Australian, US universities to collaborate on defence research

Four Australian universities have been selected to conduct joint research with US universities on priority defence projects under the US Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI).

Griffith University, University of New South Wales and University of Technology Sydney, will work with Duke University, the University of Oregon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on integrated quantum sensing and control for high fidelity qubit operations.

Sydney University and the University of New South Wales will partner with the University of Tennessee, Ohio State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute on a project in material sciences.

Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne, said this collaboration was thanks to the Next Generation Technologies Fund, and was the first time Defence had funded Australian universities to work with their US counterparts.

“As these universities were chosen from a pool of over 400 proposals, this is a great outcome, one which shows that Australian researchers are world class,” Minister Pyne said.

The Australian universities will each receive a grant of up to $1 million per year for three years to support their research in Australia.

While Australian universities could bid for MURI projects in the past, they were not eligible for grants from the US Department of Defense.

“The Government is investing $25 million in the Australian version of the MURI program, called AUSMURI, to facilitate joint research with the American universities,” Minister Pyne said.

Defence and the US Department of Defense have also selected the next topic eligible for funding under AUSMURI 2019 – Active perception and knowledge exploitation in navigation and spatial awareness.

“Research in this area will enhance the manoeuvrability of people and autonomous platforms in environments where traditional navigation systems are ineffective.

“The AUSMURI program enables Defence to access the best research expertise from Australia and the US to develop game-changing military capabilities.”

Advanced manufacturing solutions for the factories of the future

Professor Simon Ringer, who will lead the project from the University of Sydney welcomed the collaboration with US universities, noting that it could dramatically change the current notions of material science and additive manufacturing.

“Additive manufacturing is a major scientific and technological disruption – it will enable layer-by-layer printing of metal objects that are unique in geometric form, have gradients in their functional properties that can change over the nanoscale or the microscale, as need be, and which use a near-zero waste production process,” Professor Ringer said.

“The new materials science and engineering that we learn as we do this research will dramatically change the notion of design and manufacturing – this will have huge economic impacts and will be used in demanding industries including defence, space, aerospace and other transportation. Most importantly, we are pioneering the fundamentals here, and the application space is really up to our imaginations.”

Using this grant, Professor Ringer and his research team will study the new physical metallurgy challenges in additive manufacturing and explore the potential of new technologies. The world-leading electron microscopy and atom probe microscopy at Sydney will be pivotal to this work.

“Making materials and building devices via 3D printing takes us back to the periodic table – we’re exploring thermodynamic and kinetic ‘states’ that people have never previously been able to access,” Professor Ringer said.

“While we are  becoming familiar with 3D printing, machines that prototype parts and make simple devices are common-place, quite cheap and both fun and useful. But, what we are doing is the materials science that will enable the machines that make the machines.”