The Australian Research Council (ARC) has awarded nine grants to UNSW Sydney researchers totalling more than $3 million in Linkage Projects. In the latest round of 2022 funding, the ARC awarded more than $28 million to 57 research grants.

The funding will support UNSW research projects ranging from the viability of hydrogen exploration and retrieval in Australia to monitoring the integrity of steering systems for autonomous vehicles.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research & Enterprise, congratulated the lead researchers and their teams on receiving these highly competitive grants and on the University’s 45 per cent success rate.

“With nine ARC Linkage grants this round, UNSW is once more at the forefront of innovative research partnerships with industry and community organisations. It’s great to see UNSW topping the country again, both for number of awards, and for the scale – nearly $10 million – of government and partner investment.

“What stands out here is the breadth of challenges addressed, everything from a smartphone rip-detection and education tool for beach safety, to securing sovereign supply chains of next-generation alloy ammunition cartridges,” Prof. Fisk said.

Read more: UNSW Sydney awarded more than $2.8m for ARC Linkage Projects

Scientia Professor David Waite in UNSW Engineering has been awarded $612,689 for a project aiming to elucidate factors responsible for natural hydrogen generation in Australian subsurface environments. Based on improved understanding of the source of natural hydrogen, predictive tools will be developed to assist in assessing the viability in Australia of hydrogen exploration and engineered retrieval. Benefits include ready access to naturally produced hydrogen which could enable Australia to replace hydrogen currently generated via the use of unabated hydrocarbons.

Associate Professor Pramod Koshy in UNSW Engineering has been awarded $508,018 for a project that targets the room-temperature fabrication of binary and ternary oxide cathodes by a single-step, high-yield, cost-effective technique, and their integration into Na-ion batteries with minimal and no processing. Outcomes from this device fabrication anticipate significant commercial, social and environmental benefits due to the advancement of the battery industry and associated job creation.

Professor Cameron Holley in UNSW Law & Justice has been granted $423,753 for ‘Non-urban water regulation: next generation compliance and enforcement’. Prof. Holley’s project delivers new ways to optimise regulatory technologies that drive innovation, reduce costs and enhance sustainable water use. Expected outcomes include regulatory guidance strategies and training, advances in applied regulatory theory, and innovative technology tools capturing the complexity of water regulation and supporting decision-making.

Associate Professor Pietro Borghesani in UNSW Engineering has been awarded $406,838 for ‘Condition monitoring of steering systems for autonomous vehicles’. The project aims to develop a new condition monitoring system able to diagnose steering faults earlier, provide a root-cause-analysis of malfunctions and estimate associated failure risks in the future. The expected benefits for the automotive industry and end-users include increased safety and reliability of steering systems, and higher confidence in autonomous driving.

Dr Mitchell Harley in UNSW Engineering has been awarded $342,924 for a project that aims to develop a smartphone rip-detection tool and online education game to help reduce the number of Australians drowning in rips each year. The project expects to develop an optimised deep learning algorithm to detect rips from smartphone video taken at Australian beaches, which can then be used by Surf Life Saving Australia for training and education. Expected outcomes of the project are enhanced identification and literacy of rip currents, particularly among priority high-risk demographics like young males, culturally and linguistic diverse (CALD) communities and rural visitors. It should provide significant benefits in reducing rip-current drowning and rescue incidents in Australia, particularly at unpatrolled beaches.

Professor Adriana Verges in UNSW Science has been awarded $288,257 for ‘Restoring and future-proofing the biocultural values of endangered seagrasses’. This project aims to develop best-practice methods for the biocultural restoration of the endangered seagrass Posidonia australis. This highly productive species supports fisheries and biodiversity, and plays a key role in mitigating climate change. The project will generate valuable new genetic information to guide restoration strategies including climate-adjusted genotypes. Working with Indigenous groups, the team aims to document and restore cultural values associated with Posidonia. Working with industrial designers, they seek to develop cost-effective techniques to scale-up seagrass restoration.

Dr Kevin Laws in UNSW Science has been granted $269,309 for a project that aims to address a major shortfall in Australia’s ammunition supply chain and security by providing alloy solutions that enable the bypassing of the energy-intensive ammunition production steps currently imported from foreign nations as semi-finished products. By using a range of innovative new alloy design approaches that fundamentally address alloy strength, workability and castability, this project expects to provide higher performance cartridge alloys amenable to modern economic production technologies available within Australia simply not possible with existing cartridge brass. This will provide a flexible, cost-competitive and secure sovereign ammunition supply chain while simultaneously improving ammunition performance.

Dr Jin Zhang in UNSW Engineering has been awarded $262,168 for a project that aims to develop lightweight and reliable high-efficiency photovoltaic modules that expand solar energy installations onto low-load capacity building roofs. New lightweight materials will be developed for packaging with multi-functionalities such as fast heat dissipation. Dr Zhang’s project will produce economical prototypes and enable and facilitate cost reduction of crystalline silicon photovoltaic module installations on lightweight buildings, overcoming current constraints of heavy glass modules and making more solar energy exploited in both Australia’s urban and rural areas.

Associate Professor Mohsen Kalantari in UNSW Engineering has been granted $173,220 for ‘Reconstructing land tenure maps of Australia in 3D’. A/Prof. Kalantari’s project aims to develop a data validation framework for transforming current drawings and reconstructing them into 3D models. The outcomes include validation principles, formal mathematical terms and computational algorithms. Benefits include a cost-effective onshore alternative to offshore 3D reconstruction practices, efficient land development and infrastructure planning, and fewer property disputes.

Read more about this round of ARC Linkage Projects.