New grants awarded under Rio Tinto Australia-Japan Collaboration Program

29 January 2021
TOKYO, Japan – The Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies has awarded its latest round of grants under the Rio Tinto Australia-Japan Collaborative Program. Rio Tinto funds the grants to help strengthen the relationship between Australia and Japan. Successful projects are evaluated as being of a quality likely to attract interest and financial support from Australia and Japan’s public and private sectors. Grants have been awarded to the following projects: Antiviral Coatings for Surgical Masks – Associate Professor Hirotaka Ejima, University of Tokyo and Dr Joseph Richardson, University of Melbourne and Softmed, an Australian surgical personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer. The global outbreak of COVID-19 has driven the need for increased production and improvement of personal protective equipment. One of the biggest challenges in antiviral PPE is that aerosolized viruses can easily pass through most types of masks, meaning that they do not fully protect the mask-wearer from airborne contagion. Standard surgical masks cut out about 60 to 80% of particles smaller than 2.5 µm (PM2.5). This project aims to develop a low-cost, safe and easy to apply coating that will inactivate more than 95% of particles smaller than 2.5 µm without significantly decreasing the breathability of the masks. This will make them as effective as N95 masks, which are viewed as the gold standard for preventing infection. The project’s originality comes from the study of interactions between viruses and coatings composed of different bioinspired materials. Assoc. Prof Ejima is an expert in bioinspired nanocoatings, and Dr Richardson specializes in coating technologies. The project aims to have ready-to-adopt technology for industry, a methodology with easy to use and safe ingredients for coating personal masks at home, and new intellectual property (provisional filing) after 12 months. FAJS funds awarded: AUD $92,000 Antibacterial Packaging Solutions – Professor Elena Ivanova, RMIT University and Dr Saita Soichiro, The KAITEKI Institute (part of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Group). In 2015, Australia exported $US3.1 billion of food and agricultural exports to Japan, making it the 5th largest exporter of such products to Japan. In turn, Japan is the largest importer of Australian beef and lamb. With 32% of food produced for human consumption becoming waste, including rejection of entire shipments if bacterial growth is detected, this project aims to use the antibacterial pattern of insect wings to extend shelf-life and improve the quality, safety, and integrity of packaged food on an industrial scale, thereby reducing waste. Bomimetic antibacterial packaging will be developed by replicating the antibacterial pattern of insect wings into various polymeric materials. Professor Ivanova's antibacterial nanomaterials research and KAITEKI's platform enables the team to conduct cutting edge research into marketable products. The KAITEKI Institute was established by Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings as a think tank and global research institute to draw and realize desirable future society and environment and to partner with academic institutions, national laboratories and private entities to perform innovative research. FAJS funds awarded: AUD$145,000 The first Rio Tinto Australia-Japan Collaborative Program Grant was awarded in January 2019 for a project on the conversion of noxious gases into fuels to help combat climate change. The second round of grants was awarded in April 2019 to four research projects spanning medical, agricultural and safety applications. The third round of grants was awarded in February 2020 to four projects across the fields of energy, robotics, mining and environment. The Rio Tinto Australia-Japan Collaborative Program, the first program established under the FAJS, is designed to raise the mutual profile and understanding between Australia and Japan by promoting bilateral research and other partnerships between academia and industry in science, technology and innovation. About Rio Tinto Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in London and with a corporate office in Melbourne, Australia. It combines Rio Tinto plc, a London and New York Stock Exchange listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, in a dual listed companies structure. From our diverse portfolio, we supply the metals and minerals essential to human progress. Our major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial minerals (borates, titanium dioxide and salt) and iron ore. We are strongly represented in Australia and North America, and have significant businesses in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. Under our Group-wide organisational structure, our four product groups – Aluminium, Copper & Diamonds, Energy & Minerals, and Iron Ore – are complemented by our Growth & Innovation and Commercial groups. About Rio Tinto and Japan Japan is one of Rio Tinto’s most important and longstanding trading partners. Rio Tinto’s iron ore business was born on the back of Japanese investment and long-term offtake contracts with the Japanese steel mills in the 1960’s. Today Rio Tinto is the largest supplier of iron ore to Japan, shipping over 1.9 billion tonnes to date over the past more than 50 years. Rio Tinto is also one of the largest exporters of metals and minerals to Japan, supplying aluminium, copper, molybdenum, diamonds, uranium and industrial minerals such as borates, titanium dioxide and salt as well as iron ore to more than 250 customers. Japanese companies are important partners in Rio Tinto’s operations around the world, in its global supply chain as well as in innovation. About Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies (FAJS) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established in Australia, with the mission to elevate the profile of Australia-Japan collaboration in science, technology and innovation and support the people who are transforming the bilateral relationship through these partnerships. Research grants form part of the Rio Tinto Australia-Japan Collaboration Program, which is the first program established under the FAJS and is funded by the Rio Tinto Group, which is also a founding member of the FAJS. The FAJS is chaired by Mr Murray McLean AO, former Australian Ambassador to Japan. Professor Jenny Corbett (Emeritus Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University and Professorial Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute of Griffith University) is the inaugural Rio Tinto Fellow under the Collaboration Program. Prof Corbett has been based at the University of Tokyo since 2018 representing the FAJS.