ANU scientists have designed a nano crystal around 500 times smaller than a human hair that turns darkness into visible light and can be used to create light-weight night-vision glasses.
Professor Dragomir Neshev from ANU said the new night-vision glasses could replace the cumbersome and bulky night-vision binoculars currently in use. PhD student Maria del Rocio Camacho-Morales said the team built the device on glass so that light can pass through, which was critical for optical displays.
Watch a video interview with the researchers on the ANU YouTube channel.
Located in the suburb of Acton, the main campus encompasses seven teaching and research colleges, in addition to several national institutes.
Founded in 1946, it is the only university to have been created by the Parliament of Australia. Originally a postgraduate research university, ANU commenced undergraduate teaching in 1960 when it integrated the Canberra University College, which had been established in 1929 as a Canberra campus of the University of Melbourne.
ANU offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs by the University’s seven colleges: ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU College of Business and Economics, ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, ANU College of Law, ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Australian National University (ANU) research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Sticky tape and phosphorus the key to ultrathin solar cells – July 21, 2015
- Experiment confirms quantum theory weirdness and bizarre nature of reality – June 6, 2015
- Breathing new life into malaria detection – April 23, 2015
- Finding new ways to make drugs – November 27, 2014
- Physicists build reversible tractor beam – October 22, 2014
- Water and sunlight the formula for sustainable fuel – August 29, 2014
- Laser makes microscopes way cooler – August 17, 2014
- Physicists create water tractor beam – August 11, 2014
- New material puts a twist in light – July 19, 2014
- Findings point toward one of first therapies for Lou Gehrig’s disease – June 15, 2014
- Australian wins high-profile award for irrigation invention
- Telescope to track space junk using youth radio station
- Tiny laser breakthrough by ANU researchers shines light on faster computers
- Malware bites and how to stop it
- Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2
- The world’s big trees are dying
- Is Human Impact Accelerating Out of Control?
- Breakthrough for diabetes treatment
- It’s pulling us in! Researchers make tractor beams a reality
- MIT Top 10 Technologies Likely to Change the World
- Breakthrough discovery could result in fragrant golden harvest
- Life-saving HIV treatment to reach millions more
- Resistance gene found against Ug99 wheat stem rust pathogen
- Quantum computing taps nucleus of single atom
- Bee research breakthrough might lead to artificial vision
- Allergy-Free Eggs
- Salt Tolerance Breakthrough – Cross-bred wheat lifts yields
- Splitting Water for Renewable Energy Simpler Than First Thought?
- Leading Lights
Scientists have developed a new optical chip for a telescope that enables astronomers to have a clear view of alien planets that may support life.
Seeing a planet outside the solar system which is close to its host sun, similar to Earth, is very difficult with today’s standard astronomical instruments due to the brightness of the sun.
Associate Professor Steve Madden from The Australian National University (ANU) said the new chip removes light from the host sun, allowing astronomers for the first time to take a clear image of the planet.
“The ultimate aim of our work with astronomers is to be able to find a planet like Earth that could support life,” said Dr Madden from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
“To do this we need to understand how and where planets form inside dust clouds, and then use this experience to search for planets with an atmosphere containing ozone, which is a strong indicator of life.”
Physicists and astronomers at ANU worked on the optical chip with researchers at the University of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.
Dr Madden said the optical chip worked in a similar way to noise cancelling headphones.
“This chip is an interferometer that adds equal but opposite light waves from a host sun which cancels out the light from the sun, allowing the much weaker planet light to be seen,” he said.
PhD student Harry-Dean Kenchington Goldsmith, who built the chip at the ANU Laser Physics Centre, said the technology works like thermal imaging that fire fighters rely on to see through smoke.
“The chip uses the heat emitted from the planet to peer through dust clouds and see planets forming. Ultimately the same technology will allow us to detect ozone on alien planets that could support life,” said Mr Kenchington Goldsmith from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
A team of physicists at ANU have used a technique known as ‘ghost imaging’ to create an image of an object from atoms that never interact with it.
This is the first time that ghost imaging has been achieved using atoms, although it has previously been demonstrated with light, leading to applications being developed for imaging and remote sensing through turbulent environments.
The atom-based result may lead to a new method for quality control of nanoscale manufacturing, including atomic scale 3D printing.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Andrew Truscott from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) said the experiment relied on correlated pairs of atoms. The pairs were separated by around six centimetres and used to generate an image of the ANU logo.
“One atom in each pair was directed towards a mask with the letters ‘ANU’ cut-out,” Associate Professor Truscott said.
“Only atoms that pass through the mask reach a ‘bucket’ detector placed behind the mask, which records a ‘ping’ each time an atom hits it. The second atom in the pair records a ‘ping’ along with the atom’s location on a second spatial detector.
“By matching the times of the ‘pings’ from pairs of atoms we were able to discard all atoms hitting the spatial detector whose partner had not passed through the mask.
“This allowed an image of ‘ANU’ to be recreated, even though – remarkably – the atoms forming the image on the spatial detector had never interacted with the mask. That’s why the image is termed a ‘ghost’.”
Professor Ken Baldwin, also from the RSPE team, said the research may eventually be used for quality control in manufacturing microchips or nano devices.
“We might one day be able to detect in real time when a problem occurs in the manufacturing of a microchip or a nano device,” Professor Baldwin said.
Co-author Dr Sean Hodgman said on a fundamental level, the research could also be a precursor to investigating entanglement between massive particles, which could help the development of quantum computation.
“This research could open up techniques to probe quantum entanglement, otherwise known as Einstein’s spooky action at a distance,” Dr Hodgman said.
Physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have brought quantum computing a step closer to reality by stopping light in a new experiment.
Lead researcher Jesse Everett said controlling the movement of light was critical to developing future quantum computers, which could solve problems too complex for today’s most advanced computers.
“Optical quantum computing is still a long way off, but our successful experiment to stop light gets us further along the road,” said Mr Everett from the Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at ANU.
He said quantum computers based on light – photons – could connect easily with communication technology such as optic fibres and had potential applications in fields such as medicine, defence, telecommunications and financial services.
The research team’s experiment – which created a light trap by shining infrared lasers into ultra-cold atomic vapour – was inspired by Mr Everett’s discovery of the potential to stop light in a computer simulation.
“It’s clear that the light is trapped, there are photons circulating around the atoms,” Mr Everett said.
“The atoms absorbed some of the trapped light, but a substantial proportion of the photons were frozen inside the atomic cloud.”
Mr Everett likened the team’s experiment at ANU to a scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens when the character Kylo Ren used the Force to stop a laser blast mid-air.
“It’s pretty amazing to look at a sci-fi movie and say we actually did something that’s a bit like that,” he said.
Associate Professor Ben Buchler, who leads the ANU research team, said the light-trap experiment demonstrated incredible control of a very complex system.
“Our method allows us to manipulate the interaction of light and atoms with great precision,” said Associate Professor Buchler from RSPE and ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at ANU.
Co-researcher Dr Geoff Campbell from ANU said photons mostly passed by each other at the speed of light without any interactions, while atoms interacted with each other readily.
“Corralling a crowd of photons in a cloud of ultra-cold atoms creates more opportunities for them to interact,” said Dr Campbell from RSPE and ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at ANU.
“We’re working towards a single photon changing the phase of a second photon. We could use that process to make a quantum logic gate, the building block of a quantum computer,” Dr Campbell said.
Learn more: Quantum computing a step closer to reality
Engineers at The Australian National University (ANU) have developed a new spray-on material with a remarkable ability to repel water.
The new protective coating could eventually be used to waterproof mobile phones, prevent ice from forming on aeroplanes or protect boat hulls from corroding.
“The surface is a layer of nanoparticles, which water slides off as if it’s on a hot barbecue,” said PhD student William Wong, from the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering.
The team created a much more robust coating than previous materials by combining two plastics, one tough and one flexible.
“It’s like two interwoven fishing nets, made of different materials,” Mr Wong said.
The water-repellent or superhydrophobic coating is also transparent and extremely resistant to ultraviolet radiation.
Lead researcher and head of the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory, Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli, said the new material could change how we interact with liquids.
“It will keep skyscraper windows clean and prevent the mirror in the bathroom from fogging up,” Associate Professor Tricoli said.
“The key innovation is that this transparent coating is able to stabilise very fragile nanomaterials resulting in ultra-durable nanotextures with numerous real-world applications.”
The team developed two ways of creating the material, both of which are cheaper and easier than current manufacturing processes.
One method uses a flame to generate the nanoparticle constituents of the material. For lower temperature applications, the team dissolved the two components in a sprayable form.
In addition to waterproofing, the new ability to control the properties of materials could be applied to a wide range of other coatings, said Mr Wong.
“A lot of the functional coatings today are very weak, but we will be able to apply the same principles to make robust coatings that are, for example, anti-corrosive, self-cleaning or oil-repellent,” he said.
Learn more: New material to revolutionise water proofing
International research led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found how plants, such as rice and wheat, sense and respond to extreme drought stress, in a breakthrough that could lead to the development of next-generation drought-proof crops. Lead researcher Dr Kai Xun Chan from the ANU Research School of Biology said the team discovered an enzyme that senses adverse drought and sunlight conditions, and how it works from atomic to overall plant levels.
A 2015 Climate Council report found that the Australian GDP fell one per cent due to drought and lower agricultural production in 2002 and 2003. Dr Chan said they will use this model and a computer program to identify candidate chemical compounds that match well with the enzyme’s structure.
Inspired by the Mimosa plant’s folding response to touch, researchers have engineered a material that folds when in contact with water.
Many of us have fond childhood memories of poking the ubiquitous Mimosa pudica plant’s leaflets, then exclaiming in delight when they fold up at even the slightest touch. This spontaneous, protective motion, which is more complicated than it looks, is triggered by a cascade of reactions and pressure waves. Now, researchers from Hong Kong and Australia have drawn inspiration from the ever-so-sensitive plant to develop self-organizing soft materials that fold themselves into predetermined shapes when wet.
The study is published in the journal Science Advances.
A breakthrough by an Australian collaboration of researchers could make infra-red technology easy-to-use and cheap, potentially saving millions of dollars in defence and other areas using sensing devices, and boosting applications of technology to a host of new areas, such as agriculture.
Infra-red devices are used for improved vision through fog and for night vision and for observations not possible with visible light; high-quality detectors cost approximately $100,000 (including the device at the University of Sydney) some require cooling to -200°C.
Now, research spearheaded by researchers at the University of Sydney has demonstrated a dramatic increase in the absorption efficiency of light in a layer of semiconductor that is only a few hundred atoms thick – to almost 99 percent light absorption from the current inefficient 7.7 percent.
The findings will be published overnight in the high-impact journal Optica.
Co-author from the University of Sydney’s School of Physics, Professor Martijn de Sterke, said the team discovered perfect thin film light absorbers could be created simply by etching grooves into them.
Physicists are putting themselves out of a job, using artificial intelligence to run a complex experiment.
The experiment, developed by physicists from ANU, University of Adelaide and UNSW ADFA, created an extremely cold gas trapped in a laser beam, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, replicating the experiment that won the 2001 Nobel Prize.
“I didn’t expect the machine could learn to do the experiment itself, from scratch, in under an hour,” said co-lead researcher Paul Wigley from ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
“A simple computer program would have taken longer than the age of the universe to run through all the combinations and work this out.”
ANU researchers have found a vital supply route that cancer cells use to obtain their nutrients, in a discovery that could lead to new treatments to stop the growth of tumours.
The research team blocked gateways through which the cancer cell was obtaining the amino acid glutamine and found the cells almost completely stopped growing.
“This is likely to work in a wide range of cancers, because it is a very common mechanism in cancer cells,” said lead researcher Professor Stefan Bröer, from ANU Research School of Biology.
“Better still, this should lead to chemotherapy with much less serious side-effects, as normal cells do not use glutamine as a building material.
“Crucial white blood cells, which current treatments damage, could be spared, and it could cut out the hair loss that chemotherapy causes.”
There are 917 different types of cancer currently identified, and many cures work only for a single type of the disease or become ineffective as cancers develop resistance to chemotherapy.
However Professor Bröer said the new approach would be less prone to resistance because blocking the glutamine transport mechanism is an external process that would be hard for cancer cells to get around.
The team first attempted a glutamine blockade by genetically altering cancer cells to disable their main glutamine transporter. However, it was not very effective, Professor Bröer said.
“It was not quite as simple as we thought. The cells set off a biochemical alarm which opened a back door in the cell so they could still get the glutamine they needed,” he said.
Once the team had disabled the second gateway by turning off the biochemical alarm with a technique known as RNA silencing, the cells’ growth reduced by 96 per cent.
The results are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Lead author Angelika Bröer, also from ANU Research School of Biology, spearheaded the effort to identify and genetically knock out glutamine transporters.
“It is an exciting time to do cancer research. We now have precision tools in our hands to manipulate the genome of cancer cells, allowing us to address problems that were difficult to solve previously,” she said.
Now the importance of glutamine gateways have been identified in cancer, the hunt is on to find drug treatments that will lock them down and kill the disease.
“We have developed a set of tests which make it very easy to determine if a drug is targeting glutamine transporters,” Ms Bröer said.
“This means we can set robots to work that will test tens of thousands of drugs for us over the next year or two.”
Learn more: Starving cancer the key to new treatments
Physicists have discovered radical new properties in a nanomaterial, opening new possibilities for highly efficient thermophotovoltaic cells that could one day harvest heat in the dark and turn it into electricity.
The research team from ANU/ARC Centre of Excellence CUDOS and the University of California Berkeley demonstrated a new artificial material, or metamaterial, that glows in an unusual way when heated.
The findings could drive a revolution in the development of cells which convert radiated heat into electricity, known as thermophotovoltaic cells.
“Thermophotovoltaic cells have the potential to be much more efficient than solar cells,” said Dr Sergey Kruk from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
“Our metamaterial overcomes several obstacles and could help to unlock the potential of thermophotovoltaic cells.”
Thermophotovoltaic cells have been predicted to be more than twice as efficient as conventional solar cells. They do not need direct sunlight to generate electricity, and instead can harvest heat from their surroundings in the form of infrared radiation.
They can also be combined with a burner to produce on-demand power or can recycle heat radiated by hot engines.
The team’s metamaterial, made of tiny nanoscopic structures of gold and magnesium fluoride, radiates heat in specific directions.
The geometry of the metamaterial can also be tweaked to give off radiation in specific spectral range, in contrast to standard materials that emit their heat in all directions as a broad range of infrared wavelengths. This makes the new material ideal for use as an emitter paired with a thermophotovoltaic cell.
The project started when Dr Kruk predicted the new metamaterial would have these surprising properties. The ANU team then worked with scientists at the University of California Berkeley, who have unique expertise in manufacturing such materials.
“To fabricate this material the Berkeley team were operating at the cutting edge of technological possibilities,” Dr Kruk said.
“The size of an individual building block of the metamaterial is so small that we could fit more than 12,000 of them on the cross-section of a human hair.”
The research is published in Nature Communications.
The key to the metamaterial’s remarkable behaviour is its novel physical property, known as magnetic hyperbolic dispersion.
Dispersion describes the interactions of light with materials and can be visualised as a three-dimensional surface representing how electromagnetic radiation propagates in different directions. For natural materials, such as glass or crystals the dispersion surfaces have simple forms, spherical or ellipsoidal.
The dispersion of the new metamaterial is drastically different and is hyperbolic in form. This arises from the material’s remarkably strong interactions with the magnetic component of light.
The efficiency of thermophotovoltaic cells based on the metamaterial can be further improved if the emitter and the receiver have just a nanoscopic gap between them. In this configuration, radiative heat transfer between them can be more than ten times more efficient than between conventional materials.