Australian Innovation Includes Mealworm Snack Packs, Mouth Robots and Drone Weeding
“We have agreements with larger food manufacturers at this time for our bulk ingredients and we have had a very good response from retail,” says founder Skye Blackburn, food scientist and edible insect evangelist. “In our new facilities we will be able to use all the technology that we have been developing for the last 14 years, including the application of artificial intelligence alongside food, cleaning and monitoring.”
According to CSIRO, the global edible insect market is expected to grow to $ 1.4 billion by 2023. “Currently more than 2,100 species of insects are eaten,” their report says, noting that there are 14 Australian insect-based businesses. While the industry’s growth is limited by “the current state of consumer attitudes,” Blackburn believes that will change as people realize that dried crickets are 68% protein and packed with protein. essential micronutrients. “Everything your body needs in one small package.”
Power to the people
Get ready for “insanely cheap” energy as the price of renewables falls, says Martin Green, professor at the University of New South Wales, inventor of the PERC solar cell used in about 85 percent of global production of solar modules.
“Last year, the International Energy Agency said that solar power now provides the cheapest electricity ever, and the cost keeps going down,” says Green. “Australia has more solar power on rooftops than any other country, even without population normalization, and the average size of the systems is increasing.”
Green is director of the Australian Center for Advanced Photovoltaic Power, where the next generation of “solar power” is being developed. It says that more powerful home systems will charge electric cars and vice versa, and that those cars will provide a home power “bank” when needed. But he does not see that each house is autonomous and off the grid.
“Storage is done more economically at a central level,” he says. Green believes that the revolution will happen “because of the economy” and will raise the standard of living around the world. “Solar energy is the most viable way to provide a reliable electricity supply to the two billion people in the world who do not yet have access to it.”
Robots and cobots
Drones and other robots, or “cobots,” to use the term for those designed to collaborate or interact with humans, will play an increasingly important role in our future. Imagine rescue work on a collapsed building with the help of specially designed drones or “electronic lizards” capable of scaling steep walls and sliding through small openings to detect survivors. The latter are currently being developed at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Or robots like the AI-controlled drone developed by Israel’s Tevel Aerobotics Technology that can identify ripe fruits and collect them 24 hours a day.
New Zealand’s AgResearch led a three-year study in drone-based weeding, with the aim of identifying unwanted plants based on their unique chemical signatures and how they reflect light, and accurately mapping their locations using GPS. Program leader Dr. Kioumars Ghamkhar has said the drone could destroy weeds with lasers.
Commercial applications of this so-called “map and zap research” are still being investigated, with more of them to be revealed this year.
Advance of materials
Graphene experts say that this one-atom-thick material is 200 times stronger than steel, harder than diamond, and has extraordinary electrical conductivity. Craig Nicol, president of the Australian Graphene Industry Association, is convinced that it will change the world like silicon did with the advent of the silicon microchip that powers mobile phones and computers. We are likely to see graphene used in electronics, filtration, ultra-sensitive sensors, lubrication, and all kinds of materials.
Nicol is also the founder and CEO of GMG, which produces coatings that use the heat transfer properties of graphene to make air conditioners run more efficiently. The Brisbane-based company is also working with the University of Queensland to bring energy-dense graphene aluminum-ion batteries to market, which they hope will one day power everything from watches to phones, and eventually cars and airplanes, to the market. at the same time that they support the energy. grids. Nicol plans to introduce a prototype clock camera “coin cell” by the end of this year and on a phone in 2022. He believes we will eventually see phones that charge in less than a minute and work for three days. Others, including Samsung, are also working with graphene batteries, so the race is on.
what goes around comes around
The circular economy is on its way and, according to KPMG, will add more than $ 200 billion and 17,000 full-time jobs to the Australian economy by 2047-48. And there is no bigger and smarter proponent of the mantra “it’s not a waste, it’s a resource” than Professor Veena Sahajwalla of the University of New South Wales, a pioneer of micro-recycling who creates, as she puts it, “a completely very sophisticated product recycling solutions that did not really exist before ”.
Well beyond converting aluminum cans into more aluminum cans, the future will involve converting raw “waste resources” like car tires and beer bottles into high-value products like eco-friendly steel and home furnishings. . Sahajwalla says that the micro-factories (buildings with a handful of staff) that his team has designed, with the support of the Research Council of Australia, use a variety of proprietary techniques, such as thermal insulation, to “take apart” complex structures.
Thus, they can extract manganese and zinc from depleted batteries and create 3D printer filaments from mixed plastic structures, such as old laser printers. Even more impressive, they can transform fabric into ceramic tile. “A soft material is now becoming part of a hard and durable green ceramic,” says Sahajwalla. “You are combining that with waste glass and heat… to create this integrated structure. That is what we do in our micro factories ”.
Even more remote work
Canberra-based Entradaid is working on a robot in the mouth that could allow the city’s dentists to “visit” remote communities. Co-founder and CEO Omar Zuaiter says the robot uses laser heads, micro cameras and other controllers to eliminate the need for drills and needles. “They look at the tooth, analyze it and remove the decayed materials. The laser is really good at that. “Zuaiter says that as the communications infrastructure improves, the system will be able to go further in distant areas. A commercial launch is expected in 2024.
Imagine a machine that could, in near real time, complete calculations that would take thousands of years on the fastest iMac. Commercial versions could be available this decade, with Sydney-based Silicon Quantum Computing more advanced than most.
Founding Director of Silicon Michelle simmons says quantum computers will work by harnessing the power of quantum physics and will initially likely solve complex corporate, government and defense problems such as logistics, financial analysis, software optimization, machine learning and bioinformatics, including early detection and prevention of disease.
Although few of us will be using a quantum computer anytime soon (you need a controlled environment to begin with), the indirect results will be profound. “Radically improved molecular models will mean faster processes in the development of new and better drugs,” says Simmons. “If you think classical computing has transformed the world, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
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