'Super' sensors to make conditions safer for miners

Monday, 21 June, 2021 | Supplied by: University of Southern Queensland

Dr Toan Dinh, a mechanical engineer at the University of Southern Queensland, has designed sensors to help prevent injury and death on mining sites by detecting early mechanical issues in oil and gas pipelines. The sensors, made of silicon carbide, can withstand harsh and corrosive environments, and are five to 100 times smaller than the width of a single human hair. Dr Dinh spent six years developing the sensors, which perform a thousand times better than conventional sensors. Dr Dinh explained that current silicon technology can’t be used in harsh environments, because it cannot survive a long time in conditions of high temperatures and corrosion.

“The sensors I have developed can operate in up to 600°C for a wide range of applications, including oil and gas industries and aerospace technologies,” Dr Dinh said. Oil and gas exploration and production sites can be dangerous workplaces, due to the risk of fires and explosions. Dr Dinh said his sensors can help detect and measure the tiniest of movements in the environment, and monitor in real time the structural health of a system, such as a pipeline, in case there are any changes or faults. “It is critically important we make working conditions safer for miners and more efficient,” Dr Dinh said. “This can help prevent a major system failure from occurring, not only reducing maintenance costs but potentially avert a catastrophic situation that could lead to injury or death.”

Dr Dinh recently received a $440,675 grant under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme to further develop his research. The grant will enable him to travel to California, where he will collaborate with researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to analyse how the sensors could be used in space exploration. “It’s a very exciting opportunity and a great chance to focus on improving the technology’s performance so it can operate in more environments and applications. My goal is to start testing the sensors in real industry conditions as early as this year before they are ready for commercialisation,” Dr Dinh said. The ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme provides support for researchers and creates opportunities for early-career researchers in teaching, research and research-only positions in Australia.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Michael Evans

Online: www.usq.edu.au
Phone: 07 4631 2100
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