ANU at the nexus of smart sensing

The NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) rolled out a series of events to officially welcome the Australian National University (ANU) as a member of the NSSN consortium of universities on 25 September 2019. 

Attended by research experts and ambassadors from nine NSSN member universities, the events took place at ANU’s campus and aimed to provide an introduction to NSSN while showcasing ANU’s strengths and expertise in smart sensing.  

ANU researchers showcased a rich body of advanced research in cutting edge smart sensing technology and data analysis. Smart sensing capabilities of ANU span a whole spectrum from fundamental physical materials and metamaterials, through to integrated devices, communications, analytics and presentation of data.

Quantum sensing finds a stronghold at the ANU where research focuses on the development of quantum and sub-quantum limited measurements of the gravitational field. Working at the cutting edge of quantum gravity sensing, Professor John Close, the head of the Quantum Science Department at ANU, is one of the key scientists involved in the $3 million-plus NSSN water industry project.

 “The project I’m currently involved in with NSSN is the detection of leaks in pipes in Sydney. We are looking at using gravitational signals to detect leaks,” said Professor Close. 

Professor John Close, ANU

Professor John Close, ANU

The challenge of detecting leaks and breaks in pipes before they occur is a crucial issue for water utilities around the world. As gravity is not readily shielded, quantum sensing technology has the potential to sense underground water leaks in noisy environments.

 “Gravity is sensitive to mass variation or density variation. The soil becomes wet as a result of the leak, the density increases, the gravity above the pipe increases, and we can detect that and find out if there is potentially a leak in the pipe,” said Professor Close. 

Sensitive gravimeters have applications to fundamental tests of general relativity and the search for beyond standard model physics. They can be applied to earth science, mineral exploration, climate science, space instrumentation and navigation.

“By measuring gravity, you can detect mineral deposits, look at aquifers and water flow under the ground,” said Professor Close, “Other civilian applications are potentially satellite navigation, planetary studies, studies in earth science, early warning for earthquakes, early warning for landslides, tectonic plates abduction.” 

“The expertise in Australia is spread through the private sector and universities. There are expertise in specific areas in each of these places and what’s really needed is an organisation that can bring all these people together to address specific problems,” said Dr Close,” the NSSN is ideally positioned to do exactly that.”

NSSN co-directors Professor Ben Eggleton and Professor Justin Gooding delivered a joint keynote presentation on NSSN capabilities, thematic focus areas, smart sensing ecosystem, and current projects. 

“The NSSN brings together through its collaboration, a broad range of expertise, all the way from physical-chemical layer to the data layer and the ability to synthesise opportunities that would not otherwise be on offer if individual academics, universities were to work unilaterally,” said NSSN Co-Director, Professor Benjamin Eggleton.

“The quantum sensing capabilities here are crucial to some of the solutions our industry partners are looking for,” said Professor Justin Gooding, the co-director of NSSN. 

“ANU have a really strong history in fundamental sciences. They have got enormous surface chemistry history, which is really crucial for all the biomedical and chemical sensors that are all interfacial devices,” added Professor Gooding. 

“We are delighted that ANU has joined NSSN and we look forward to continuing to work with the scientists, engineers and the leadership on translating world-class science into real-world outcomes,” said the NSSN Co-Director, Professor Benjamin Eggleton. 

The NSSN brings together the world-class research taking place in academia with state government agencies and industry to introduce innovative solutions to critical challenges faced across by manufacturers, policymakers end-users across different sectors. The Network’s thematic focus areas include built environment, resources and energy, environment and agriculture technology, space and aviation, manufacturing and medical technology.

“NSSN helps us scale our connectivity between academia and industry and government,” said Dr Robin Fieldhouse, investment manager at Innovation ANU, “NSSN gives us access to problems we have the solutions to.” 

ANU’s membership of the NSSN enhances the Network’s capability to bring innovative solutions to complex problems and empowers the Network’s vision to position Australia as a global leader in smart sensing.

NSW Smart Sensing Network at the Australian National University

NSW Smart Sensing Network at the Australian National University

Shahrzad Abbasi