Ripple effect from the quiet march of science

26/04/2016 - 15:42

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The effect of work under way on the Square Kilometre Array project in the state’s Mid West region is rippling through the scientific community, beyond the obvious impact in radio astronomy through to cutting-edge commercial operations.

SEEKERS: The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope, which is testing technologies for the larger Square Kilometre Array.

The effect of work under way on the Square Kilometre Array project in the state’s Mid West region is rippling through the scientific community, beyond the obvious impact in radio astronomy through to cutting-edge commercial operations.

Some of the development work in the Murchison includes pushing the limits of remote data collection while minimising the ‘noise’ created by the electrical emissions and vibrations of merely having a base there.

Last month, the Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre at Curtin University successfully trialled a 100 gigabyte per second data link between the SKA’s precursor telescope, the Murchison Widefield Array, and the Curtin campus in Perth.

That test was a proof of concept that the huge amounts of data to be generated by SKA project could be processed off site, potentially reducing the cost in dollars and waste output of employing big computing power remotely.

The Murchison facility has already significantly reduced its footprint, notably with installation under way of a solar farm containing about 5,000 photovoltaic panels over two hectares. A battery, set to be the largest of its type in Australia, is being designed to contain the power generated in a joint collaboration between federal science agency CSIRO and Perth-based contractor Energy Made Clean.

EMC is to provide 1.6 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels alongside a 2.6MW per hour lithium battery system to offset diesel consumption.

EMC is building the system locally to the stringent requirements of the CSIRO for mitigation of radio frequency interference. That includes fully containerising the PV inverter, switchgear, battery system and battery inverter, to contain radio frequency interference and costs.

In other recent developments related to the SKA project, Curtin University this month appointed Carole Jackson as a co-director of Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy with Peter Hall from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computing. Professor Jackson was also made a director of Curtin Science programs within the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

Professor Jackson is an expert in extragalactic radio astronomy and technology research management, with a long association with the SKA project, and has worked across both industry and academic research in her 25-year career.


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