Blog Archives

Sapphire Clock’s JORNey

Andre LuitenMartin O’ConnorFred Baynes and Waddah Al-Ashwal, members of the Sapphire Clock team, recently visited the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) near Laverton, WA. The JORN site is part of the Australian Airforce’s monitoring and surveillance, covering between 1000-3000km of local and international airspace.  

The Sapphire Clock is a cryogenic sapphire oscillator that allows time to be measured to the femtosecond scale (one quadrillionth of a second), with only a single second gained or lost every 40 million years. This kind of accuracy is required for ultra high precision measurements; such as radar technology used at JORN.
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Optic-fibre sensors enabling aircraft, ships to self-diagnose corrosion

Deputy Director

Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem

The days of Australia’s defence forces routinely deconstructing major equipment to visually inspect for corrosion could soon be over, saving huge amounts of time and money, and possibly even lives.

In a world first, researchers at the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS), University of Adelaide have developed a unique form of optic fibre that can be coated with flurometric corrosion-sensing material—another world-first technique—and embedded throughout the critical structures of aircraft and ships.

Co-lead researcher and IPAS Deputy Director Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem says this means a fighter jet’s wings, for example, could be checked for the early signs of corrosion in a matter of seconds, with no deconstruction required, then be immediately returned to action.

“We’d been working on training light along tiny ‘nano-rail’ fibres threaded through liquids, structures or other mediums as detectors for several years,” says Heike.

“The light in the nano-rails isn’t contained, as it is in standard broadband-Internet optical fibres, but rather is guided along an exposed core, and can interact with surrounding materials to reveal their secrets.

“The Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) asked us to work collaboratively wit them to develop these fibres to detect corrosion in the harsh environments which Defence’s aircraft and ships are exposed to.”
According to Heike, the breakthrough came when co-lead researcher Roman Kostecki developed the world’s first exposed-core optic fibre made from silica.

“This made it sturdy enough for use outside the lab, and allowed us to start applying the technology to real-world problems.”

The team subsequently developed a unique method of coating the fibres with chemicals that respond when light comes into contact with any nearby corrosion by-products, enabling near-instant checks to be conducted by firing lasers along the fibres.

“We’ve already successfully checked for aluminium ions in aircraft-grade materials—the first time that’s ever been done with optical fibres—so we’re very excited to keep expanding the technique’s applications in conjunction with the DSTG.

“It has fantastic potential to create safer aircraft, ships, and even critical structures like bridges, which could ultimately contribute to saving lives.”

The technology has also led to new health-related research, says Heike, including in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) and water-safety applications.

Article from Research Impact, The University of Adelaide

Photographer: CPL Glen McCarthy

Photographer: CPL Glen McCarthy

IPAS featured on the Defence SA Research and Development Strengths site

Ms Tess Reynolds and the Advanced Materials collaboration between IPAS and the defence industry has been featured as part of the Defence SA Research and Development Strengths website.

“South Australian researchers have a strong culture of cross-university, industry and Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group collaborations in Australia and internationally.

DST Group’s longstanding and significant presence in South Australia has fostered the development in our institutions of specialist defence research concentrations.” See the full article here

Ms Tess Reynolds

Ms Tess Reynolds