One of Australia’s youngest scientific laser-wranglers has received a $25,000 boost to her high-tech water filter work.

CSIRO materials scientist and Australian Synchrotron operator Dr Cara Doherty has been awarded a $25,000 L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship to pursue her vision for the future of manufacturing.

Dr Doherty is developing new technologies that could transform water filters, batteries and medical sensors, and clean up carbon emissions.

She works with crystals filled with nothing.

Dr Doherty is working on tiny sponges, highly-porous on a molecular level, which can be customised to absorb almost any molecule.

The crystals are metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which consist of an array of metal ions linked by organic molecules in a vast, open structure.

MOFs can be tailored by varying the metal ions or organic molecules, but there are major challenges in creating the 3D devices required for practical, commercial applications.

Dr Doherty uses antimatter (positrons) and x-rays to measure the crystals and their properties before using her patented technique to imprint useful shapes for devices.

She plans to use her new Fellowship to develop 3D structures for a smart water filter, using MOFs to trap and remove chemical and biological pollutants from non-potable water.