Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem represented the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics and IPAS at Science Meets Parliament, held in Canberra on 21-22nd March 2017.
Science Meets Parliament is an annual event run by Science and Technology Australia and provides ~200 scientists with the opportunity to meet with federal politicians, advisors and policy makers.
Heike had the opportunity to meet with Senator Chris Back, Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislative Committee, and Senator Chris Ketter; discussing her research involving the use of optical fibres to create windows into the body, specifically in regards to pain detection.
In addition, Heike also had the opportunity to talk with the Honourable Richard Marles, Shadow Minister for Defence, during the official dinner.
A summary of Science Meets Parliament can be found here.
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.
Australian researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a method for embedding light-emitting nanoparticles into glass without losing any of their unique properties – a major step towards ‘smart glass’ applications such as 3D display screens or remote radiation sensors.
This new “hybrid glass” successfully combines the properties of these special luminescent (or light-emitting) nanoparticles with the well-known aspects of glass, such as transparency and the ability to be processed into various shapes including very fine optical fibres.
The research, in collaboration with Macquarie University and University of Melbourne, has been published online in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.
“These novel luminescent nanoparticles, called upconversion nanoparticles, have become promising candidates for a whole variety of ultra-high tech applications such as biological sensing, biomedical imaging and 3D volumetric displays,” says lead author Dr Tim Zhao, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Physical Sciences and Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).
Although this method was developed with upconversion nanoparticles, the researchers believe their new ‘direct-doping’ approach can be generalised to other nanoparticles with interesting photonic, electronic and magnetic properties. There will be many applications – depending on the properties of the nanoparticle.
“If we infuse glass with a nanoparticle that is sensitive to radiation and then draw that hybrid glass into a fibre, we could have a remote sensor suitable for nuclear facilities,” says Dr Zhao.
To date, the method used to integrate upconversion nanoparticles into glass has relied on the in-situ growth of the nanoparticles within the glass.
“We’ve seen remarkable progress in this area but the control over the nanoparticles and the glass compositions has been limited, restricting the development of many proposed applications,” says project leader Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heideprem, Deputy Director of IPAS and Senior Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics.
“With our new direct doping method, which involves synthesizing the nanoparticles and glass separately and then combining them using the right conditions, we’ve been able to keep the nanoparticles intact and well dispersed throughout the glass. The nanoparticles remain functional and the glass transparency is still very close to its original quality. We are heading towards a whole new world of hybrid glass and devices for light-based technologies.”
Two female IPAS researchers were recognised in the University’s inaugural Women’s Research Excellence Awards.A/Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem for her research in the field of optical glasses and fibres and A/Prof Yvonne Stokes for research in applied mathematics.
They each were awarded $5k to spend on activities which support their research in 2015. Congratulations to both scientists on this well deserved award.
Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) researchers are developing a portable, highly sensitive method for gold detection that would allow mineral exploration companies to test for gold on-site at the drilling rig.
Using light in two different processes (fluorescence and absorption) they have been able to detect gold nanoparticles at detection limits 100 times lower than achievable under current methods.
Australia is the world’s second largest gold producer, worth $13 billion in export earnings.
“Gold is not just used for jewellery, it is in high demand for electronics and medical applications around the world, but exploration for gold is extremely challenging with a desire to detect very low concentrations of gold in host rocks,” says postdoctoral researcher Dr Agnieszka Zuber, working on the project with IPAS Deputy Director Associate Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem.
“The presence of gold deep underground is estimated by analysis of rock particles coming out of the drilling holes. But current portable methods for detection are not sensitive enough, and the more sensitive methods require some weeks before results are available.
“This easy-to-use sensor will allow fast detection right at the drill rig with the amount of gold determined within an hour, at much lower cost.”
The researchers have been able to detect less than 100 parts per billion of gold in water. They are now testing using samples of real rock with initial promising results. The work is funded by the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre.
The gold detection project is one of a series of projects which will be presented at the IPAS Minerals and Energy Sector Workshop today, aimed at linking resources specific research to local companies.
Industry representatives will also hear about the Photonics Catalyst Program, a joint State Government and IPAS initiative which supports connections between advanced photonics technologies and SA industry.
Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher says IPAS’s collaboration with partners is stimulating new technologies and contributing to the State’s reputation as a knowledge economy.
“The Photonics Catalyst Program helps South Australian businesses, including resources-related companies, identify the emerging laser and sensor technologies that could transform their products or business models,” Mr Maher says.
“Technology plays a central role in the competitiveness of South Australian manufacturing, supporting innovation, driving product and service development and improving manufacturing performance. It will play a key role in driving change and will underpin the transformation of the South Australian economy.”
Congratulations to Dr Jiangbo (Tim) Zhao and A/Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem for the being awarded funding under the 2015-2016 Group of Eight Australia – Germany Joint Research Co-operation Scheme for the project “Incorporating Pd nanoparticles into fibre for plasmon-enhanced UV-blue photonic devices” ($20k awarded). This scheme is a joint initiative of the Go8 and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Germany’s national agency for the support of international academic co-operation.
IPAS had 3 plinths with defence based technologies on display at the 2014 Land Forces Conference, Brisbane 22-25 September. The plinths made up a part of the Defence SA stand.
Prof Andre Luiten, A/Prof David Lancaster, Ms Olivia Towers, A/Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem and Dr Erik Schartner manned the stand, forming defence industry collaborations.