Scientists, health researchers, dominate Australian honours

Among the recipients of the highest honour Australia bestows on anyone, the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), are a number of renowned researchers.

This year, the list also included a COVID-19 Honour roll – naming 49 people who are recognised for their contributions to Australia’s pandemic response. This will be an ongoing, permanent part of the awards into the future.

Emeritus Professor David Boger has been appointed AC in the 2024 honours list in recognition of his “service to chemical engineering as a scientist, academic and researcher, particularly in the field of non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, and to the environment”.

Boger discovered ‘perfect’ non-Newtonian fluids in the 70s, (now are known as Boger fluids) and spent his career working with industry to use this knowledge to better dispose of environmental waste.

“I’m very flattered,” Boger told Cosmos. “It’s an amazing endpoint to my career, really.”

Boger started this work in 1965 after moving to Melbourne from the United States. He’d been looking at heat transfer as his research topic but then changed over to non-Newtonian fluids when Monash University purchased a rheogoniometer – a device for measuring the behaviour of these viscoelastic fluids.

“Now, I didn’t even know what a viscoelastic fluid was at that stage,” he said. “It’s kind of an accident that I ended up in non-Newtonian fluids.”

Non-Newtonian fluids behave as both a liquid and a solid – like oobleck (cornflour mixed with water), custard, or honey.  They don’t follow Newton’s law of viscosity, unlike ‘Newtonian fluids’ such as water and air.

Viscoelastic fluids are a type of material that is both viscous (thick) and elastic (can be stretched and return to its original form).

 “I naively thought that there should be an ideal elastic fluid. And it turns out, we made one,” said Boger. “That was the beginning of quite a lot of work.”

These Boger fluids are useful for waste disposal. For example, one major use is that they can be used to better dispose of the ‘red mud’ produced when processing alumina for aluminium by turning it into a Boger fluid.

Boger is currently undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and remains an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne.

Other ACs appointed in the 2024 honours list include Professor Lorraine Ann Mazerolle, a renowned criminologist from the University of Queensland, and Catherine Livingstone who chaired the CSIRO from 2016 to 2021.

“Congratulations to the outstanding Australians recognised in today’s Honours List,” says the Governor-General David Hurley.

“Recipients have made a difference and had an impact at the local, national and/or international level. Individually, they are inspiring and collectively they speak to the strength of our communities.”

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