Nine ways our researchers are breaking new ground in science and tech

Nine ways our researchers are breaking new ground in science and tech

From space suits to smart patches, pioneering advances in science and technology by RMIT researchers reveal the power of collaboration and imagination.

As we celebrate National Science Week, we’re recognizing how our researchers are making an impact.

Here's just a taste of their amazing work.

World's fastest internet

Our researchers recorded the world's fastest internet speed using a single optical chip.

They reached download speeds of 44.2 Terabits per second – fast enough to downlaod 1000 HD movies in a split second.

The test used a fingernail-sized chip device, known as an optical micro-comb, on fibres similar to those in the NBN.

The ground-breaking results could fast-track Australia's telecommunications capacity and that of countries also struggling with demand on internet infastructure.

Next gen spacesuits

We're working with NASA and the European Space Agency to create the next generation of space suits.

Space travel takes a huge toll on the human body, with astronauts losing up to 2% of their bone mass every month while in space.

It's been likened to an extreme version of osteoporosis.

The new skinsuits will help reduce the health side effects of weightlessness by imposing earth-like longitudinal loading on the torso and lower body.

Smart patch for nutrition

We're collaborating to develop a world-first personalised nutrition wearable, that tells you how food affects your body.

The smart patch, to be designed and manufactured in Australia, delivers precision data to an app that helps people personalise their diets and reduce their risk of developing disease such as Type 2 diabetes.

Professor Sharath Sriram, Research Co-Director of RMIT's Functional and Microsystems Research Group, says the smart patch combines a complex sensing platform and stretchable electronic for improved conformity to skin.

"Current wearable technologies can track your heart rate and steps, but they can't monitor your health at a molecular level," Sriram says.

"This new technology goes deeper, targetting the precise biomarkers that drive lifestyle-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes."

A proof-of-concept Nutromics smart patch. A proof-of-concept Nutromics smart patch.

Shredding bacteria with liquid metals

Antibiotic resistance causes at least 700,000 deaths per year.

Our scientists have used precision-engineered liquid metals to develop new bacteria-destroying technology, which could be the answer to this deadly problem.

The technology uses nano-sized particles of magnetic liquid metal to shred bacteria and bacterial biofilm – the protective "house" that bacteria thrive in – without harming good cells.

Dr Aaron Elbourne, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Nanobiotechnology Laboratory at RMIT, says that with further development, this technology could be the way to help make antibiotic resistance history.

(L-R) PhD researcher Sheeana Gangadoo, Dr James Chapman, Dr Aaron Elbourne and Dr Vi Khanh Truong. The research team developing bacteria-destroying technology. (L-R) PhD researcher Sheeana Gangadoo, Dr James Chapman, Dr Aaron Elbourne and Dr Vi Khanh Truong.

Sleep apnea treatment

Our scientists have patented a world-first therapy that could treat sleep apnoea.

The technology uses muscle toning as a therapeutic alternative, offering hope to the estimated 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Currently, sufferers rely on cumbersome airway pressure machines known as CPAPs to help manage the disease.

RMIT School of Science Biotechnologist Professor Peter Smooker has been working on the new therapeutic for more than 15 years.

The next stage is clinical trials, with the aim of bringing this patented tech to market.

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Better weather predictions

A collaboration between RMIT, Geoscience Australia and Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) harness the growing network of GPS receivers to provide more accurate, real time weather forecasts.

They're using GPS signals to measure air moisture for better weather predictions.

GPS signals can be slightly delayed on their journey from satellites to Earth by moisture in the troposphere.

Measuring this delay helps to accurately calculate air moisture and likely rainfall.

The technique is now part of BoM's weather forecast models.

Tracking litter in waterways

In a Victorian-first citizen science project, GPS-tracked bottles were released in suburban waterways around Melbourne to reveal precisely how litter makes its way from our streets to our beaches.

A staggering 95% of the litter on Port Phillip Bay beaches comes from suburban streets, with about 350,000 cigarette butts washing into the bay every year.

Our scientists worked with schools and community groups to deploy 100 GPS-tracked bottles in 20 locations across Melbourne’s catchments.

The collaborative project between RMIT and Melbourne Water was supported by the Victorian Government. 

Melbourne Water’s Litter and Waterwatch Coordinator Naomi Dart, citizen scientist and Bentleigh West Primary School student Sophie Littlefair and RMIT’s Dr Kavitha Chinathamby launching GPS-tracked bottles into Dandenong Creek. Melbourne Water’s Litter and Waterwatch Coordinator Naomi Dart, citizen scientist and Bentleigh West Primary School student Sophie Littlefair and RMIT’s Dr Kavitha Chinathamby launching GPS-tracked bottles into Dandenong Creek.

Screening tech for Parkinson's disease

Screening technology to detect Parkinson's disease in its earliest stages is being developed by RMIT researchers and start-up company Jesse Medical.

The technology analyses drawing and writing tasks to catch the disease before obvious symptoms.

Many treatment options for Parkinson's are only effective when the condition is caught early, but by the time patients show any commonly recognisable symptoms, many nerve cells in the brain have already suffered irreversible damage.

The new tool can also be used to monitor Parkinson's patients after diagnosis, to better manage their condition.

Analytics for aged care

Researchers are developing predictive analytics software to monitor aged care residents for signs of deteriorating health, to reduce emergency hospitalisations and allow more time for end of life plans.

It is an important collaboration between RMIT, Telstra Health and The Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre.

The project would significantly reduce stress for residents and families, along with easing demand on hospitals.

Sarah Evans (Telstra Health) with Michael Donnelly (Telstra Health), Professor Lawrence Cavedon (RMIT), Larissa Briedis (Telstra Health) and Professor Irene Hudson (RMIT). Collaboration in action: Sarah Evans (Telstra Health) with Michael Donnelly (Telstra Health), Professor Lawrence Cavedon (RMIT), Larissa Briedis (Telstra Health) and Professor Irene Hudson (RMIT).

Story: Caleb Scanlon and Gosia Kaszubska

Video: Bronja Everaardt

17 August 2020

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17 August 2020

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