Our research theme is "simulation and modelling of particulate systems", and is aimed at understanding the mechanisms governing particulate packing and flow, by way of rigorous simulation and modelling of the particle-particle and particle-fluid interactions at both microscopic and macroscopic levels. Such knowledge is valuable for applications related to mineral processing - Australia's most important industry. In the past years, we have gradually established our leading position in the main theme research areas. Our effort in the coming years will be made to expand and strengthen our leading position. Our goal is to become an internationally recognised research centre through excellence in fundamental and applied research in particulate science and technology.
Much of our environment and the benefits that we derive from our surroundings are strongly influenced by the interactions of the three primary phases of matter - solids, liquids, and gases. These interactions often occur at surfaces, the individual phases being in discrete form. Particle mixtures and powders can be either wet or dry, with their particle sizes ranging from nanometers to centimeters scale. In fact, such mixtures are one very important example of a multiphase system. Bulk powders can withstand deformation just like solids; similarly, they can flow just like liquids; and further, they exhibit compressibility like gases. Because of these features, particulate matter can be considered as another state of matter. This state is poorly understood, which is a common consensus among scientists worldwide.
The macroscopic behaviour of a powder is controlled by the interactions between individual particles as well as those with any surrounding gas or liquid. Thus, understanding the microscopic mechanisms, (ie. the particle-particle and particle-fluid interactions), is the key to the success in truly interdisciplinary research on particulate matter, through which scientists and engineers can correlate their findings to ensure that microscopic predictions from one discipline would match the macroscopic results from another. Obtaining microscopic information experimentally is an extremely difficult task, even with the use of advanced and expensive measuring techniques available today. However, this difficulty can be overcome by computer simulation and modelling techniques. This point of view is largely supported by scientists working in this area, particularly in recent years as a result of the rapidly developing discrete particle simulation techniques and computer technology.
Particulate science and technology is a rapidly developing interdisciplinary research area, and of fundamental importance to its development is the knowledge of the relationships between micro- and macroscopic properties of particulate materials. The technology is now emerging as a core competency of paramount importance to many sectors of our modern economy. For example, a recent survey carried out in the USA shows that powder/particle technology is responsible for an estimated minimum of 40% (or US$61 billion) of the added-value by the chemical processing industry. This is particularly so in Australia in view of its heavy dependence on particulate processing operations: e.g. the handling and processing of minerals such as coal and metal ores. This economic need provides a strong and continuing driving force for powder technology research in Australia.