Academia & Research
Outstanding entries in this category included food packaging, airport pavements and biomaterials.
Professor Fariba Dehghani
Advanced Active Food Packaging Professor, University of Sydney
PhD (ChemEng), University of NSW
Director of ARC Food Processing Training Centre

Advanced active food packaging is a ‘greener’ approach to food packaging that prolongs the shelf life of foods by offering lower oxygen and water-vapour permeability than other polymers (plastics) currently used.

The existing biodegradable plastic, polypropylene carbonate has properties favourable for use in food packaging, but contains metallic catalysts.

Extracting these impurities results in a ‘greener’ plastic for food packaging and with the additional coating of the surface with a natural extract, creates antibacterial qualities.

Prof Fariba Dehghani is the inventor of the technology and project leader of its development.

Dr Vahid Vakiloroaya
IP Hybrid Air Conditioning Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Western Sydney University
PhD (Mech), Western Sydney University

Conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems rely heavily on energy generated from fossil fuels. Together with a growing demand for cost-effective infrastructure and appliances, this has necessitated new installations and major retrofits in occupied buildings to achieve energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

HVAC system usage is also having a serious impact on electrical infrastructure and the development of clean units remains an urgent engineering challenge. Dr Vahid Vakiloroaya has developed and patented a new air conditioning system targeting energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in buildings.

It can decrease the energy usage of an air-cooled air conditioning system by using the condensate water which otherwise might be wasted. This water is first used to precool the ambient air passing the condenser then to reduce the refrigerant temperature leaving the compressor. The product can diminish the electricity usage of air conditioning systems by 30% to 40% compared with conventional systems.

“It can decrease the energy usage of an air-cooled air conditioning system by using the condensate water.”

Dr Greg White
Airport pavement modernisation Technical Manager Airports, Fulton Hogan
PhD, University of Sunshine Coast

Airport pavement expert Dr Greg White says, following the sale of airports to private operators in the 1990s, engineering practice stagnated and there was a significant reduction in expertise within the industry.

He has come up with a program of development and implementation for the modernisation of airport pavement engineering to overcome challenges faced by Australian airports, such as changes in bitumen and the introduction of more demanding aircraft.

“There was  a significant reduction in expertise within the industry.”

Program innovations include modifications to the international aircraft pavement strength rating system, development on test methods for asphalt bond assessment, development of products for airport asphalt production and maintenance, assessing and recommending new tests for bitumen performance, as well as the use and validation of warm mix asphalt and foamed bitumen stabilisation for airport pavement.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla
Smart Recycling Director, Centre for Sustainable Materials and Research Technology
PhD (Mat Sc & Eng), University of Michigan (USA)

Professor Veena Sahajwalla has been focusing on turning waste glass and plastic from cars into value-added material. She says that by “mining” rubbish dumps and landfills, you can access “ores” of various materials more concentrated than in greenfield mine sites.

Traditionally, they have been difficult to recycle because the materials are mixed with other materials and require separation. However, Sahajwalla’s innovation is using high temperatures (over 1500 degrees Celsius) that trigger reactions which create new products by releasing the materials’ elements from their original structures, enabling them to reform.

Professor Salah Sukkarieh
RIPPA and VIIPA Director of Research and Innovation, Australian
Centre for Field Robotics. PhD (Robotics and
Intelligent Systems), University of Sydney

RIPPA (Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application) is a solar-powered, battery-operated robotic ground vehicle capable of large-scale autonomous collection of data for the agricultural industry.

VIIPA (Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator) is mounted to RIPPA and is an intelligent dispensing system that can detect individual crops or weeds using machine vision technology, and accurately apply fertiliser or herbicide.

Prof Salah Sukkarieh provided overall strategic vision, guidance of R&D of the mechatronic and algorithmic systems, and promotion of the technology.

Dr Ali Fathi
Trimph Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Sydney – Chemical
and Biomedical Engineering
PhD (Chem/Biomed Eng), University of Sydney

Trimph (Temperature-Responsive Modifiable Peptide Hydrogel) is an injectable biomaterial capable of aiding the regeneration of damaged body tissues such as cartilage, spinal cord and bones. It reduces the need for (and risks of) open surgery.

At room temperature, Trimph is a liquid that is able to be injected into a desired location. When it heats to body temperature, it forms an elastic gel that adheres to the site without the need for physical containment. There it provides a scaffold that promotes the regeneration of damaged tissue. It gradually breaks down into non-toxic components.

“It provides a scaffold that promotes the natural repair and regeneration of damaged tissue.”

Dr Ali Fathi developed the technology on which Trimph is based during his PhD candidacy. He then commercialised Trimph, raising capital and establishing a TGA-compliant production facility in Sydney during his studies.