Meeting The Challenge

Meeting The Challenge

Students at the University of New South Wales have the opportunity to participate in ground-breaking research…

Just how much smaller can computers and electronic devices go? A team of physicists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney has solved a major part of the puzzle with the creation of the world’s narrowest conducting wire, leading to a research partnership with IBM.

The breakthrough silicon wire, a few atoms wide, promises significantly faster, smaller and more powerful computers and electronic equipment just when the global micro-electronics industry feared it was hitting a brick wall.

After three decades of continual miniaturisation, with the number of components packed onto a silicon chip doubling every 18 months in a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law, there has been much speculation that the key components of technology can’t go any smaller, and still function. UNSW’s wire has proved they can.

The atomic scale wires are the work of the UNSW-led Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology, an international multi-university/government collaboration researching the fundamental physics and technology of building a quantum computer in silicon. The work is of such international signifi cance that it has attracted funding from key US government agencies, as well as from global giants like IBM.

The Centre for Quantum Computer Technology is part of UNSW’s innovation agenda.

The Australian Government has recognised that innovation is the key to future productivity and competitiveness, and UNSW’s growing range of specialist research centres are taking on the complex technological, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

For students, ranging from coursework undergraduates to post-doctoral researchers, the innovation agenda is enhancing their learning experience.


UNSW’s current strategic plan emphasises a “learning and teaching environment that provides an outstanding student experience, with exposure to research, and a vibrant campus life” and “provide international opportunities for students as global citizens.”

Recently opened UNSW centres in the science and engineering fields include the Climate Change Research Centre – officially launched by Nobel Laureate Professor Dr Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As one of the largest multi-disciplinary research groups of its kind in Australia, it has an unprecedented capacity to contribute to the climate change debate and policy outcomes at a global level.

The new Centre for Energy Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) is one of the fi rst Australian institutes to cover all aspects of energy research; from cleaner coal, to renewable energy and the carbon trading markets and policies which will determine the world’s future energy mix.

CERPA, backed by over A$25 million annual funding, aims to develop multiple solutions to the acute global challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as demand for energy rises.

The new Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology brings together researchers from the Faculties of Science, Engineering and the Built Environment to work with industry on the development of innovative, sustainable materials and manufacturing processes.

Recent successes include a cleaner “green steel” manufacturing process, already commercialized in Australia and the US.


To support innovation at UNSW, a major A$700 million campus re-development is underway, a program recently described by UNSW Vice Chancellor, Professor Fred Hilmer, as “one of the most significant building programs in the history of the university.” This campus transformation includes a new Engineering Precinct, with Phase 1 a new Energy Technologies Building which will showcase carbon neutral design and support energy research, including UNSW’s world-leading solar energy program.

UNSW plays an infl uential role in shaping the next generation of engineers, with half of all Australian engineering post-graduates, for example, studying at UNSW, and the Faculty regularly achieving high rankings nationally and internationally.

For students, accommodation on campus is increasing with a new high quality residence opening earlier this year.

Study space is also being dramatically expanded; and the library refurbishment has already created 900 new study spaces and 20 group study rooms.

Find out more about UNSW at

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