UNSW researchers have been awarded $3.19 million across six projects in the latest round of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Linkage Project Grants.

The teams – led by researchers from UNSW Engineering and Science faculties – were awarded funds for innovative projects including understanding the impact of missing family on forcibly displaced people settled in Australia, the development of solar powered building steel, and research to improve mine safety.

ARC Chief Executive Officer, Professor Sue Thomas, welcomed Thursday’s announcement by federal Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge of 67 new research projects totalling $31.7 million through this round of the ARC’s Linkage Projects scheme.

Collaboration for quality research and development was fundamental to transforming industries, building communities and strengthening the Australian economy, Prof. Thomas said.

“The Linkage Projects scheme is about encouraging collaboration between researchers, industries and communities to find solutions to real, everyday challenges and issues,” she said.

“It's about bringing together the scientists in our research institutions with those who can apply the outcomes of research to create meaningful outcomes that benefit the Australian community.”

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW, congratulated the University’s researchers on their success. “These six are major awards, with a total cash and in-kind investment across the partners of over $11 million,” Prof. Fisk said.

In noting this was the final round of the 2020 Linkage grants, Prof. Fisk highlighted UNSW’s performance overall in securing the second largest haul of grants by number and dollars.

“We are most proud of the ability of our academics across both STEM and HASS to partner with a range of business, industry and community organisations to deliver future-thinking solutions to big picture problems,” he said.

Dr Belinda Liddell from the School of Psychology at UNSW Science will receive $837,040 to investigate the psychological and social effects of having missing family on forcibly displaced people settled in Australia. The project enlists a longitudinal mixed-method approach to compare those with missing family to those whose connections have been restored on key outcomes and coping strategies. It’s hoped the project will enhance the ability of Australian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross to understand and support the needs of families of the missing. It would provide significant practice and policy benefits for Red Cross humanitarian work in restoring family links in Australia and worldwide.

Associate Professor Xiaojing Hao from the School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) at UNSW Engineering will receive $589,137 to develop a long-life, stable, high-performing and green chalcopyrite solar powered building steel. It’s expected the steel will be a truly green building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) product for building deployment. The project will help accelerate the transition to the zero-emission building and establish Australia's excellence in green steel for BIPV.

Associate Professor Ziv Hameiri from SPREE will receive $530,000 to develop an Australian-made inspection system for next-generation solar cells. The system will allow for fast measurements of large-size tandem solar cells for the first time. It will also help determine key parameters that can’t be measured by current methods. The system’s capability is expected to generate new knowledge in the areas of perovskite and tandem solar cells. The project will improve the quality of advanced solar cells and also enhance Australia’s capabilities in building sophisticated characterisation instruments. This would lead to cheaper solar energy and the development of a local inspection industry.

Dr Michael Nielsen from SPREE will receive $417,398 to develop nonlinear optical metrology of electronic interfaces for silicon devices in partnership with Femtometrix. The quality of these silicon-dielectric interfaces, which are affected by trapped charges and defects, are critical for microelectronic and optoelectronic device manufacturing. It’s hoped the project will improve a technology which could be useful for the development of new photovoltaic materials, as well as the conventional electronics interface dielectrics used in the electronics industry.

Dr Guangyao Si from the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering at UNSW Engineering will receive $298,389 to enhance mining safety by maximising gas capture during coal extraction. Coal mine methane is a serious mining hazard and creates greenhouse gas emissions. In this project, gas explosion and spontaneous combustion risks associated with intensive gas drainage will be quantitively assessed and eliminated to help mine managers with decision making, design optimisation and mitigation planning. It’s hoped the research will help the mining industry maintain production commitments in a safe workplace, while also addressing environmental concerns by capturing the fugitive emissions to be converted into a useful energy resource.

Professor Jinhong Yuan from the School of Electrical Engineering & Telecommunications at UNSW Engineering will receive $521,662 to develop innovative solutions for wireless communications to meet future data rate requirements, at a sustainable cost. It’s expected the project will help significantly improve users' data rates with low system complexity and reduced signalling overhead for future wireless communications.

The ARC Linkage Project scheme brings together higher education and industry to conduct research into pressing issues affecting Australians.

Read more about round three of ARC Linkage Projects 2020.