Science

Launch: Smart sensing network probes pollution, blood and koalas

Dr Parisa Sowti Khiabani wearing a UV-sensitive skin patch at Bondi Beach
Friday, 3 February, 2017
UNSW media/University of Sydney media

Futuristic sensing technologies to tackle major challenges in agriculture, health, security, the environment and industry were showcased this week at the official launch of the NSW Smart Sensing Network.

The NSW Government-backed network was launched by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O'Kane at an event on Wednesday 1 February at the Sydney Nanoscience Hub at the University of Sydney.

Speakers included Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW and Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.

The NSW government announced last year it was investing $700,000 to establish the network, which is led by Scientia Professor Justin Gooding at UNSW and Professor Ben Eggleton at the University of Sydney. The two universities contributed an additional $125,000 each.

Among the technologies on display at the launch was a UV-sensitive skin patch developed by Professor Gooding and Dr Parisa Sowti Khiabani at UNSW. This safe, affordable and easy-to-use devise changes colour with increasing exposure to the sun’s harmful radiation, providing a warning to people it’s time to get out of the sun.

The low cost, paper-based sensor is made with an ink-jet printer, and a provisional patent has been filed. It can be tuned to individual skin types and may help prevent sunburn and skin cancer.

Other key projects include:

  • Biomedical research led by UNSW's Professor Justin Gooding  to detect clinically important biomarkers in blood.
  • Water Quality research led by UNSW's Dr Alex Donald into developing a palm portable device to monitor toxic pollutants in NSW central coast groundwater that led to a fishing ban.
  • Air Sensing research led by the University of Sydney's Professor Benjamin Eggleton in a variety of photonic techniques sensing gases and particles in the atmosphere – has particular relevance for transport corridors, industries and local communities. (see photonic chip ANIMATION)
  • Wildlife sensing capabilities led by Dr Zhe Xu, from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, will monitor iconic and ecologically important species including koala populations.
  • Wearables polymer fibre light guides research led by the University of Sydney's Professor Simon Fleming to sense changes in the body, such as as the movement of bedridden patients, bandage pressure and to measure metrics of elite athletes.

The launch received widespread media coverage including a report in Znet.

Media Contact: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060. deborah.smith@unsw.edu.au