IPAS DECRA won 2018 SA Government’s Science Excellence Award

Ben_SAAwardCongratulations Dr Ben Sparkes  who has won the 2018 SA Government Science Excellence Award. Dr Sparkes is developing a device that can extend the maximum distance of quantum cryptography, which will boost the security of communications for government, business and the broader community.  Dr Sparkes is also the recipient of 2018 South Australian Young Tall Poppy Science Awards.





Unveiling of China-Australia Joint Laboratory for Fabrication of the special Optical fibres and biochemical Detection Innovation (CAFODI)

unveiling ceremony

Building on two complementary areas of research excellence with strong industry relevance, IPAS and the Laser Institute (LI) of the Shandong Academy of Sciences (SDAS), the Joint Laboratory CAFODI (China-Australia Joint Laboratory for Fabrication of the special Optical fibres and biochemical Detection Innovation) was established in September 2017, and officially unveiled by Hon David Ridgway, South Australian Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment and VC Peter Rathjen of University of Adelaide in Jinan, Shandong, China, on 17th July 2018.

CAFODI aims to fabricate novel microstructured optical fibres and develop biochemical optical sensors, speeding up their translation in the global market as well as postgraduate education. The joint laboratory is led by Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem and Dr Yinlan Ruan in Adelaide and Director Zhongqing Jia and Dr Jiasheng Ni of Laser Institute, SDAS, in China. An initial commitment of AU$60K was made from the University of Adelaide in January, 2018 and the second investment from our partner is on the way and will focus on fabrication of the hollow core fibres and petrol sensors. We expect that establishment of CAFODI will largely contribute to increasing commercial opportunities for SA researchers and education institutions and demonstrate a shared commitment to solve industry problems through research and collaboration.

CAFORD leaders


IPAS Researcher win 2018 Young Tall Poppy Award

Huge congratulations to the winner of 2018 Young Tall Poppy Science Award, Dr Ben Sparkes,  IPAS DECRA Fellow in the Precision Measurement Group.

Dr Sparkes is developing a quantum memory device to boost the maximum distance of quantum cryptography, to lead to an absolutely-secure means of global communications. He is also the co-founder of  a “Laser Radio” outreach activity, where high school students construct a device which transmits audio signals over a laser beam using basic electronics components. This activity teaches students practical hands-on skills but, more importantly, it aims to communicate the fun and excitement about science, and photonics in particular. His fantastic work was presented to  Federal MPs Christopher Pyne (Defence Industry Minister), Richard Marles (Shadow Defence Minister), Tanya Plibersek (Deputy Opposition Leader) and Nick Champion (Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Science) during visits to IPAS.

Each year the Tall Poppy Awards recognise individuals who combine world-class research with a passionate commitment to communicating science and who demonstrate great leadership potential.


IPAS Research Open Day – Thursday 6 September 2018


Come join us as we celebrate the fantastic research being conducted at the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, where we use the power of light to make the world a healthier, wealthier and better place.

11:00-12:30 Introduction to IPAS – Braggs Lecture Theatre
Hear about the exciting research being conducted by IPAS in areas ranging from advanced gravitational-wave detection through to creating next-generation medical devices and Defence technologies.

12:30-2:00 Free BBQ Lunch – Braggs Foyer
Connect with our researchers over a free barbeque lunch. Interested in doing a summer scholarship, honours or PhD project with us? This is the perfect opportunity to talk to experts across Physics, Engineering, Chemistry and Biology about the exciting work they are doing.

1:00-3:00 Tours of the IPAS Labs – Leaving from Braggs Foyer
Take advantage of this rare opportunity to go behind closed doors and get a close up to our experiments. See the state-of-the-art equipment we use and create to do our world-leading research.

As places are limited, RSVP is essential. Please click here to register by 31 August.


Ramsay Fellow to build world’s fastest charging battery

The University of Adelaide’s newest Ramsay Fellow, Dr James Quach, will harness the unique properties of quantum mechanics with the aim of building the world’s first quantum battery, a new super battery with the potential for instantaneous charging.

Once built, the quantum battery could replace conventional batteries used in small electronic devices. Eventually it is hoped larger quantum batteries could provide opportunities for the renewable energy sector.

Dr Quach, who is an expert in quantum physics, has joined the University of Adelaide’s School of Physical Sciences for four years under a Ramsay Fellowship. He will be working within the Precision Measurement Group in the University’s Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing (IPAS).

The Ramsay Fellowship was established in 2008 with a bequest by the Ramsay family, founders of the Kiwi Polish Company (later Kiwi International), to reduce the brain drain from our shores and advance scientific research.

Dr Quach says that unlike ordinary batteries, which take the same amount of time to charge no matter how many you have, the theory is that quantum batteries would charge faster the more you have of them.

“If one quantum battery takes one hour to charge, then two would take 30 minutes, three would take 20 minutes, and so on. If you had 10 thousand batteries, they would all charge in less than a second,” says Dr Quach.

Although it seems counterintuitive, this is possible thanks to a feature of quantum mechanics known as entanglement.

“Quantum mechanics deals with interactions at the very smallest of scales, at the levels of atoms and molecules – at this level you get very special properties that violate the conventional laws of physics,” says Dr Quach.

“One of those properties is ‘entanglement’. When two objects are entangled it means that their individual properties are always shared – they somehow lose their sense of individuality.

“It’s because of entanglement that it becomes possible to speed up the battery charging process,” he says.

The idea for a quantum battery was first discussed in a 2013 research paper. Since then there have been other papers on the subject, but Dr Quach says he will “take the theory from the blackboard to the lab”.

“Entanglement is incredibly delicate, it requires very specific conditions – low temperatures and an isolated system – and when those conditions change the entanglement disappears,” he says.

“With the support of the academic community in Adelaide, interstate and globally, I aim to extend the theory of the quantum battery, construct a lab conducive to the conditions needed for entanglement, and then build the first quantum battery.”

This revolutionary battery could be used in small electronic devices such as a watch, phone, iPad or computer or any other product that relies on stored energy.

“The long-term aim is to scale up, to build bigger batteries which will support renewable energy technologies by making it possible for continuous energy supply no matter the weather conditions – rain, hail or shine,” Dr Quach says.

The Ramsay Fellowships are open to Australian citizens with a PhD or equivalent qualification in the natural sciences, with preference given to applicants aged 35 years and under.

Source: The University of Adelaide.

Tackling Cancer at Ground Zero with Designer Molecules

A new molecule designed by University of Adelaide researchers shows great promise for future treatment of many cancers.

The new molecule successfully targets a protein that plays a major role in the growth of most cancers. This protein target is called proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), otherwise known as the human sliding clamp.

“PCNA is required for DNA replication and is therefore essential for rapidly dividing cancer cells,” says project leader Dr John Bruning, Senior Research Fellow at the University’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).

“PCNA holds the machinery that copies DNA. The DNA slides through the centre of this donut-shaped protein where it is replicated.

“If we can inhibit the action of this protein, the cells can’t make DNA, so they can’t divide. This is really tackling cancer at ground zero. It’s stopping cell division and therefore tackling cancer at its most fundamental level.

“We also know that PCNA is ‘overexpressed’ – or makes too many copies – in 90% of all cancers. That means it is a potential target for inhibiting the growth of multiple cancers, not just a select few.

“And importantly, this protein seldom mutates which means that it is less likely to develop resistance against a drug inhibitor.”

The research, in collaboration with the University of Wollongong, has been published in Chemistry, A European Journal.

The multi-disciplinary team at IPAS designed a molecule that can interact with PCNA, offering a promising new strategy for the design of a PCNA inhibiting anti‐cancer treatment.

“In this study, we have taken a protein fragment that naturally interacts with PCNA and transformed it using smart chemistry into a drug-like molecule,” says lead author Dr Kate Wegener, Ramsay Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences.

“We’ve changed its chemistry to protect it from degrading like the natural protein, and so that it works better.”

The new molecule shows increased potency over other PCNA inhibitors, and is likely to show less side-effects.

“Because of the special approach we have used in turning a natural protein into a drug-like molecule, it fixes to PCNA more readily and its action is specific to this protein,” says Dr Bruning.

“This is a first. It’s the first in this type of inhibitor and it will pave the way for a new class of drugs inhibiting the proliferation of cancerous cells.”

Source: The University of Adelaide

Scientists Find Evidence of Far-Distant Neutrino Source

An international team of scientists, including from the University of Adelaide and Curtin University, has found the first evidence of a source of high-energy particles called neutrinos: an energetic galaxy about 4 billion light years from Earth.

The observations were made by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, and confirmed by telescopes around the globe and in Earth’s orbit.

The announcement was made at the the National Science Foundation in the US today.

This discovery points to a source of cosmic rays, another type of high-energy particle which has posed an enduring mystery since first detected over 100 years ago.

Neutrinos are uncharged subatomic particles that normally pass by the trillion through our bodies and every part of the Earth every second, but they rarely interact with matter – a fact that makes them difficult to detect.

 neutrino “Neutrinos at these very high energies are formed after cosmic ray particles are accelerated (boosted to very high energy) and interact with other particles,” says Associate Professor Gary Hill, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Physical Sciences and member of the IceCube Collaboration.

“So what we’ve found is not only the first evidence of a neutrino source, but also evidence that this galaxy is a cosmic ray accelerator.”

IceCube researchers announced the first solid evidence for high-energy neutrinos coming from beyond our galaxy in 2013.

“Now we have found the first evidence for a specific source object, a blazar, which is a very high energy type of galaxy,” says Associate Professor Hill. “This blazar, designated TXS 0506+056, is about four billion light years from Earth. It’s a giant elliptical galaxy with a massive spinning black hole at its core and twin jets of light and high-velocity particles, one of which is aligned towards Earth.

“I have been working in this field for almost 30 years and to find an actual neutrino source is an incredibly exciting moment. Now that we’ve identified a real source, we’ll be able to focus in on other objects like this one, to understand more about these extreme events billions of years ago which set these particles racing towards our planet.”

Two papers published today in the journal Science describe the first evidence for this known blazar as a source of high-energy neutrinos.

The IceCube Observatory at the South Pole is equipped with a nearly real-time alert system which is triggered when a very high-energy neutrino collides with an atomic nucleus in the Antarctic ice in or near the IceCube detector.

On September 22 last year, the observatory broadcast the coordinates of a neutrino detection to telescopes around the world, calling for follow-up observations of the event.

Around 20 observatories on Earth and in space responded to IceCube’s alert including NASA’s orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) in Namibia and the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescope, or MAGIC, in the Canary Islands—which detected a flare of high-energy gamma rays associated with TXS 0506+056.

Associate Professor James Miller-Jones from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research was involved in the team following up the event at radio wavelengths with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico, USA.

“It’s really exciting for Australian-based astronomers to be involved in uncovering these new insights into the high-energy Universe,” he said.

University of Adelaide’s Associate Professor Gavin Rowell is a member of the H.E.S.S. team. He says: “This result heralds a new era for neutrino astronomy, and opens up the long-anticipated linkages with observations using photons or light, such as gamma-rays and radio waves.”

Dr Sabrina Einecke worked on MAGIC at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany, and is now at the University of Adelaide. She says: “Seeing gamma-rays with MAGIC at the same time as the neutrino is an important piece of evidence suggesting that these were both made by processes in the blazar jet.”

IceCube is operated by the IceCube Collaboration of 300 physicists and engineers from 48 institutions in 12 countries, and is led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with major funding from the US National Science Foundation. The University of Adelaide research was supported by the Australian Research Council.

Top: The IceCube Lab at the South Pole with a distant source emitting neutrinos that are detected below the ice by IceCube sensors,. Credit: IceCube/NSF
Above: Blazar shoots neutrinos and gamma rays to Earth. Credit: IceCube/NASA

The two Science research papers are:
Multimessenger observations of a flaring blazar coincident with high-energy neutrino IceCube-170922A; and
Neutrino emission from the direction of the blazar TXS 0506+056 prior to the IceCube-170922A alert

For full media, please click here.

IPAS Optical Microcavities put forward photonic devices

Optical microcavities are a class of photonic crystals (PCs) that confine light to small volumes by resonant recirculation of electromagnetic waves within the PCs’ structure. They are indispensable for a broad range of applications, including long-distance transmission of data, novel laser sources, quantum communications, sensing and biosensing. In this study Abel and team have developed a pioneering approach for the development of optical microcavities with unprecedented light-confining properties based on self-organised nanoporous anodic alumina photonic crystal platforms. The optimal design of the geometric features and architecture of these PCs can significantly enhance resonant recirculation of light, creating new opportunities to develop ultrasensitive optical platforms, highly selective optical filters, and other photonic devices.

Structural Tailoring of Nanoporous Anodic Alumina Optical Microcavities for Enhanced Resonant Recirculation of Light
Cheryl Suwen Law,  Siew Yee Lim,  Andrew D Abell,  Lluis F. Marsal  and  Abel Santos 

For full article, please click here.

IPAS Novel PPARγ Antagonist – the answer for more effective and safer Type II Diabetes treatment

IPAS researchers have been investigating safer drugs against type two diabetes which are effective at increasing insulin sensitivity without causing side effects. The team has successfully used a number of analytical techniques to determine how these new and improved drugs interact with their target in the body. Their work builds on from previous research undertaken by themselves and others around the globe which focusses on a critical aspect on the development of what can often be a debilitating or even life-threatening condition.

PPARγ in Complex with an Antagonist and Inverse Agonist: A Tumble and Trap Mechanism of the Activation Helix
Rebecca L. Frkic, Andrew C. Marshall, Anne-Laure Blayo, Tara L. Pukala, Theodore M. Kamenecka, Patrick R. Griffin, John B. Bruning
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2018.06.012



IPAS Semiconductor photonic crystals with optical properties featured in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

The precise control of light is key for the efficient utilisation of photons in photocatalytic reactions. Semiconductor nanoporous photonic crystal structures with rationally engineered optical properties can speed up photocatalytic reactions up to several orders of magnitude by utilising the slow photon effect. In this study, the Abel Santos team has demonstrated for the first time that photo-active nanoporous anodic alumina photonic crystals can outperform benchmark photocatalytic platform materials by a rational design of their structure. These semiconductor photonic crystals provide superior performances for a plethora of applications, including photodegradation of environmental pollutants, green energy generation, chemical synthesis and CO2 reduction.

Engineering the Slow Photon Effect in Photoactive Nanoporous Anodic Alumina Gradient-Index Filters for Photocatalysis
Siew Yee LimCheryl Suwen LawMarijana MarkovicJason K. KirbyAndrew D. Abell, and Abel Santos
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, Just Accepted Manuscript

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b05946

For full article, please click on this link.