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7 February 2023 4 min read

You may have heard about some CSIRO innovations lately. As Australia’s national science agency, we’re on a mission to solve the greatest challenges using innovative science and technology. We’ve developed some brilliant innovations in our 100-year history. Let's go behind the science in this video.

Mosquito free sunsets

If you’re watching the sunset in Australia, there will likely be mosquitoes. That is, unless you’ve packed some Aerogard. Thanks to our science you can enjoy that sunset without the itch. The story goes like this.

Renowned entomologist Doug Waterhouse worked for us for more than 60 years. During the Second World War, he developed an insect repellent to protect allied troops from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. But after Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia in 1963, Doug’s repellent become a household name. Journalists noted the absence of flies around the Queen and word about CSIRO’s new fly-repellent spread.

Mortein contacted Doug for his formula. He passed this on freely, as was our policy at the time. Mortein’s Aerogard went on to become an Australian icon.

Super-fast Wi-Fi

Remember the distinct sound of dial-up? Yes, we try to forget it too. Odds are you're reading this story on your mobile device using Wi-Fi right now. This would be impossible without CSIRO.

Back in the early '90s, there were no smartphones, tablets or other wireless devices. If you were browsing online, you had to rely on fixed wires.

Five of our scientists – Dr John O'Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr Graham Daniels and Mr John Deane – invented wireless LAN technology.

Now known as Wi-Fi, this technology is used in more than five billion devices around the world. You're welcome.

Little penguins, Port Campbell. Photo credit: Darren Donlen.

Protecting these little waddlers

Little penguins (Edyptula minor) are the smallest penguin species in the world. They are native to the coasts of southern Australia and New Zealand. Phillip Island is home to the largest colony of little penguins. About 40,000 breeding penguins nest on the Summerland Peninsula in Victoria.

But sea spurge is threatening their nesting sites. This invasive coastal weed impacts other shorebirds and the wider coastal ecosystem too.

Our scientists found a fungus that specifically attacks sea spurge. Using this fungus, Venturia paralias, could replace current methods of removing the weed by hand and chemical sprays. We worked with Parks Victoria to release this new biocontrol solution at Port Campbell National Park in March last year.

Predicting bushfires

We’ve been conducting bushfire research for about 70 years, from understanding the behaviour of wildfires to improving the design of homes to withstand extreme events.

Researchers at ourNational Bushfire Behaviour Laboratoryin Canberra study and test fundamental bushfire dynamics. We’re working with government partners to understand and model the impacts of bushfires on the environment.

Our scientists are developing reliable toolsto predict bushfire behaviour and spread. We train all state fire agencies in fire behaviour and prediction and use world-class facilities and models to understand and manage fires under future climate conditions.

In fact, we developedAustralia’s most advanced model for predicting the speed and behaviour of eucalypt forest fires.This model has helped save lives and property during bushfires. Known as Vesta Mark 2, fire control rooms used it after the Black Summer bushfiresnationwideto help predict and suppress bushfires.

Our Bushfire Adaptation team worked on the award-winning One House. Created by Suncorp in collaboration with us, James Cook University and Room 11 Architects, this house prototype brought together expertise in fire, tropical cyclones and floods.

Researchers collaboratively chose materials and design principles that would enable a house to survive each of these extreme events. Using a bushfire simulator, our bushfire experts then tested how radiation and flames from a bushfire affected the protype. We continue to offer advice on building in bushfire prone areas.

Flexible solar panels

Imagine if your tent could charge your lights and phone while you're out hiking! A tent embedded with solar film could do just that. And it would be impossible without CSIRO.

Our printable, flexible solar panels are thin and lightweight. Plus, they're approaching the same energy efficiency as their bulky rooftop counterparts.

Our scientists are developing new materials and processes to produce the semi-transparent solar cells. Once printed, they can be applied just about anywhere: awnings, tents and backpacks.

Our team is also working with university partners to use machine learning to analyse and predict manufacturing of printed solar cells. The combination of autonomous testing and machine learning is further accelerating the development of this technology.

Restoring our Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a global icon and home to a wealth of marine biodiversity unmatched anywhere in the world. We’re working with partners to research and preserve the Reef. We’ve partnered with Google to use artificial intelligence to detect invasive crown of thorns starfish. Our scientists are also undertaking research into coral spawning.

3D printed medical parts

Our scientists developed a next generation silicone resin for making 3D printed medical parts. We're working with partners across the globe to address specific medical challenges. With the aid of CT scans, we can 3D print titanium body parts. To date, we've 3D printed a titanium heel, rib cage and sternum.

And it's not just medical parts. Our additive manufacturing technology even helped a recent satellite launch! Working with partners, our Lab22 team combined twoadditive manufacturing techniques to make the components – 3D printing and cold spray.

So, the sky isn't the limit for our innovations. Space might be.

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