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Campus News : March 2010
Breast Cancer Foundation funds bra study To coincide with World Cancer Day on 4 February the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) announced 25 new research projects worth $9.2 million -- including a world-first study at the University of Wollongong. The UOW study aims to improve the lives of women living with breast cancer by developing better bras. The study is being led by Professor Julie Steele, who is School of Health Sciences Head and Biomechanics Research Laboratory Director. Centre for Health Initiatives Director Professor Sandra Jones is another Chief Investigator on the project. Exercise is important in breast cancer risk reduction and recovery, but research shows that bra discomfort is a barrier to exercise among breast cancer sufferers. Professor Steele and her research FOCUS ON RESEARCH team have been awarded $260,000 for two years to work in partnership with members of Breast Cancer Network Australia on the study called Better bras for women living with breast cancer. Professor Steele said the study was the first of its kind in Australia and has the potential to benefit women all around the world. As part of the study, Professor Steele's team will conduct an Australia-wide online survey to identify the bra design features that cause discomfort for women with breast cancer when they exercise. The team will then systematically investigate new innovative bra design concepts, using comprehensive laboratory-based biomechanical assessment techniques. The primary outcome of this project is to make design recommendations for comfortable bras that can empower all women living with a diagnosis of breast cancer to exercise in comfort and, in turn, enjoy the health benefits associated with an active lifestyle. Professor Steele's grant is one of six being funded or co-funded by the NBCF with Cancer Australia. NBCF Head of Research Strategy Sue Carrick said breast cancer remains a global health crisis which requires an urgent increase in research to alleviate the impact of the disease on women and their families. BG University of Wollongong scientists at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) are involved in the development of a process using sunlight that makes a giant leap forward in the cheap and efficient production of hydrogen. The research promises a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by reducing CO2 from fossil fuel use. The process would also have huge commercial benefits as a renewable and low cost fuel option. UOW has been granted patent status in Australia and has received a Notice of Entitlement from the US Patent Office in relation to novel hydrogen production (titled Novel catalysts and processes for their preparation), which can be packaged with complementary intellectual property to develop efficient water splitting technology. The team behind the research is IPRI Director Professor Gordon Wallace, Dr Jun Chen, Dr Chee Too and Professor Gerry Swiegers* who has recently joined the University. The core technology comprises separate but complementary innovations developed via collaborations between UOW, CSIRO, Princeton University in the US and Monash University in Victoria. Professor Wallace said these innovations can now be packaged together to provide an efficient method of splitting water into its component parts using only sunlight. Broadly, the technologies involve the use of novel catalytic processes that enhance the efficient production of certain molecules of interest through assisted (i.e. catalysed) chemical reactions. Professor Wallace said the first technology uses a highly efficient chemical process, via novel electrocatalysts, to reduce water into hydrogen gas. "The process has been shown to be more efficient than the best man-made alternative to date. This is the intellectual property for which UOW has recently obtained patent protection," he said. The second technology mimics the water-oxidising centre in photosynthesis to produce oxygen gas from water (i.e. splitting of water to form oxygen) under sunlight. Fully functional mimicry of this type has not previously been achieved. "Put together, these technologies offer a highly efficient process for splitting of water into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, and also the reverse process -- the production of an electrical current from the combination of the elemental hydrogen and oxygen to form water. "The combination of these technologies offers a means of efficiently creating hydrogen gas (as a fuel) and then converting it into a powerful electric current via its use in a H2/O2 fuel cell. "The water-splitting application has been demonstrated in simple 'proof of concept' devices within the laboratory. "The research teams are currently performing studies to obtain efficiency data and are working towards engineering a prototype device. The ultimate aim is to develop commercial devices able to spontaneously convert water into hydrogen and oxygen under sunlight," Professor Wallace said. BG [*A key new member of the UOW research team is Professor Swiegers. He has worked primarily as a professional research scientist, first at the CSIRO in Melbourne, where he was leader of the Security Devices Research Group in the Division of Molecular Science, and later at a spin-off company that came out of his research, Datatrace DNA Pty Ltd, where he was Vice-President R&D. Professor Swiegers has joined IPRI to work on and develop a free-standing dye- sensitised solar cell that spontaneously generates hydrogen gas and oxygen gas from water when illuminated by sunlight.] Hydrogen production finds place in the sun Breast cancer survivor Catherine Holland (centre) pictured with NBCF-funded researchers from UOW Professor Julie Steele (left) and Dr Bridget Munro. Photo courtesy: Melanie Russell/Illawarra Mercury. Professor Gerry Swiegers (left) and Professor Gordon Wallace from the hydrogen production research team at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute.