Prime Minister’s science prize honours Brisbane researcher’s crystal-bending and energy-saving work
UQ researcher Jack Clegg was honoured for crystal and molecular research. (Supplied: PM’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
Could smartphones of the future be rolled up and put into your pocket? And could televisions one day bend in half to store in a cupboard? A Brisbane scientist thinks so.
University of Queensland researcher Jack Clegg believes both are possible within 15 years, thanks to his work on flexible crystals, which could be used in electronic components inside both of those devices.
“One of the things that’s really wonderful about crystals, apart from the fact that they’re beautiful, is that they’re in almost all of our electronic technologies,” Associate Professor Clegg said.
“One of the problems with these crystals, however, is that when you try to bend a crystal, they generally break.”
But Associate Professor Clegg has developed new kinds of crystals that are so flexible they can be tied in a knot.
“This means we could use them in all sorts of technologies, from say a mobile phone that you could roll up and put in your pocket or some kind of electronic device that you might be able to wear,” he said.
Associate Professor Clegg’s molecular research could prove to be a big energy saver. (Supplied: PM’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
Associate Professor Clegg has been awarded a 2018 Prime Minister’s science prize for his work on crystals, and for other research on molecules that can be used as sieves in purification processes.
He said filtration processes used about 15 per cent of the world’s energy — purifying everything from drinking water to cancer drugs.
“If we can improve the efficiencies of purification then we can drastically reduce the costs of many drugs, and also the environmental damage of making them,” he said.
Queensland teacher and frog expert also honoured
Two other Queenslanders were also recognised at the awards, which were announced at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.
Brisbane teacher Brett Crawford won the prize for excellence in primary school science teaching.
Dr Lee Berger spent more than a decade investigating frog extinction. (Supplied: PM’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
He developed a program at Warrigal Road State School at Eight Mile Plains in which he mentored his fellow teachers, recognising many were anxious about teaching science.
The school said all its teachers now embraced science and the latest test results showed the school’s science performance was above national averages.
North Queensland frog expert Dr Lee Berger took out the life sciences award.
The James Cook University researcher spent more than a decade studying the sudden extinction of a number of frog species around the world, and discovered a fungal skin infection was to blame.