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Highly Sensitive Compact Sensors for Detecting and Monitoring Changes in Harsh Environments

Tiny high-tech chips, capable of detecting problems in ageing oil and gas pipelines, are being developed by Griffith University Researchers in order to prevent potential catastrophic events.

Griffith University researchers are creating tiny high-tech chips that will detect problems in ageing gas and oil pipelines, preventing catastrophic events. CREDIT Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre, Griffith University.

A team of Researchers from Griffith’s Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Centre are developing the cost-effective, novel and highly sensitive compact sensors capable of detecting and monitoring changes in harsh environments, such as temperature, magnetic field, flow rate, pressure and strain.

The Researchers stressed the need for a robust, affordable and real-time monitoring system since safety in the resource sector is considered to be a globally critical issue. To further establish this work within the centre, these Researchers have already made recent significant discoveries.

A $403,000 Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant will be used by Dr Dzung Dao, Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen, Professor Sima Dimitrijev and Alan Iacopi for their project ‘Superior Silicon Carbide Nanoscale Sensors (SCANS) for Harsh Environments’.

By collaborating with SPT Microtechnologies, the Researchers will produce silicon-carbide (SiC) nanoscale sensors (SCANS) that will be commercialized to enhance the efficiency and safety of systems that work under unfriendly conditions.

Dr Dao stated that shortcomings of the existing diagnostic techniques will be addressed by the project, greatly enhancing the efficiency, productivity, safety and reliability of resource exploration and transportation systems in Australia.

The resource sector, including mining, oil and gas, and geothermal industries, is one of the driving forces of the Australian economy, with the oil and gas extraction industry alone reaping approximately $50 billion for the Australian economy. However, our oil and gas delivery infrastructure is rapidly ageing. Internal corrosion and mechanical strain can cause the leakage in gas and oil pipelines, leading to catastrophic failures, death, injury, and environmental impacts. Numerous sensor technologies have been used for monitoring and accident-prevention purposes but most of the sensors are bulky or based on material like silicon, which is not suitable for long time operation in high temperature environments found in pipelines, geothermal and mining applications.

Dr Dzung Dao, Griffith University

Researchers have discovered a number of transducer effects in single crystal silicon-carbide thin films, including the thermoresistive, piezoresistive, Hall and pseudo-Hall effects, for superior pressure, flow rate, vibration, strain and magnetic sensors. Since 2014, the team succeeded in publishing 26 high-impact journal papers in this field and already attracted 165 citations.

When compared to silicon, silicon-carbide is made up of greater mechanical strength, electrical stability, thermal durability and chemical inertness. Silicon carbide has been extensively used in the power electronics industry, which has been projected to have an international market value of $1.8 billion in 2018.

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