The University of Wollongong (UOW) has been awarded nearly $10 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding to pursue projects in advanced battery technology, human development and understanding the challenges of first-in-family university students.

The research funding announced today (1 November) by the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, will support 27 UOW projects in Future Fellowships; Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards; Discovery Projects; and Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities.

A number of ARC grants have gone to female researchers who are leading projects in science, technology, engineering, maths and the humanities.

Dr Susanna Guatelli, from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences (Centre for Medical Radiation Physics), has been awarded $363,000 to investigate nanoparticle technology for use in medicine and treating cancer.

The project will develop physics modelling expertise in Australia for nanomedicine and other applications of nanotechnology exposed to radiation, such as telecommunications, aviation and space.

Dr Bridget Kelly, from the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Early Start Research Institute, has received $337,000 to investigate how children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing influences food consumption and links to death and disease.

Professor Zaiping Guo, from the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM), has received $493,500 to develop potassium-ion batteries for renewable energy storage and conversion.

Potassium-ion batteries could be a promising choice for large-scale electrical energy storage, particularly for renewable energy sources and smart electrical grids, due to their low cost and the natural abundance of the material.

The grant is one of several awarded to the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, which houses ISEM, for research into new energy technologies, including batteries, in recognition of its outstanding track record in efforts in developing new and sustainable ways to generate and store energy.

The latest funding round includes the award of two prestigious Future Fellowships, a scheme that promotes research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding mid-career researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia.

Dr Wei Kong Pang, from ISEM and a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, will take up his Future Fellowship at UOW, receiving $652,000 to further his research into lithium-ion batteries.

Dr Pang said the higher-performing batteries were in demand for increasingly powerful technology, such as new smartphones and the push for electric vehicles with greater range.

“New apps and games with better screen resolution are energy consuming and electric vehicles with smaller and lighter batteries but improved capacity are in high demand,” Dr Pang said.

“The performance of a lithium-ion battery is determined by the crystal structure and chemistry of the electrode materials.

“Using in-operando synchrotron and neutron techniques, we will be able to investigate the true and real-time responses of the electrodes during battery functioning and deepen our fundamental understanding of the electrode materials.

“Better understanding will help us to tune the structure and chemistry of the electrode materials correctly and ultimately improve performance.”

A second Future Fellowship was awarded to Dr Alexander Mackay, who will use the $863,000 funding for studying archaeological and environmental information recovered from around the Doring River, South Africa, to better understand how early humans used and adapted to their landscape.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper said the latest success in attracting funding demonstrated the impact of the University’s research across a range of disciplines in addressing pressing global issues.

“I congratulate the researchers on their success and particularly look forward to seeing those at the early stages of their careers use this opportunity to build their careers and deliver research that has real impact,” Professor Raper said.

All UOW grant recipients and projects can be found on the research grants outcomes page.