2017 Matthew Flinders Medal and Lecture—Professor Barry Ninham

Recipient of the Academy’s 2017 Matthew Flinders Medal, Professor Barry Ninham AO FAA, delivered his award lecture during Science at the Shine Dome. The award is one of Australia’s most prestigious honours for work in the physical sciences.

In his lecture, Professor Ninham discussed how the classical theories of physical chemistry that underpin our intuition about the deepest levels of biology, while initially useful, have become rigid and inhibiting to progress. By bringing together a number of advances in related fields, he gave an account of the complexities that are missing from classical theories of physical chemistry. When we include them, a different intuition and new vistas emerge that open up new technologies—for example in desalination, water purification and sterilisation.

Professor Barry Ninham’s discoveries have had a revolutionary impact on the field of colloid science, a discipline that underpins chemical engineering, cell and molecular biology and nanotechnology. He developed the theory of amphiphilic molecular self-assembly that underlies modern materials science. Professor Ninham was founder and head of the Applied Mathematics Department at the Australian National University and currently works with a team at the Australian Defence Force Academy. They discovered simple new technologies for purification of recycled water, desalination, low temperature chemical reactivity, catalysis, and removal of pollutants such as arsenic.

More about the Matthew Flinders Medal and Lecture

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