Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Researchers from The Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (EMS) have been awarded $6.54 million in funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for 16 projects across Engineering, Mathematics and Physics. This represents an outstanding achievement from our researchers, who have scooped half of the awarded projects to the University of Western Australia (UWA).

12 EMS researchers were awarded ARC Discovery grants, worth over $5 million. The ARC funding will contribute towards accurate climate change predictions, design tools to installing offshore wind and wave energy devices, achieving three dimensional tomographic reconstruction of rainfall, increasing the security and reliability of computer vision as well as advance knowledge in fundamental mathematics and physics, among other topics of national and international benefit.

School of Engineering:

Prof Yinong Liu – Approaching near-ideal strength for bulk amorphous metals

The potential impacts of the project include (1) the establishment of an innovative theory and design strategy for novel metal materials, (2) the creation of high strength phase transforming nanocrystallization strengthened amorphous metals of exceptional mechanical properties, and (3) the development of close-to-application technology for engineering fabrication of the materials. The concepts behind these metal materials are novel and untested in the history of physical metallurgy.

Dr Darren Rowland –Deep ocean thermodynamics and climate change

Climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions is acknowledged as the most important environmental factor affecting the future of the Earth. Thermodynamic data of saline water mixtures containing carbon dioxide are of crucial importance for accurate climate change predictions. The project will have an important impact on understanding our changing environment by providing this crucial data, facilitating both future accurate climate change modelling and greenhouse gas abatement strategies.

Prof Eric May – Next generation gas separations via innovative adsorption technologies

This project has the potential to deliver inexpensive gas separation processes able to increase the viability of developing large natural gas reserves, smaller sources of bio-methane, and industrial facilities for capturing carbon and/or noble gases from air. These developments will increase Australia's access to cheap supplies of natural gas, encourage the broader use of biomass, lower the carbon emissions of industrial processes, and efficiently recover high-value compounds only present at trace concentrations. The outcomes of this project will build upon Australia's reputation as a leader in the development of gas processing technologies able to be exported and used with even greater impact in larger markets such as China and the USA.

Prof Michael Johns – Breaking bad oilfield emulsions

This project will focus on using a natural treatment fluid (a solution of natural oil resin extract in CO2) to break problematic water-in-crude oil emulsions with no secondary environmental consequences. These water-in-crude oil emulsions are increasingly encountered during oil production at a conservatively estimated global cost of $26 billion p.a., with an estimated accumulation of 6 million cubic metres of unwanted water-in-crude oil emulsions awaiting a cost effective treatment option.   As well as being expensive to fix, these stockpiled emulsions can cause severe environmental damage if containment fails.   In Australia such oilfield emulsion problems are frequently encountered in both the Bass Strait and across the Carnarvon Basin.

Prof Arcady Dyskin –Constricted hydraulic fracture opening

Fracking is widely used for reservoir stimulation and seam gas extraction. Dimensions and opening of hydraulic fractures – the main factor determining the environmental impact, including groundwater contamination – are strongly affected by constriction caused by distributed bridges left after fracture propagation. Methods for accounting for the constriction in design and monitoring of hydraulic fractures allowing timely intervention will be developed. The development will assist in avoiding premature screen-out, securing improvement in lost frac services, preventing distribution of dangerous chemicals and increasing environmental safety of fracking and alleviating the public concern.

Prof David Huang – 3D tomographic reconstruction of rainfall using satellite signals

Leveraging existing microwave communication links of satellite systems, the proposed rainfall tomography will enable real-time observation of meteorological phenomena, e.g. tornado and downburst, thereby helping improve the understanding of many rainfall relevant phenomena. With the aid of advanced signal processing techniques, the proposed method will achieve 3D measurements with resolution and coverage unachievable before, paving the way for innovative water relevant applications such as hydrology and agriculture, and new findings in atmospheric research.

School of Physics, Mathematics and Computing:

Prof Ajmal Mian – Defense against adversarial attacks on deep learning in computer vision

The outcomes of this project will increase the security and reliability of computer vision by detecting, reporting and nullifying subtle perturbations to objects/images textures that are imperceptible to humans. Considering the increasing omnipresence of computer vision systems in our everyday lives, the outcomes of the project are expected to benefit the general public and industry on many fronts.

Prof Cheryl Praeger – Complexity of group algorithms and statistical fingerprints of groups

This project will contribute to conceptual and computational advances in the mathematical theory of symmetry. The main objective is a new generation of efficient randomised algorithms for computing with groups of permutations and matrices. The anticipated goals are provably fast procedures, included in standard computational algebra systems, which allow pure and applied scientists to perform hitherto impossible calculations. As the theory of symmetry has broad applications in the mathematical and physical sciences there is the potential for far reaching benefits. This project with help maintain a vibrant pure mathematical research community in Australia, by attracting PhD students and international visitors.

Prof Michael Giudici – Graph symmetry and simple groups

This project contributes to the mathematical study of graph symmetry. The main impact will be in areas of pure mathematics such as graph theory and group theory by obtaining new classifications and constructions that will lead to publications in high quality international journals. Mathematics is the universal language of science and progress in pure mathematics underpins many fundamental scientific advances. By training early career researchers and attracting PhD students and international visitors, this project will help maintain a thriving pure mathematics research community in Australia.

Prof Michael Tobar – Precision low energy experiments to search for new physics

Dark matter comprises the majority of the matter in the universe, and yet its composition remains a mystery. It is one of the greatest open questions in science today and this project will give experimental answers to long existing theoretical questions. The impact of discovering the nature of dark matter is difficult to overstate. New discoveries about the dark matter itself, as well as the spin-off technologies will impact society at almost every level. The knowledge gained will be of immense value educationally, and the precision tools created will be economically valuable through commercialization and stimulation of new research and development, and valuable to defence through applications in radar, communications and sensing.

Ocean Graduate School - Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems:

Dr Shiaohuey Chow – Solutions for rapid penetration into sand for offshore energy installations

Australia possesses the world’s largest wave energy resource with the potential to supply one third of domestic electricity and plans its first offshore wind farm. This project will help to unlock the potential of Australia's ocean based renewable energy resources through advanced understanding that will reduce foundation costs, which currently account for 25% of total development costs. The project addresses critical design issues related to rapidly penetrating offshore foundations in sand, targeting solutions that provide essential cost savings and risk reduction for the Australian and international offshore energy industry. The project will spur growth in the offshore wind and wave energy industry and assist Australia in creating jobs.

Dr Yinghui Tian –Lifting objects off the seabed

This project will contribute new solutions to predict the force required to lift objects off the seabed. This is required for (i) the safe and economic retrieval and decommissioning of Australia’s oil and gas infrastructure – an estimated $26 billion cost over the next 50 years, (ii) securing the lightweight foundations of wave energy converts and floating wind turbines in Australia’s nascent renewable energy industry, and (iii) as valuable reference for marine salvage operations. The ability for Australia’s engineers to predict lift procedures more accurately will contribute to safer operations in Australian waters and to the more economic harnessing of ocean resources.

Four EMS researchers received ARC grants for Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards. The ARC funding will allow our outstanding early career researchers to embark on new discoveries in fundamental mathematics, gravitational wave detection as well as generating outcomes that will improve design and safe operations in the oil and gas industry and emerging offshore renewable energy industry.

School of Engineering:

Hongyi Jiang – Transition to turbulence in the wake of a circular cylinder

This project will advance the physical understanding of flow evolution to turbulence. “Turbulence is the most important unsolved problem of classical physics”, said Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. Practically, the scenario of flow past a slender cylindrical structure has a wide range of applications in the fields of civil, hydraulic, electric transmission lines, mechanical, nuclear, offshore and wind engineering. The outcomes of this project will, for example, lead to an improved design and safe operations (against instability, resonance and fatigue) of the subsea transmission and communication cables used in the offshore oil and gas industry and the emerging offshore renewable energy industry.

School of Physics, Mathematics and Computing:

Anurag Bishnoi – Extremal combinatorics meets finite geometry

This proposal will focus on the area of discrete mathematics, which has been at the centre of some of the most exciting recent developments in mathematics and computer science. The outcome will be answers to important open problems in extremal combinatorics and finite geometry. Moreover, new methods will be developed which will have an interdisciplinary impact. This project will not only help in elevating Australia's reputation in this field of research but will also strengthen the collaboration between Australian and international mathematical communities.

Carl Blair - Advanced technologies for next generation gravitational wave detectors

This fellowship builds on four decades of experience building the world’s most sensitive length sensing instruments to develop technologies for the next generation of gravitational wave detectors. The project will investigate a novel scheme that uses signals present in the interferometers to directly control and stabilise the shapes of mirrors to atomic scale precision. This will improve sensitivity by improving control of the quantum state of light. It will also test a new technique called white light resonance, that has the revolutionary capability of increasing sensitivity over a broad frequency range. The project will help maintain Australia’s significant impact on the worldwide effort to harness Einstein’s gravitational waves.

Ocean Graduate School - Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems:

Dr Wenhua Zhao - Unlocking lab-to-field scaling in design for floating offshore structures

The first ever field data acquisition enables the closure of the design loop for floating offshore structures by solving the scaling issues from laboratory to full scale. The outputs from this project will reduce risks and improve operability of existing offshore structures, and lead to more efficient design for potential floating offshore projects. This will benefit the whole community of floating offshore structures and cement Australia’s place as a pioneer in offshore industry and emerging renewable energy sector.

Media references

Ben Robson (UWA Faculty of Engineering Mathematical Sciences) (+61 8) 6488 7501


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