UNSW tops ARC funding for investment in research infrastructure

More than $4.4 million has been awarded to six UNSW projects under the Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme.
Belinda Henwood | UNSW Newsroom

UNSW Sydney has received more funding than any other Australian university in the 2020 round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) funding and equals Monash University in the number of successful projects with six. 

Successful projects will see major state-of-the-art technologies installed at UNSW, ranging from a dynamic environmental scanning electron microscope facility, to next-generation solid state nuclear magnetic resonance analysis, and a cryogenic scanning microwave microscope. 

The LIEF scheme enables researchers to participate in cooperative initiatives so that expensive research infrastructure, equipment and facilities can be shared between higher education organisations and also with industry. 

In total, 47 projects around the country received $30.7 million to build new equipment or upgrade existing facilities to further Australia’s research capabilities. 

In the media release, Minister for Education Dan Tehan said: “The research done by our universities can lead to the development of new products and innovations that drive job growth, business opportunities and productivity gains. Our government is making a significant investment in Australia’s leading-edge research infrastructure.” 

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research at UNSW, congratulated the UNSW researchers. 

“LIEF is a strategically important scheme,” he said. “As well as supporting the substantial costs associated with research infrastructure, it fosters collaboration through the cooperative use of national and international facilities. The UNSW teams and their collaborators are to be congratulated on their 35% success rate, and the high proportion of seven-figure grants.” 

Professor Richard Tilley, from the School of Chemistry, will receive $1.2 million to establish an in situ environmental electron microscope facility to study real-time dynamic changes in nanomaterials. The facility will transform microscopy in Australia by imaging changes in materials which were previously unachievable. 

Scientia Professor Martina Stenzel, from the School of Chemistry, leads a team that will receive $1.1 million for next-generation solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This analytical instrument will enable cutting-edge research into medical devices, catalysis, energy storage and waste recovery. 

Scientia Professor Alexander Hamilton, from the School of Physics, was awarded $1.1 million for a cryogenic scanning microwave measurement facility. This will enhance Australia’s competitiveness in the development of next-generation electronic and quantum materials and devices. 

Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, from the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering, will receive $360,000 for a multiscale X-ray microscopy laboratory for time-lapse imaging. The project involves a close collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) by bringing Synchrotron (extremely powerful x-ray) technology to the laboratory. This will revolutionise imaging of evolving structures and physical properties in inorganic and organic materials used in mineral, energy, manufacturing, bioengineering, aerospace, automotive and other industries.     

Dr Charitha de Silva, from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, has been awarded $340,000 for a next generation facility to measure microfluidic flows not possible with current commercial flow diagnostic systems. This will enable study of fluid dynamics with unprecedented detail, including accurate observation of micro-organisms, biological activity, thermal collector systems and other mechanical phenomena at the micro-scale. 

Associate Professor Patrick Spicer, from the School of Chemical Engineering, will receive $320,000 for facilities to study high-speed, stretching, and other complex flows. This will expand research into fluids such as foods, adhesives, pharmaceuticals and blood.