Congratulations to three RIEL PhD students Alea Rose, Matthew Brien and Monishka Narayan on their successful Northern Territory Research & Innovation Postgraduate (NTRIP) Scholarship applications.
The scholarship grants worth $3000 each are assigned to assist Postgraduate students undertaking research with the potential to provide environmental, economic and social benefits for the Northern Territory.
Alea’s scholarship money will be used to purchase chemicals that are used to extract Ribonucleic acid (RNA) from pond wastewater. RNA is the key to measuring bacteria activity, but because of the high level of organic matter in the wastewater it is expensive and challenging to extract.Alea’s successful application was awarded for her ‘Pond Microbiology of Leanyer Sanderson Wastewater Stabilisation Ponds’ project, which aims to answer whether the NT’s largest wastewater system efficiently removes pathogens and nutrients, and if improvements to the system can be made.
This project aims to provide an insight into what bacteria are present in the NT’s domestic waste system, and to create an understanding of the impacts resident bacteria have on the health of wastewater pond ecosystems.
The proposed research outcomes will include a list of bacterial indicators to support monitoring and will provide information about pond function. Both of these are pivotal issues for appropriate management of sewage effluent in waste stabilisation ponds.
Matthew will do this by examining the social behaviour and thermal preference of hatchling saltwater crocodiles under controlled laboratory conditions and in a semi-natural enclosure. To examine thermal preference, small data loggers that record body temperature will be fed to hatchlings, while social behaviour will be assessed using infrared CCTV cameras. This information will be used to improve the way in which hatchling saltwater crocodiles are raised, which will ultimately improve rates of growth and survival.In northern Australia, the mortality of hatchling saltwater crocodiles in captivity is a significant impediment to the success of crocodile farming. Matthew Brien’s research project titled ‘Improving rates of hatchling saltwater crocodiles to one year’ will focus on ways to improve rates of growth and survival of hatchling in captivity.
Currently, there is a huge focus on inventing new power generating devices that can be operated by renewable energy. In Monishka Narayan’s project ‘Designing Thin Film Organic Solar Cells for Optimal Performance’, she deals with optimising the performance of organic solar cells (OSCs) which are cost-effective and can be fabricated on flexible substrates, like plastics, curtains, etc., which extends their applications. Solar cells are used to convert sunlight directly into electricity. However, OSCs have poor conversion efficiency relative to the conventional silicon solar cells which are still very expensive. In this project the conversion efficiency of OSCs will be optimised by maximising the absorption and separation of charge carriers and minimising the recombination processes.
The expected outcomes of this research are to better understand the operation mechanism and optical properties of OSCs with the objective of producing optimal designs. This will benefit Territorians because OSCs generate power from a renewable energy source (sun) and will help combat unfriendly environmental issues. In the near future, the development of this technology could potentially lessen the Territory’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Monishka plans to use the scholarship money for experimental work of her thesis. After the successful design of the OSCs using the SETFOS software, she plans to extend the computational work into a practical design to establish a comparison between the theoretical and practical efficiencies of the OSCs within the optimised design.