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$10 million boost for UC research projects

$10 million boost for UC research projects

Three projects led by University of Canterbury researchers have been awarded more than $10 million funding in the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology's main 2008 investment round announced today.

Each of the projects' industry partners have also contributed funding, taking the total to more than $11 million.

The successful lead researchers are Professor Phil Butler (Physics and Astronomy), Associate Professor Neville Watson (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Associate Professor Shusheng Pang (Chemical and Process Engineering). The funding was secured with the assistance of UC's Research and Consultancy staff.

Professor Butler's project aims to create a New Zealand industry supplying spectral x-ray detector systems to the international research and medical imaging markets. What will be known as the MARS (Medipix All Resolution System) imager will be manufactured and assembled by New Zealand industry for incorporation in the new generation of scanners manufactured by major global companies. The MARS imager will transform x-ray CT images from black and white to full colour.

"The transition from black and white to full colour in photographs, cinema, television and computer monitors has been much more dramatic and important than anyone predicted. We anticipate that true full-colour x-ray images will also be very dramatic and have positive impact on health care in New Zealand and the world," Professor Butler says.

It is estimated that the technology could eventually generate revenues of more than $400 million per annum.

Professor Pang's research team aims to develop technologies for production of hydrogen-rich syngas and second generation bio-liquid fuel. It will use New Zealand renewable energy resources of woody and agricultural biomass. It hopes to have a nine per cent share of the national diesel market by 2021.

"Our target is to reduce biomass transport costs and increase overall energy conversion efficiency thus making it feasible to build commercial biodiesel plants in NZ. The intermediate outcomes are to establish a new and international leading industry in New Zealand to produce high grade biodiesel from biomass and thus to contribute to securing national transport fuel supply," Professor Pang says.
To ensure biomass supply, new biomass resources of herbaceous species and short rotation crops will be developed.

Professor Watson's project seeks to address issues related to increasing demand for energy in New Zealand.

It will research the integration of renewable energy sources such as small-scale wind power and solar power with existing electricity networks, and its impact on what is known as power quality (PQ). This is the stability, reliability and resilience of electricity infrastructure.

Impacts can include blackouts, brownouts, as well as momentary interruptions and equipment malfunction or damage. Consequently, PQ problems impact the economy by directly affecting manufacturing, telecommunications and primary sector industries, such as dairy production.

The research findings will help the electricity industry predict and plan for robust and resilient electricity supply. The research will be conducted in collaboration with New Zealand's largest electricity industry collective, the NZ Electricity Engineers' Association (EEA) which has over 335 industry members.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is a Crown entity which allocates funding on behalf of the Government in public good research, science and technology; and assists firms with research and development initiatives. The investments are made to enhance the wealth and well being of New Zealanders.


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