disinterested value.

Think of the football analogy mentioned above. A diehard AFL fan is not likely to seek out a rugby union match of their own volition. However, if you want to get them interested in rugby union, you might consider holding a demonstration match at an AFL game. Or even better, recruit AFL players to join one of the teams playing in the rugby union demo match.

More than blowing stuff up

There are many ways to get exciting science communication activities out of the existing channels and onto the Footy Shows and Today Shows of the world. Science communicators could show up at music and folk festivals and other community activities. They could get sports stars and TV personalities and musicians talking about science, much as the Inspiring Australia initiative has sought to do.

And they should think beyond BSU (blowing stuff up) approaches where the “wow” factor is high but longer term engagement is often quite low.

Bangs and stinks can be fun, but they don’t necessarily leave a lasting message. Image: Sean Stayte/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

One of the other key findings of the CSIRO study was that the Fan Boys and Fan Girls are further away from the average point of community values than any other segment of the population. This means that Fan Boys or Girls probably have the least idea of what might appeal to the other segments. They know what turns them on, but they are probably only guessing what will work for the other segments.

So they need to recruit members of the other non-science fan segments to help devise science communication activities that appeal to them. For no one is going to understand the Bs, Cs and Ds like they understand themselves (even if they don’t much understand As!).

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Discovering the enigma moth: a golden-winged relic from a long-past age

A female adult 'enigma' moth on a Southern Cypress-pine stem. Image: George Gibbs

A female adult ‘enigma’ moth on a Southern Cypress-pine stem. Note the beautiful colouring of its wings. Image: George Gibbs

A living dinosaur. A missing evolutionary link. A specimen unlike any seen before it.

With such weighty words being thrown around, you could be forgiven for thinking we had discovered a Yowie, a Loch Ness Monster, or another Jurassic Park script.  But the truth, while being a little more unassuming, is no less the stuff of legends.

In actual fact, we’ve found an enigma.

Today, we unveiled the Aenigmatinea glatzella – which has been coined the ‘enigma moth’ – to the world. This tiny insect, which has so far only been found in an isolated pocket of Kangaroo Island, South Australia, represents not just an entire new species of moth, but an entire new family. It’s the Lepidoptera equivalent of discovering, say, the platypus.

This is the first time since the 1970s that a new family of primitive moths has been identified anywhere in the world. So for a bald bug that lives, mates and dies in one day and could fit on a five cent piece, the enigma moth is causing quite a stir.

A dorsal illustration of the moth.

An illustration of the dorsal side of the moth.

You can read more about the moth and our role in its discovery – as well as the launch of a foundation to support research into Australian moths and butterflies, and the moths and butterflies in our Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra – here. But in the meantime, we present to you the top five facts about this flying enigma:

    1. It is helping us crack evolution’s code. DNA analysis indicates that the evolution of moths and butterflies is even more complex than previously thought. For example, while the discovery of this new moth strengthens the evolutionary relationships between other primitive moth families, it also suggests that tongues evolved in moths and butterflies more than once.
    2. The species name glatzella has an amusing double meaning. While bestowed in honour of its discoverer, Dr Richard Glatz, in German glatze means ‘bald head’. Indeed, this cryptic moth is bald – it hardly has any scales on its head. But elsewhere on the body, these scales appear as a brilliant purple and gold.
    3. It’s rare. It has so far only been found at one location on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia.
    4. It lives on Southern Cypress-pine trees (Callitris gracilis), a very ancient element of our flora dating back to the supercontinent Gondwana.
    5. The adult moths are short-lived. In just one day they emerge from their cocoons, mate, females lay their eggs, and then die.

And, in case you haven’t seen it already, we’ve created this excellent short film of the enigma moth to honour its official introduction to the public. Enjoy!

How our 3D print tech led to jet-set success

3D printing is really taking off  Photo: Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing

3D printing is really taking off. Image: Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing

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.

The jet engine adds to a growing list of amazing things we’ve done with additive manufacturing such as custom made heels, mouthguards, horseshoes, bikes and of course dragons.

A new antenna for old friends: celebrating 55 years of AUS-US space communication

NEW VISTAS: Deep Space Station 35 will operate for many decades. We can only begin to imagine what future discoveries it might make. Credit: Adam McGrath

NEW VISTAS: Deep Space Station 35 will operate for many decades. We can only begin to imagine what future discoveries it might make. Credit: Adam McGrath

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.

DAY OR NIGHT: Deep Space Station 35 will be operating 24/7 to help make discoveries in deep space.

DAY OR NIGHT: Deep Space Station 35 will be operating 24/7 to help make discoveries in deep space.

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.

"Does it get Channel two?"

“Does it get Channel Two?”

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.

The first ever Moon landing: a momentous occasion, broadcast around the world thanks to the Australian-US partnership.

The first ever Moon landing: a momentous occasion, broadcast around the world thanks to the Australian-US partnership.

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:

A famous photobomb, taken during the antennae's construction.

A famous photobomb, taken during the antennae’s construction.

Understanding the Great Dying: does the secret to a past mass extinction lie in volcanic bubbles?

Trilobite fossil

Trilobites graced the Earth for 270 million years until they were wiped out in the ‘Great Dying’. Image Credit:

Around 250 million years ago, an extinction event took place that was unprecedented in its size and scale. Known colloquially as the ‘Great Dying’, the Permian Triassic extinction event wiped 90 percent of species (both marine and terrestrial) forever from the map. It is the largest recorded mass extinction event in Earth’s history, and was estimated to have set biological evolution back by tens of millions of years.

There are many theories as to the cause of this Great Dying, ranging from giant meteor impacts to massive volcanic eruptions. In a paper published today in Nature Geoscience, a team of our researchers have supported the case for a much tinier – yet no less fascinating – contributor to the kill: methane-producing bacteria, fed from the bowels of the earth.

Silent but deadly

During this ancient era, massive methane-producing bacterial blooms, nourished by volcanic atmospheric nickel, are thought to have disrupted the carbon cycle and released toxic levels of methane and carbon dioxide – resulting in a runaway greenhouse effect on the Earth’s atmosphere.

But how did these levels of nickel come to be released into the atmosphere? Rock records have revealed massive volcanic eruptions occurred during this period, yet the notion that nickel would be released into the atmosphere during eruptions was not widely believed by scientists who study magmas and volcanoes.

Our research team, led by Dr Stephen Barnes in collaboration with Prof. James Mungall from the University of Toronto, are proposing that metals like nickel, which are normally concentrated at the bottom of magma chambers, hitched a ride to the atmosphere on the back of vapour bubbles, also forming rich ore deposits simultaneously with the ancient bacterial blooms.

Raised on heavy metal

Sections of rock showing solidified suflide liguid droplet attached to a gas bubble now infilled with silica

A solidified sulphide liquid droplet (orange in diagram) with a silicate “cap” now recognised to be an infilled gas bubble (blue in diagram)  from the Kharaelakh nickel deposit, Siberia, which was active during the Great Dying.

Magma deep within the Earth’s crust commonly carry droplets of sulphur-rich melts that contain metals. But these sulphide melts are dense and would be expected to sink to the bottom of the magma reservoir.

But the ‘vapour transport mechanism’ proposed by our researchers can explain how these dense metal sulphide melts are able to be found at shallower depths than expected.

‘In the lab we found that small droplets of the sulphide melt can attach to the vapour bubbles and use the buoyancy of the bubbles to float upwards,’ Steve said.

‘Even more interesting for us was the discovery that this transport mechanism provides a theoretical link between our understandings of how the magmatic and hydrothermal processes of metal ore formation from magma overlap .’

The paper, Transport of metals and sulphur in magmas by flotation of sulphide melt on vapour bubblesis available online from Nature Geoscience.

For media enquiries, please contact Keirissa Lawson | | M: 0418 282 055

Here are five questions about tropical cyclones that you need answered

Tropical Cyclone Marcia swirls menacingly off the Queensland coast. Photo Credit: NASA

Tropical Cyclone Marcia swirls menacingly off the Queensland coast. Photo Credit: NASA

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.

A rare moment of light captured during the Cyclone Tracey salvage mission. Source: CSIRO archives

A rare moment of light captured during the Cyclone Tracy salvage mission. Source: CSIRO archives

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).

ERIC - our emergency response tool displaying the paths of Tropical Cyclone Marcia and Lam across our north-eastern coastlines.

ERIC – our emergency response tool displaying the paths of Tropical Cyclone Marcia and Lam across our north-eastern coastlines.

And we also have more information about our latest climate projections here.


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