Defence & Security

Cryogenic sapphire clock

sapphire crystal

Timing precision is critical to many sensing, communication and computational applications. The need for very high timing precision reaches its pinnacle in radar technology, very long baseline (VLBI) radio astronomy and quantum computing.

The Sapphire Clock, developed by Prof Andre Luiten and his group, is a cryogenic sapphire oscillator that allows time to be measured to the femtosecond scale (one quadrillionth of a second): equivalent to only gaining or losing a single second over 40 million years.

In recent times, the extremely high performance of the oscillator has found a practical and strategic application in Australian Defence by improving the performance of a key asset, the Jindalee Over the Horizon Radar Network (JORN). JORN is a multi-billion dollar linchpin of Australia’s defence surveillance that monitors air and sea movements across 37,000 km2; playing a vital role in supporting the Australian Defence Force’s air and maritime operations, border protection, disaster relief and search and rescue operations.

Find out more


Upconversion fluorescence for real-time stand-off detection and identification of explosives

Jillian Moffatt, Nigel Spooner and Georgios Tsiminis with the UF facility dual-laser system

IPAS members have received funding from Defence Industry & Innovation to research a potentially transformative technology for stand-off real-time explosives sensing.

There are currently no robust, rapid technologies suitable for application in the field for real-time detection and identification of explosives at stand-off ranges of 10 m or more. Other technologies exist, such as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy or Raman spectroscopy, but all have limitations that impact their efficacy and potential for real-world deployment.

The team is using leading-edge laser technology including mid-IR lasers developed at IPAS to explore upconversion fluorescence (UF) from explosives molecules, precursors and products, aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of UF for stand-off sensing, and define the required parameters for deployable UF explosives sensors.

This research leverages extensive investment by the Australian mining industry, through CRC ORE, which has created the globally leading UF research facility at IPAS.


High power durability of soft glasses for laser applications

Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem using a glovebox to fabricate novel glass

Prof Heike Ebendorff- Heidepriem and Associate Professor Martin O’Connor have received funding from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research to investigate the fundamental limit of achievable laser power for mid-infrared transmitting soft glasses.

The project focuses on four different glass types using established glass compositions and fabrication procedures developed at IPAS:

  • fluoroindate,
  • fluorozirconate,
  • germanate and
  • tellurite;

with the aim to develop a range of new high gain doped materials towards enabling the realisation of new laser and amplifier systems with enhanced operating parameters. 


Fibre-based quantum memory for secure communications

cold matter wave

Cyber security is one of Australia's national security priorities - Australia's national security, economic prosperity and social wellbeing rely on the availability, integrity and confidentiality of a range of information and communications technology.

The development of cutting-edge quantum technologies such as quantum computing and quantum key distribution has critical implications for the secure transmission of information.

Combining our novel atom-filled hollow-core fibres with state-of-the-art quantum information storage protocols, we are creating a compact, robust and modular “quantum node” - the key ingredient to developing an optical fibre-based network for provably-secure communications.