With $500,000 in new funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), Newcastle will build a super-sized greenhouse to accommodate giant plants for its biofuel research.
The project is one of four at the University of Newcastle to share in $1.4 million in funding from the latest round of grants under the ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme.
Leading the biofuel research project, Professor Chris Grof, said plants such as sorghum were critical for his research into alternative fuel sources however, at more than five metres tall, housing them was difficult.
“Sorghum is a model crop for biofuels. It is water efficient, and unlike other potential biofuel crops such as maize and wheat, it has limited use as a human food source,” Professor Grof said.
“Greenhouses provide the ideal climate to grow sorghum for our research. With the ARC funding, we will be able to build a six metre high facility that can accommodate the towering plants and position the team to advance its research into sustainable energy.”
The three additional projects to receive funding in the latest ARC Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment round were:
• Associate Professor Peter Lewis ($500,000) – for the purchase state-of-the-art equipment that will enable the establishment of a regional bipohysical analysis facility shared between the Universities of Newcastle, Wollongong and the University of Technology Sydney. This equipment will be used to analyse the interactions essential for cells to function and screen new drug leads for the development of compounds such as anti-cancer therapies and antibiotics.
• Dr Mark Baker ($250,000) – to purchase equipment that will extend the capabilities of Newcastle’s Advanced Mass Spectrometry Unit enabling greater electron-transfer dissociation and proton transfer reaction. The addition of this instrument will greatly enhance research in the areas of the etiology of disease states, reproductive health and plant growth.
• Professor Paul Dastoor ($180,000) - to fund a new facility providing the unique capability of mapping the interfacial structure and electronic properties of materials on the nanoscale; an essential tool for developing new materials and electronic devices based on nanotechnology.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Mike Calford, said the latest funding announcement brought Newcastle’s total to almost $17 million from the ARC in 2010.
“The University has had one of its most successful years for funding for research. Our combined ARC and National Health and Medical Research funding, together with industry support, cements Newcastle’s position on the frontline of Australia’s top research universities.”
For comment: Professor Mike Calford on 02 4921 5441. For interviews with the researchers please contact Megan Cunneen, Media and Public Relations, on 4921 5351 / 0448 369 871. A drawing of the greenhouse is also available.