High-level maths – and homes of the future

Research by Geoff Prince has made a ‘big bang’ in the world of maths, helping develop a new equation in differential geometry.

This made it possible to analyse the focus of electromagnetic and other forces – as well as the gravitational force in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Colleague Reinout Quispel was responsible for a series of international breakthroughs in differential equations that enable more accurate computer calculations. This work is particularly important for navigating spacecraft on long missions, as well as astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and meteorology. It has applications even in the world of finance.

Thanks to physicists Mark Conde, Peter Dyson and others, we now have close-up pictures of wind patterns in the very top layers of Earth’s atmosphere – something that had previously been in the space weatherman’s ‘too hard’ basket. As a result, we can better predict the impact space weather has on communications, navigation, and surveillance capabilities such as aircraft, GPS navigation, magnetic prospecting and low altitude satellites.

Initiatives in electronic engineering led by John Devlin have resulted in the ten-nation Tasman International Geospace Environment Radar, known as the TIGER consortium. Located in southern Tasmania and New Zealand, the system is controlled remotely from La Trobe’s Melbourne campus.

Our research has also supported development of JORN, Australia’s over-the-horizon coastal radar surveillance system, and developed at Australia’s Mawson Antarctic base a cutting-edge imaging spectrometer for upper atmospheric observation.

Built into Australia’s first Zero Emission House, the CSIRO and two leading building companies chose Trobe’s Home Energy Management System, developed by Jack Singh, Ani Desai and Sriram Prakasamand.  The system tracks all energy and water used at the house. The group also pioneered car to train communication technology to improve safety at railway crossings. This was installed in trains and vehicles for evaluation in a number of Australian states.

High-level electronic engineering work for Australian and international application continues apace with a new generation of scientists, including former graduate Peter Moar, now on the academic staff, and colleague Eddie Custovic.

They and their teams are working with Germany’s Aerospace Centre, to design and build a control system for new imaging technology on the International Space Station (ISS). This will monitor natural phenomena such as bush fires, floods, ash clouds, storms, rainfall, and drought from some 400kms in outer space, when it is launched, scheduled for 2017.

Read more about the history of La Trobe’s Physics department





History of La Trobe’s Physics department, 1964-2005