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The University of Melbourne’s Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES) today announced its membership in a new research consortium - the Green Touch™ Initiative - which brings together leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry players and researchers to fundamentally re-invent the network and reduce ICT energy consumption up to a factor of 1000.

Every time a mobile phone call is made or received, the handset user inevitably absorbs radiation. According to Dr Malka N Halgamuge from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Engineering, the effects of this on our health won’t provide specific answers for at least another decade so its best to take precautions with useage.

“The level of radiation emitted from your phone depends on a phone’s specific absorption rate (SAR) and this can vary with the brand of phone you buy," she says.

According to Dr Halgamuge, while most well known brands in the market have a low SAR reading, that doesn’t mean you’re safe to talk for as long as you like.

“While mobile phones have saved more lives than they may have harmed, using mobile phones for several hours a day could be a problem; as mobile phone radiation affects the temporal lobe (behind the ear) it could affect memory function in developing brains,” she says.

In 2007 Dr Halgamuge worked with the Department of Neurosurgery at Lund University Hospital in Sweden to investigate the biological effects on rats of radio frequencies emitted from mobile phones.

“The main thing we looked at was the leakage of albumin – a protein in the blood that is toxic to the brain – through the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) which protects the brain,” she says.

“We found that albumin leakage increased when rats were exposed to radio frequency from the phone, and after exposure to extremely low frequency from the phone battery.”

Rats used in the study were aged between 12 and 26 weeks, a stage in development regarded as similar when comparing blood-brain barriers to that of teenagers. Dr Halgamuge says considering this, there is good reason to be alarmed that mobile phones could have the same effects on humans.

“While our findings are alarming, our research only looked at short-term exposure and there is a possibility that neurons would repair themselves as time goes on so perhaps the problem is reversible,” she says.

The most extensive research project into the health effects of mobile phone use is currently being conducted under the direction of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The results of Project Interphone, which involves scientists from 13 countries, are due to be published later this year. Until then, Dr Halgamuge suggests the tips in the panel to the left as a precautionary approach.

A mouse that operates with the blink of an eye, remote control breaks for a kids bike and a car that drives itself. These are a few of the final year projects on display at this year’s Endeavour Engineering Exhibition at the University of Melbourne.

Predicting the time and location of a bushfire is set to become more accurate thanks to research carried out by a group of final year students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Up to 1000 Robot Dancers could shuffle their way into the Guinness Book of World Records with an attempt for the word’s largest Robot Dance at the University of Melbourne tomorrow. 

Researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering have moved a step closer in their pursuit of a zero emissions future with the launch of a highly efficient hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine. 
The prototype is part of a $2.93 million three-year Hydrogen Car project; a collaboration between the Brumby Government, Melbourne University and several local manufacturers.

The team at the University of Melbourne were led by Dr Michael Brear who said the project is working toward the creation of a new market for low-cost gas fuelled engines to support Victorian manufacturing into a low emissions future.

Dr Brear says the increased uptake of gaseous fuels like LPG, natural gas and ultimately hydrogen will be able to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving our balance of trade.  

“Hydrogen fuelled vehicles offer the potential of zero greenhouse gas emissions, and are the end game in this development pathway,” he says.

“The engine technology we have developed also has applications in areas such as renewable and distributed energy production. This includes use as an off-peak electrical generator running off solar or wind generated hydrogen, or electrical generation from biogas. In all of these cases, very low greenhouse emissions are achievable using the same base engine technology.”

To optimise this research, the project will continue for a further 18 months with the aim of developing the most efficient hydrogen fuelled internal combustion engine in the world.
The project involves collaboration with several local manufacturers, including Ford Australia, Haskell Australasia, Mahle and Parnell, as well as the University of North Florida, through the collaborative research centre ACART (

The nation’s first cross-disciplinary research institute dedicated to maximizing the community benefits of broadband technologies has been announced by Premier John Brumby.

The Victorian Government will provide $2 million for the new Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES). The Institute will be based at the University of Melbourne to foster innovation across a wide range of disciplines including Medicine, Engineering, Education, Social Sciences, Economics, Business and the Environmental Sciences.

Professor Rod Tucker, Director of the IBES, says the Institute will source skills and resources of leading University researchers and 10 major industry leaders. Together they will develop and test new products and services which will benefit society, in areas such as e-health, e-education, e-commerce, and environmental monitoring.
The IBES has attracted the support of leading global and local companies to join its research program. They include Cisco, Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Telstra, Ericsson, NEC Australia, Optus, Allied Telesis, Pacific Broadband Networks, and Haliplex. The research will also be enhanced by the support of Bell Labs and NICTA, Australia’s national research centre of excellence in Information and Communication Technology.

Professor Tucker says the IBES will serve as a national and international focus for research and innovation across the full spectrum of social, business and technological activities associated with and influenced by the new Australian National Broadband Network.

 “The strong support of industry coupled with the support and commitment of the State Government of Victoria, positions IBES to play a key role in the development of an Australian industry that is ready for the true broadband revolution," he says.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis says the IBES will be a unique facility that will allow new ideas and applications to be tested in a real broadband environment that will maximize the contribution the Australian Broadband Network will make to Australia’s economic and social progress.