Sustainable Energy, Mining & Resources
High temperature sensor
The measurement of temperature within high temperature furnaces poses significant challenges, since sensors are exposed to high and varying temperatures and often highly corrosive environments. Accurate temperature sensing inside a furnace during a full cycle will allow a reduction of overall energy use resulting in lower operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
IPAS researchers have developed a high temperature sensor based on optical fibre technology that offers numerous advantages for measuring high temperatures: multipoint sensing, immunity to electromagnetic interference, corrosion resistance, small size, and the ability to sense in difficult locations. The sensor, based on fibre Bragg gratings within microstructured optical fibres, overcomes a key limitation of traditional fibre Bragg gratings, which do not work above 250°C. The patented sensors are made from pure silica microstructured optical fibre, which is fabricated at the University of Adelaide. We then modify these fibres with a femtosecond laser machining technique to produce the Bragg grating. As the thermometers are made of a single material that has been physically modified, they will operate successfully up to 1300°C.
The sensor has been developed in partnership with a 100-year-old South Australian engineering company, SJ Cheesman, located next to the Nyrstar multi-metals recovery plant in Port Pirie. SJ Cheesman, with their vast experience in the smelter industry identified a number of critical locations that would greatly benefit from this newly developed optical fibre temperature sensor technology. An initial program of work was carried out via a South Australian Government co-sponsored pilot study (Photonics Catalyst Grant), which allowed the sensors to be successfully developed and demonstrated within the smelter. An ARC linkage project followed, allowing further development of this critical technology. Incorporating the sensor into the zinc smelter enabled Nyrstar to understand the temperature of this critical operation for the first time in its 50 years of operation. This will inform future best practices in terms of energy consumption with direct potential economic and environmental impacts.
In 2017, giant industrial engineering and manufacturing company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has signed a series of collaborative research contracts for IPAS to develop unique optical fibre based ultra-high, multipoint temperature sensors that will enhance the efficiency of their power generation systems. Mitsubishi came to Adelaide looking for global research partners and decided the Institute’s ultra-high temperature optical fibre sensors would provide a unique opportunity to better understand and improve their world leading power generation systems.
This new collaboration represents international recognition for the quality of IPAS’ research and development, and the difference these emerging disruptive technologies like photonics can make to businesses’ bottom lines. Temperature readings can help other companies improve energy efficiency, reduced emissions, and improvement in the design and lifespan of components, resulting in an overall enhanced competitiveness.
IPAS Node of the ARC Copper-Uranium Transformation Research Hub
The Hub, led by the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources at the University of Adelaide, is enhancing the value of Australian copper resources by developing and testing new, cost-effective ways to remove nontarget metals from copper ores in South Australia and internationally; in partnership with researchers from the University of Queensland, Monash University, Flinders University, BHP, OZ Minerals, Defence Science and Technology Group and the Department of State Development.
IPAS member Prof David Ottaway is leading the Hub node dedicated to ‘Analysing the Rocks’, aiming to develop new scanning technologies to locate and quantify nontarget metals, including in real-time.
The IPAS team is developing solid state and liquid based radiation sensors for detecting natural radiation fields in copper ore. Within solid state sensing the group has created a revolutionary process to spatially locate alpha producing minerals to microscale resolution. This process will help quantify and understand mineral distribution within the ore. Liquid sensing utilises optical fibres to detect extremely low concentrations of non-target metals in real time at the mine site. Real time liquid sensing allows for rapid processing turnaround that can support a constantly operating mineral processing plant.
The Cu-U Hub has also leveraged over $1 million of additional funding to establish a Radiation Sensing Capability to evaluate mineral processing ore samples at different stages within the plant. The University of Adelaide based capability resides in the Braggs building.
Developing portable, highly sensitive gold detection
Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem was awarded a further $200k from the DET CRC in 2016 to expand the project, building on the team’s excellent initial results.
This project will focus on the pre-concentration of heavy minerals, including gold, to facilitate its detection at low levels and directly from rock at the drilling site. Both chemical and physical methods will be tested.
ARC Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation
On 6 May 2016, the Australian Research Council announced $2.6 Million in federal funding to establish the ARC Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation, led by IPAS SMC member, Professor Dusan Losic.
The hub will develop advanced materials; provide fit-for-purpose products and innovative solutions to a range of industries, such as advanced manufacturing, mining and minerals technology and services, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, and defence.
The aim is that its research will transform industry and support Australian businesses to embrace cutting-edge innovation and technologies that deliver high-value returns.
Next generation laser-based mineralogy sensing technology
IPAS researchers received $1,300,000 from the CRC ORE towards developing a new, laser-based technology for detecting and quantifying mineral species in real-time for coarse particles.
The project is led by Professors Nigel Spooner and David Ottaway.
The proposed technology is expected to be less sensitive to the known limitations of existing techniques such as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and laserinduced fluorescence (LIF).