Create Digital Research and News Items

WOBO thanks Create Digital for the links to both research and news items that may be referenced and applied on a global basis.


Skyscraper city: How Sydney’s engineers approach tall building design

Key points:

  • Sydney boasts the second largest number of skyscrapers in the country, but engineers face barriers to quickly and cheaply executing new projects.
  • The taller a building, the greater the structural load across aspects such as wind and gravity.
  • Plans for a two km-high skyscraper in Saudi Arabia would tower over all of Sydney’s, and indeed the world’s, structures.

Clusters of skyscrapers adorn Sydney’s skyline, from the city’s CBD across the North Shore to Parramatta in the east. But even as these structures act as a reminder of civil engineering prowess, engineers must work within set boundaries that dictate the look and nature of the end product.


This artificial reef technology mitigates coastal erosion

Watch how a Melbourne-based research lab has worked with the City of Greater Geelong to develop a multi-pronged solution to coastal erosion.

In 2018, researchers at the Reef Design Lab in Melbourne created living seawalls and artificial reefs to help native marine life keep up with the rapidly growing coastal populations.

Now, Reef Design Lab founder Alex Goad has collaborated with the City of Greater Geelong to create a new design that incorporates reusable formwork to maximise protective space for marine life while also reducing the material required.

The new product has also been designed to undulate in a way that retains water and reduces coastal erosion.


Novel ways to tackle PFAS contamination

As the world grapples with the extent and impact of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, engineers are coming up with novel ways to address the problem.

There are around 12,000 different compounds within the PFAS class that have been identified so far, with only three regulated in Australia.

According to recent international research led by the University of New South Wales, a significant portion of surface and groundwater worldwide surpasses international advisories and regulations for PFAS levels, making our global source water likely exceeding PFAS safe drinking limits.

As studies increasingly reveal the myriad potential impacts of PFAS exposure, including the delay of puberty in girls, decreased bone density in adolescents and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in women – a number of class action lawsuits are in the works.


The ecological impact of wind and solar power

Meeting Australia’s renewable energy target will require the biggest wind, solar and battery projects the country has ever seen. But will these mega-projects have an environmental impact of their own?

Forty. That’s how many wind turbines Australia needs to install every month until 2030, according to Energy Minister Chris Bowen, to meet the country’s emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030.

That’s on top of installing more than 22,000 solar panels every day – or 60 million by 2030.

But one of the big challenges of any large infrastructure project is its environmental impact. A recent report by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and the Clean Energy Investor Group found the average approval timeframe for a major solar project in NSW is 705 days.

For major wind projects, the timeframe blew out to 3488 days – or nine and a half years. How can engineers support the transition to renewables while limiting the impact on the local environment?


Could nervous system disorders soon be reversed?

Imagine if loss of function from brain injuries and central nervous system conditions could be restored through a simple alteration to existing medicines. This is what a multidisciplinary team of researchers is hoping to achieve.

The world’s population is ageing, contributing to an increase in prevalence and associated costs of central nervous system (CNS) disorders.

A significant proportion of the Australian population (around 20 per cent) is affected by a brain disease, injury or disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

AA Gal

Creating sulfur-free oil from tyre waste

Engineers at Monash University have developed a technique to upcycle plastic and old tyres to create a diesel alternative.

Combining fragments of the waste materials using a coffee grinder and then exposing them to intense heat in a process called rapid pyrolysis, the researchers were able to produce an oil without the polluting compounds that would usually result from recycled tyres.

“Scrap tyres are basically waste,” explained Professor Lian Zhang, who led the research. “People either dump it or burn it as a very cheap fuel, and it causes a lot of environmental problems.

“We are trying to turn the tyre … into a number of high-value products. By reacting it with plastic, we can make sulfur-free oil that could be used as a substitute for diesel.”


White oil: The dark side of raw lithium

Australia produces more than half of the world’s raw lithium, but each tonne costs 2.2 million litres of water to produce. In the world’s driest inhabited continent, sustainable extraction methods are vital.

As global demand for green energy storage and electric vehicles soars, questions have been raised about the responsible mining of lithium, the so-called “white oil” that is often thought of as the key to net zero.

That’s because lithium-ion batteries have the ability to store much more energy in the same amount of space than a conventional alkaline battery, making them ideal candidates for everything from smartphones to grid-level energy storage solutions.

The chemical composition of electric vehicle (EV) and non-EV batteries varies, but lithium is included in all formulas. Recent advances in lithium-ion batteries have been so transformational that the scientists behind them won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Global lithium production surpassed 100,000 t for the first time in 2021, quadrupling over the course of a decade.


Green cement for low-carbon construction

An engineer’s quest to improve the performance of sustainable building materials could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in construction.

Buildings, transportation and infrastructure from major cities contribute up to 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The manufacturing of traditional cement – or ordinary portland cement (OPC), the major ingredient in concrete – accounts for up to eight per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions alone.

In the race toward net zero, there’s an increased need to develop sustainable materials without stymieing progress.


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