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Our fab five

14 July 2016
Five University of Sydney researchers have been named among Australia’s most innovative engineers

Their research projects - ranging from a mid-air refuelling system, a ‘greener’ approach to food packaging, an injectable biomaterial for tissue regeneration,  an agricultural robotic device that can weed,  and a hardhat that measures health -  secured the quintet a position in Engineers Australia’s inaugural top 50 innovators list which recognises  outstanding engineers for their contributions to the community, the industry, and the profession.

We are delighted to have our researchers recognised in this list of the most innovative engineers in Australia. They are tackling complex problems in creative ways and inspiring others to bring new ideas to life.
Professor Duncan Ivison Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Daniel Wilson, a 2015 PhD graduate of the University of Sydney’s School of Aeronautical, Mechanical and Mechatronic engineering, created a world-first system, beating similar attempts conducted by US Navy researchers to design autonomous refuelling capability for drones. His system comprises a set of guidance, navigation and control algorithms, along with an infrared camera system, GPS and inertial sensors.

“Combined, they enable accurate and reliable relative positioning for autonomous airborne drone refuelling. Aircraft used in search and rescue missions, for example, could now remain airborne indefinitely as they would no longer be limited by the amount of fuel they can store on board,” said Daniel.

Dr Ali Fathi (PhD) a postdoctoral research associate,  at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, is the inventor of Trimph (Temperature-Responsive Injectable Modifiable Peptide Hydrogel), a revolutionary injectable biomaterial capable of aiding regeneration of damaged hard and soft body tissues such as cartilage, spinal cord and bones. Created as part of his PhD research at the University, Trimph is now an established start-up company.

“The injectable gel can also be used to stabilise dental implants. It reduces the need for open surgery. At room temperature, it can 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,” said Dr Fathi.

Professor Fariba Dehghani, who is the ARC Food Processing Training Centre director at the University has been recognised for her work on new environmental friendly packaging that prolongs the shelf life of foods.

The professor said: “Most food packaging today uses non-degradable polymers such as polyethylene. The existing biodegradable plastic, poly (propylene carbonate) (PPC) contains metallic catalysts, which is a major obstacle to composting. But we have been extracting these impurities resulting in a “greener” and more efficient method, and with the additional coating of the surface with a natural extract, creates antibacterial qualities.

Professor Andrew Harris, Laboratory for Sustainable Technology director in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was recognised for his leadership of the Laing O’Rourke’s centre of excellence in strategic innovation.

The centre is a specialised innovation lab designed to promote positive change in the construction industry and so far has invented, commercialised and deployed innovations in virtual and augmented reality, construction-scale 3D printing, and intelligent infrastructure.

“One of the team’s inventions is a hardhat that measures your health in real time” said Professor Harris.

Professor Salah Sukkarieh from the University’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics has created RIPPA™ (Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application) and VIIPA™ (Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator). Farmers no longer need to manually weed their farms thanks to the robot’s intelligence software that allows it to distinguish between crops and weeds.

“The innovation will dramatically improve land and labour productivity, allowing farmers to minimise labour costs and chemical inputs while maximising crop yield and quality, as well as improving information quality for better decision making, ” stated Professor Sukkarieh.

Congratulating the five Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) said:

"We are delighted to have our researchers recognised in this list of the most innovative engineers in Australia. They are tackling complex problems in creative ways and inspiring others to bring new ideas to life. The University of Sydney has a proud tradition on innovation in engineering and it continues today."