Dr Aaron Thornton

CSIRO
Research Field: Applied Mathematics

Imagine a room filled with bouncy balls that never stop bouncing. That’s how gas molecules behave, but they are a million times smaller and travel a million times faster. To blow your mind further, about one million trillion gas molecules hit your face per second. Can you feel them?

These small molecules travel our earth in the realm of nanospace, invisible to the eye, but critical to our lives. They include oxygen, water, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, to name a few. The balance between them in our environment is very important. Sometimes humans create waste and pollute the planet by mixing harmful molecules with our air and water, or they contribute to an imbalance in the mixture.
The goal of Dr. Thornton’s research is to be able to clean the mixtures and manage the life cycles of these important molecules.

Dr. Thornton has needed to build a virtual environment to mimic the behavior of these small molecules and to discover new ways for separating and transporting them. Recently he has discovered some magic crystals with tiny holes in them that efficiently separate molecules. Currently there are chemists growing these crystals in the lab so they can be used to clean the air and water.

Aaron is actively involved with the Mathematicians in Schools Program. He is also co-authoring an assignment titled Sustainable Household Mathematics. With some further testing this will be used as a tutorial in classrooms and if successful will be launched nationally. Aaron organised the first early Career Researcher Symposium for the Membrane Society of Australasia including posters, brochures, website and public press release. He is passionate about using the internet to share and educate. Recently he built a website for the Membrane Society of Australasia, to explain membrane science and share results with the community.