New QUT research catapults forward

28th July 2020

High-tech textiles, robotic water quality monitoring and using drones to fix solar panels are among the eight innovative research projects to receive funding totalling $326,000 as part of QUT’s Catapult 2020 program.

QUT’s Institute for Future Environments (IFE) introduced the Catapult research funding program in 2016 to help support short-term, higher risk research projects that deliver real-world outcomes.

IFE Director, Research Performance, Professor Margot Brereton, said the Catapult program supports interdisciplinary teams led by QUT early and mid-career researchers.

“This is about undertaking transformative discovery research and developing ideas that have potential to create new knowledge that will lead to adopted innovation by our end-user partners in industry and government,” Professor Brereton said.

The eight projects funded in 2020 include:

  • New high-performance textiles using synthetic biology – Researchers are working to develop textile technology that allows damaged fibres to be repaired, custom dyeing of textiles and for fabric bound with virus proteins that can be made into personal protective equipment. The research is supported by QUT’s Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy and Centre for a Waste-Free World, and will be led by Dr Laura Navone (Science and Engineering Faculty).
  • An enzyme-based technology for the breakdown of plastics waste towards recycling - This project aims to help address the global accumulation of plastic waste by providing an enzyme-based solution that degrades mixed plastics into intermediate products to create new materials and polymers. This research is supported by QUT’s Centre for a Waste-Free World and Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy, and will be led by Associate Professor Junior T’eo (Science and Engineering Faculty).
  • A study into digital inclusion and human factors of agtech adoption on Queensland farms - This research addresses a gap in knowledge between development of agricultural technologies (agtech) — including precision agriculture, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, drones and smart farming — and the successful uptake of such technologies in practice. This project will study three Queensland farms to better understand farmers’ inclinations to take up agtech.  This research is supported by the Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy and will be led by Associate Professor Carol Richards (QUT Business School) and Dr Amber Marshall (Creative Industries Faculty) in partnership with industry collaborator Data Farming.
  • Developing a model for investor activism to reduce waste in consumer goods - Researchers will investigate new pathways to incentivise development of a circular economy by examining the potential for social movement organisations to mobilise investors to demand the adoption of waste reduction strategies by major retailers (eg. product stewardship, takeback schemes). This project is aligned with QUT’s Centre for a Waste-Free World and will be led by Dr Erin O’Brien (Faculty of Law) with research partner University of Technology Sydney.
  • Implementation of a digital twin for a lab-scale solar power micro-grid – This project will develop a digital replica of the Redlands Research Station pilot-scale facility, allowing the use of real-time data and analytical dynamic models to optimise plant operation and production of hydrogen. This project is aligned with QUT’s Centre for Clean Energy Technologies and Practices and will be led by Dr Saman Gorji (Science and Engineering Faculty).
  • Real-time in-situ water quality monitoring and compositional analysis using autonomous vessels - Real-time data on water resources is essential to inform decision-making on best practices for sustainable management. This project aims to enhance a prototype for an autonomous in-situ and real-time water quality monitoring and analysis system into a platform technology that can be tailored to support multiple environmental monitoring programs. This project will be led by Dr Sara Couperthwaite (Science and Engineering Faculty) and is supported by the QUT Centre for the Environment and the QUT Centre for Robotics.
  • “How can it be greener on the other side of Buffel grass?” - Buffel grass is known as both friend and foe: agriculturalists support its propagation to provide suitable cattle feed, while environmentalists are against the use of the introduced invasive grass due to its impact on native flora and fauna. Researchers will work with the Rockhampton community to reimagine a future that doesn’t rely on grazing cattle on Buffel grass and the co-creation of a better environment. This project is aligned to the QUT Centre for the Environment and will be led by Associate Professor Peter Westoby (Faculty of Health) and Dr Deanna Borland-Sentinella.
  • Advanced luminescence imaging techniques for solar cells (ALIS) - With photovoltaic solar cells a fast-growing renewable energy technology worldwide, this project aims to support the identification of faulty panels and enable their recycling to maintain energy yield and reduce e-waste. This research will develop and experimentally verify an electroluminescence imaging technique that is suitable for drone-based daylight field inspection of photovoltaic installations, enabling fast, cost-effective and high-sensitivity fault detection. This project will be led by Associate Professor Dezso Sera (Science and Engineering Faculty) under the QUT Centre for Clean Energy Technologies and Practices.

QUT acknowledges the Selby and Hancock Endowments for providing funds to support the Catapult program.

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