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Meet the Chinese scientists contributing to Australia's future

There are many Chinese scientists working in Australia including Xinhua Wu, Guanghua Qiao, Zibin Chen, Dacheng Tao and Albert Mao.


When you're handing over a banknote or two to pay for your weekly groceries, you're probably not thinking about the scientist who developed the unique ink used to prevent the production of counterfeit money. But if you are wondering about it, you'll be interested to find out that the inventor is one of many Chinese scientists migrating to Australia and changing the face of science.

Here are some Chinese scientists improving life down under:

Xinhua Wu: 3D printed jet engines

Professor Xinhua Wu runs the Monash University Centre for Additive Manufacturing (MCAM). In 2015, she and her team 3D printed the world's first functional jet engine.

The significance of her research, according to Professor Wu, is not the possibility of printing existing models of jet engines, but that it can considerably shorten the aerospace components' development cycle.

"It normally takes 15 years to design, develop and manufacture a jet's engine, as lots of components are hard to make. Using 3D printing, these complicated components can be produced in a short time. The new engine's development cycle can be shortened to three to five years," she says.

Professor Wu believes the high end application of 3D printing will be in the fields of aerospace and medical treatment.

"In the past, many medical implants or instruments were very primitive, lagging far behind other medical development. 3D printing can transform the medical landscape. But the threshold is also very high. It needs strict certification."

Dacheng Tao: Artificial intelligence

At the age of 39, Professor Dacheng Tao is already one of the world's foremost researchers in artificial intelligence. He is leading the UBTECH Sydney Artificial Intelligence Centre at the University of Sydney.

"We expect our machines, one day, [will be able to] do the same thing[s] like us, or even better," Professor Tao says.

Professor Tao's main focus is to program machines to have the capabilities of perceiving, learning, reasoning and behaving.

"Over the next twenty years, AI systems are going to greatly reshape humanity's future in many domains including housing, transportation, healthcare, education, and entertainment."

Professor Tao says AI does not stop at domestic robots or self-driving cars — it can even do complicated thinking and creation.

"More sophisticated intelligent tools will make it possible for everyone to compose music and even make nice films from videos taken by mobiles," Professor Tao says.

Albert Mao: Security ink on banknotes

Australia led the world when it first introduced the plastic banknotes. One of the major technical difficulties about these plastic banknotes was the anti-counterfeiting security ink printed on the notes.

Scientist Albert Mao focused on using lasers to study chlorophyll when he was invited by CSIRO to join the then latest research on laser and solar energy.

"I found we can actually use solar energy on the banknotes, which was unbelievable to many," Mr Mao says.

The special ink he invented was used on the new plastic banknotes, which was a scientific breakthrough in banknote security technology. The security ink won Mr Mao the Centenary Medal.

Now retired, Mr Mao is not constrained in the science domain. He crosses the border and taps into the world of art.

"The trend of the future is a blurred border of science. The future products are not produced but created."

Guanghua Qiao: Killing superbugs

When current antibiotics are incapable of killing antibiotic resistant bacteria, also called superbugs, Professor Qiao and his team might have found a new way to fight superbugs. This new way is creative in that it goes around traditional antibiotics.

The new treatment method involves tiny star-shaped molecules that are effective in killing superbugs but not harmful to the body.

As a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Professor Qiao believes that scientific advancements nowadays relies heavily on multidisciplinary collaboration.

"A lot of research needs collaboration across different disciplines now. Many material for medical research comes from science and engineering field," Professor Qiao says.

"If there's no medical scientist working with [me] on this project, I don't even know how to do these clinical experiments on animals. It shows the importance of combining engineering and medical research into one."

Zibin Chen: Mobile battery power

Have you noticed that your mobile phone battery lasts shorter and shorter as the phone ages? This is due to the fatigue of the ferroelectric materials.

Dr Zibin Chen, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney, might have the answer to tackle this issue.

"Fatigue can cause the memory device [to lose] ... controllability and reliability, which leads to the devices becoming less efficient. My latest research is to understand why the ferroelectric materials become fatigue[d] along time," Dr Chen says.

This young scientist from China previously caught the media's attention by his discovery of a new way for increasing the memory capacity of computer hard drives by 100 times. His research is believed to be able to contribute to a greener earth.

It is hoped that his latest research can reduce the environmental impact of non-biodegradable materials.

"Due to the quick consumption of the memory units, people change mobile phones and other devices pretty frequently. To lengthen the duration of the components and materials and lessen the fatigue can considerably reduce the unnecessary pollution."

This article was originally published in Chinese here.

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