Access to clean air and water, unpolluted food, and secure housing remain the major issues in the human landscape world wide. Increased population numbers and catastrophic natural events have greatly impacted on the earth’s oceans and atmospheres to the point where natural earth processes (air and water movements) do not allow the environment to recover to World Health Organisation human habitation standards. This research program seeks to understand the natural processes, to develop technologies to increase the resilience of the earth and to reduce risk to the human population.
The concept of decentralised, distributed microfacilities for improved air and water quality will be explored as both short term and long term options. Opportunities exist to link into the resources sector and the State Government priorities and to seek funds from non-NCG sources while building a track record.
The theme will bring together expertise in civil, mechanical, mechatronic, communications, electrical, environmental and electronic engineering. Importantly, to maximise research potential and impact, and will encourage major engagement in water and coastal engineering across the university, including collaborative interactions with the Smart Water Research Centre, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, the Australian Rivers Institute and the Centre for Coastal Management etc).
This theme is aligned with two of the research priorities of in the Queensland Science and Innovation Action Plan as “Ensuring sustainable water use and delivering quality/water security in a variable climate and in a resources-intensive economy.” The approach taken in this theme is to develop “Digitally-enabled technologies, e.g. the development and application of advanced modelling, visualisation, sensing and simulation technologies, tools and practices, including robotics.”
This research theme addresses the major global research question:
What are the best possible engineering solutions to the provision of clean air, water and food worldwide?
These questions will be addressed through fundamental and applied research and two specific research and development programs, with the option to create new programs as the theme develops.
Understanding and maintaining coastal systems
Griffith engineering is well known for its contributions to understanding some of the natural influences of coastal system. Through their expertise, many of the ocean/shore interactions have been understood, to the point where the design of coastal structures is heavily influenced by the coastal and geotechnical engineering competencies in the school. The consistent monitoring of coastal systems continues to present major challenges for many reasons.
- The very large areas to be studied and modelled including the macroscopic and microscopic requirements of the studies (microns to hundreds of kilometres). This presents challenges in both computer modelling and field based data acquisition.
- The difficulties associated with turbulent wind and wave interactions around complex structures.
- The challenges of creating robust structures and materials for sensing applications in extremely difficult physical and chemical environments.
This program focuses on developing innovative research tools for the rapid investigation of surface and subsurface environments using autonomous vehicles.
The acquisition, and or development, of one or more remotely controlled, unmanned vehicles will allow rapid mapping and sensing of the coastal regions. Any such vehicle needs the development of a wide variety of autonomous physical and chemical sensors, the support memory for the data, the radio communications links, the storage of data in the cloud and the development of highly complex computer models to match data acquired from the real situation.
Griffith engineers have expertise in robotics for the automated deployment of sensors, the sensor and encapsulation technologies required for this very harsh environment, the radio communications technologies and data storage for the transfer of information and the computer modelling expertise to interpret the data. The inclusion of a variety of energy harvesting systems for the longer-term deployment of sensors will require the expertise of electrical engineers and sustainable energy technologies. The pollution effects in soil, water and air require expertise in environmental engineering.
These field based technologies will be supported by wave tank experiments currently available in the engineering laboratories.
Following unusual events (whether artificial or natural), these technologies can be used to study the development of pollution plumes, the movement and survival of marine life, and the challenges associated with the prediction of the effects of such events.
Understanding and maintaining air quality
The threat of airborne biological agents which are harmful to humans is less well studied compared to pollution threats from the land and the sea. The remote collection of airborne data as early warning systems of biological threats is a major challenge given the problems associated with the turbulent flow around structures. The challenge of monitoring a three dimensional environment with sensing technologies without interference to the natural airflow will be addressed in this program. The presence of biological agents is exacerbated by high density living of animals (intensive farming) and humans. Dosimeters are required to assess the likelihood of infections outbreaks, but by definition, these objects require some time before appropriate warnings can be raised and/or aversive action is undertaken.
Griffith engineers have expertise in air monitoring systems for particulates and biological agents. The systems have been proved in a number of different environments with significant support from controlled tests in the laboratory. Mechanical engineers with expertise in fluid dynamics and air-conditioning models, chemical and electronics engineers with expertise in sensor developments, data logging radio networks, cloud based logging systems and air pollution expertise will all be required to develop these systems.
The consistent monitoring of air quality continues to present major challenges for many reasons.
- The very large areas to be studied and modelled including the macroscopic and microscopic requirements of the studies (microns to hundreds of metres). This presents challenges in both computer modelling and field based data acquisition.
- The difficulties associated with turbulent wind and interactions around complex structures.
- The challenges of creating robust materials for sensing applications in what are extremely difficult physical and chemical environments.
This program will focus on developing automated sensing technologies for the investigation of surface and subsurface environments using remotely controlled autonomous vehicles.
Water monitoring and prediction
With increasing population growth greater demands are being placed upon our limited water supply. Developing strategies to enhance the use of existing water, and to reuse wastewater is growing in importance. As such, the focus of this new program is to develop new strategies to improve water flow monitoring techniques in a range of environments, ranging supply reservoirs to smaller treatment systems, down to groundwater flows.
- Woodfield, P., Griffith School of Engineering Research Grant: “Engineering the Bright Carbon Nanodots for Solving the Grand Challenges in Water Research”.
- Agranovski, I. (CI). 2012-2015.”Development of a strategy for comprehensive protection of Australia against respiratory diseases by real time detection of airborne pathogenic microorganisms.” ARC Discovery.
- Agranovski, I. (CI) and Khromykh, A. (PI). 2010-2011.”Development of techniques for rapid detection of airborne pathogenic microorganisms.” Australian Prime Minister and Cabinet (National Security Science and Technology Unit).
- Agranovski, I. (CI). 2009. “Filter performance on control of physical aerosols.” French-Australia Science and Technology Program (FAST).
- Agranovski, I. (CI) and Khromykh, A. (PI). 2007-2009. “Development of strategies for early detection of respiratory microbial infections possibly imported to Australia by humans and animals.” ARC Discovery.