BioPRIA Research Projects
The Biosurfaces platform aims at engineering paper biodiagnostics for health, environment and food safety applications and to maintain the bioactivity of biomolecules immobilised on a surface. Of special interest are the functional proteins such as antibodies and enzymes. Paper serves four functions in our diagnostics: to store the biomolecules or reactant; to transport by capillarity the sample to analyse; to react and separate products; and to display and permanently store results.
Paper is cheap, ubiquitous, easy to engineer, disposable and compatible with many biomolecules. Combined with functional printing and roll-to-roll conversion technology, paper offers an efficient, cheap and flexible material/technology from which to manufacture paper diagnostic devices. We can print micro-fluidic systems, enzymes, antibodies and reacting systems on paper or flexible films. We are currently designing a series of paper diagnostics to identify blood type groups (A, B, O & D) and to phenotype blood and identify antigens and antibodies.
The Performance Materials platform proposes to engineer a series of novel renewable composites with unique properties made from wood and agriculture residues. From wood and plants, we are developing a series of nanocellulose materials: micro fibrillated cellulose (MFC), nano fibrillated cellulose (NFC), and nanocellulose crystals (NCC). These three types of nanocellulose can be combined with nanoparticles to develop recyclable composites that are transparent to translucid, are electricity conductors or insulators, are very strong and flexible or provide gas and water vapour barriers.
Applications are in intelligent packaging, food preservation and lighter/thinner packaging, low cost/disposable reverse osmosis membranes for water and food processing purification, and industrial air filters. To characterise the structure of nanocellulose and nano composites we use the facilities and expertise from the Australian synchrotron (SAXS, WAXS), Monash electronic microscopy center (TEM, SEM) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Office (ANSTO) for X-ray/neutron reflectometry and scattering.
Biorefinery and Sustained Processes
The Biorefinery and Sustained Processes platform transforms forest and agricultural residues into a series of complementary marketable green chemicals and energy. Our strategy focuses on chemical intermediates that are difficult to produce from petroleum and that have an established market. We apply the full green chemistry philosophy by aiming at transforming all reactants (wood) into products, by minimising energy and water consumption as well as effluent emission (air and water) and by avoiding complex separation/purification steps. We develop catalytic reaction engineering and industrial biotechnology as preferred technologies and rely on life-cycle analysis to optimise process and environmental protection.