Tag Archives: University of Adelaide

Smart Needle

Smart needle uses IOT in brain surgery

The smart needle was developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide in South Australia and uses a tiny camera to identify at-risk blood vessels.

The probe, which is the size of a human hair, uses an infrared light to look through the brain.

It then uses the Internet of Things to send the information to a computer in real-time and alerts doctors of any abnormalities.

The project was a collaboration with the University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital where a six-month pilot trial of the smart needle was run.

Research leader and Chair of the University of Adelaide’s Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics Robert McLaughlin says researchers are also looking at other surgery applications for the device including minimally invasive surgery.

He says surgeons previously relied on scans taken prior to surgery to avoid hitting blood vessels but the smart needle is a more accurate method that highlighted their locations in real-time.

“There are about 256,000 cases of brain cancer a year and about 2.3 per cent of the time you can make a significant impact that could end in a stroke or death,” he says.

“This (smart needle) would help that … it works sort of like an ultrasound but with light instead.

“It also has smart software that takes the picture, analyses it and it can determine if what it is seeing is a blood vessel or tissue.”

Smart Needle
Professor Robert McLaughlin (right) with the smart needle.

Professor McLaughlin says the smart needle has potential to be used in other surgical procedures. 

The trial at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital involved 12 patients who were undergoing craniotomies.

The needle with a 200-micron wide camera was successfully able to identify blood vessels during the surgery.

Professor Christopher Lind, who led the trial, says having a needle that could see blood vessels as surgeons proceeded through the brain is a medical breakthrough.

“It will open the way for safer surgery, allowing us to do things we’ve not been able to do before,” he says.

The smart needle will be ready for formal clinical trials in 2018.

Professor McLaughlin says he hopes manufacturing of the smart needle will begin within five years.

The project was partially funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the South Australian Government.

The Australia Government has committed $23 million until 2021 to encourage vital research discoveries through the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics.

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead on 20 January 2017. Read the original article here.

beriberi

Parents to thwart deadly beriberi with fish sauce

A joint study by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Adelaide found that introducing fish sauce fortified with the thiamine to the Cambodian diet provided enough nutrition to prevent beriberi disease, which is a leading cause of infant death in the country.

The study involved a trial in Cambodia led by the South Australian researchers where varying levels of thiamine (vitamin B1) was added to fish sauce products during the manufacturing process.

beriberi

Breastfeeding mothers and children who ate the fish sauce were then tested to confirm adequate levels of thiamine was present in their blood to prevent the disease.

Beriberi is caused by thiamine deficiency and in infant cases can quickly progress from mild symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea to heart failure.

With the findings published in the Journal of Paediatrics, Principal Nutritionist and Affiliate Professor at SAHMRI Tim Green says the next step is to lobby for funds to expand the trial in a bid to convince the Cambodian government of the merits of thiamine fortification.

“We’ve done this relatively large randomised controlled trial, but we provided the fish sauce in this case,” he says.

“Our next step is to scale up – to get Cambodian government or Cambodian industry involved and show that it works with 100,000 or 200,000 people.

“And if we can show that works, we can provide evidence to the government and they can also mandate the addition of thiamine to fish sauce.”

While fish sauce has no nutritional advantage over other foods trialled in the study, it was selected because of its near ubiquitous use in Cambodian culture.

beriberi

Fish sauce is produced in centralised locations, making it easier for government and industry to control, and is already fortified with iron

Fortification is used in many countries around the world, but to be effective it is important to select a foodstuff already consumed by the majority of the population.

“Fortification is used in a lot of different settings – we do it in Australia, for example fortifying wheat flour with folic acid, or salt with iodine,” Green says.

“However, the important thing to consider is what you fortify may differ from country to country depending on what the staple is.

“We found that fish sauce in South East Asia is a good vehicle because it’s so popular and so widely consumed.”

While the trial was focused on Cambodia, Green says a similar strategy could be adopted in other South East Asian countries affected by beriberi disease.

“Because beriberi isn’t always recognised and the onset from the initial symptoms – which can be quite mild – to death is so rapid, the best thing to do would be to prevent it in the first place,” Green says.

While the study focused on thiamine fortification, the identification of fish sauce as the food of choice for delivery could also be expanded to cover other nutritional deficiencies.

Green says his team has also considered the possibility of using fish sauce to deliver vitamin B2.

– Thomas Luke

This article was first shared by The Lead on 12 January 2017. Read the original article here.

breast cancer

Breast cancer probe detects deadly cells

Featured image above: Dr Erik Shartner with the prototype optical fibre sensor, which can detect breast cancer during surgery. Credit: University of Adelaide

An optical fibre probe has been developed to detect breast cancer tissue during surgery.

Working with excised breast cancer tissue, researchers from the University of Adelaide developed the device to differentiate cancerous cells from healthy ones.

Project leader at the Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) Dr Erik Schartner said the probe could reduce the need for follow-up surgery, which is currently required in up to 20 per cent of breast cancer cases.

“At the moment most of the soft tissue cancers use a similar method during surgery to identify whether they’ve gotten all the cancer out, and that method is very crude,” he says.

“They’ll get some radiology beforehand which tells them where the cancer should be, and the surgeon then will remove it to the best of their ability.

“But the conclusive measurements are done with pathology a couple of days or a couple of weeks after the surgery, so the patient is sown back up, thinks the cancer is removed and then they discover two weeks later with a call from the surgeon that they need to go through this whole traumatic process again.”

The probe allows more accurate measurements be taken during surgery, with the surgeon provided with information via an LED light.

Using a pH probe tip, a prototype sensor was able to distinguish cancerous and healthy cells with 90 per cent accuracy.

The research behind the probe, published today in Cancer Research, found pH was a useful tool to distinguish the two types of tissue because cancerous cells naturally produce more acid during growth.

Currently the probe is aimed for use solely for treating breast cancer, but there is some possibility for it to be used as both a diagnostic tool and during other removal surgeries.

“The method we’re using, which is basically measuring the pH of the tissue, actually looks to be common across virtually all cancer types,” Schartner says.

“We can actually see there’s some scope there for diagnostic application for things like thyroid cancer, or even melanoma, which is something we’re following up.

“The question is more about the application as to how useful it is during surgery, to be able to get this identification, and in some of the other soft tissue cancers it would be useful as well.”

Earlier this year, researchers from CNBP also developed a fibre optic probe,  which could be used to examine the effects of drug use on the brain.

Schartner said both probes were noteworthy because they were far thinner than previously developed models at only a few microns across.

“The neat thing we see about this one is that it’s a lot quicker than some of the other commercial offerings and also the actual sample size you can measure is much smaller, so you get better resolution,” he says.

Researchers on the probe hope to progress to clinical trials in the near future, with a tentative product launch date in the next three years.

Also in Adelaide, researchers at the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute are developing tiny sensors that can detect the spread of cancer through the lymphatic system while a patient is having surgery to remove primary tumours, which could also dramatically reduce the need for follow up operations.

– Thomas Luke 

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia on 29 November 2016. Read the original article here.

sapphire clock

Sapphire Clock ticks towards the attosecond

Featured image above: the sapphire crystal used to make the Sapphire Clock on display at the University of Adelaide. Credit: University of Adelaide

The Cryogenic Sapphire Oscillator, or Sapphire Clock, has been enhanced by researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia to achieve near attosecond capability.

The oscillator is 10–1000 times more stable than competing technology and allows users to take ultra-high precision measurements to improve the performance of electronic systems.

Increased time precision is an integral part of radar technology and quantum computing, which have previously relied on the stability of quartz oscillators as well as atomic clocks such as the Hydrogen Maser.

Atomic clocks are the gold-standard in time keeping for long-term stability over months and years. However, electronic systems need short-term stability over a second to control today’s devices.

The new Sapphire Clock has a short-term stability of around 1×10-17, which is equivalent to only losing or gaining one second every three billion years, 1000 times better than commercial atomic clocks over a second.

The original Sapphire Clock was developed by Professor Andre Luiten in 1989 in Western Australia before the team moved to South Australia to continue developing the device at the University of Adelaide.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Martin O’Connor says the development group is in the process of modifying the device to meet the needs of various industries including defence, quantum computing and radio astronomy.

The 100cm x 40cm x 40cm clock uses the natural resonance frequency of a synthetic sapphire crystal to maintain a steady oscillator signal.

O’Connor says the machine could be reduced to 60% of its size without losing much of its capability.

“Our technology is so far ahead of the game, it is now the time to transfer it into a commercial product,” he says.

 “We can now tailor the oscillator to the application of our customers by reducing its size, weight and power consumption but it is still beyond current electronic systems.”

The Sapphire Clock, also known as a microwave oscillator, has a 5cm cylinder-shaped crystal that is cooled to -269C.

Microwave radiation is constantly propagating around the crystal with a natural resonance. The concept was first discovered by Lord Rayleigh in 1878 when he could hear someone whispering far away on the other side of the church dome at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The clock then uses small probes to pick up the faint resonance and amplifies it back to produce a pure frequency with near attosecond performance.

“An atomic clock uses an electronic transition between two energy levels of an atom as a frequency standard,” O’Connor says.

“The atomic clock is what is commonly used in GPS satellites and in other quantum computing and astronomy applications but our clock is set to disrupt these current applications.”

The lab-based version already has an existing customer in the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group) in Adelaide, but O’Connor says the research group is also looking for more clients and is in discussion with a number of different industry groups.

The research group is taking part in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO’s) On Prime pre-accelerator program, which helps teams identify customer segments and build business plans.

Commercial versions of the Sapphire Clock will be made available in 2017.

This article was first published by The Lead on 27 October 2016. Read the original article here.

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ICT

On the cusp of mass cultural change

The Australian Computer Society has estimated that an additional 100,000 new information and communications technology (ICT) professionals will be needed in Australia over the next five years alone. While this industry continues to grow and impact upon the Australian economy, only 2.8% of females choose ICT as their field.

In my role as head of the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, I hear every year from young women who have been told by someone important in their lives – perhaps a teacher, a family member or a careers counsellor – that computer science is not a job that women do. However, we know that companies with strong gender diversity are more likely to be successful and have higher financial returns. We need to broaden participation in creating and driving technology innovation in our country so that it is reflective of the diverse perspectives and voices that represent our community.

How can we address this gender imbalance within ICT? I believe that the answer lies in our new Australian curriculum and in increasing support for our education system.

Australia is on the verge of a significant change – all Australian students will soon be learning the fundamental concepts of computer science, and will move from being users of technology to creators of their own technology. This is an incredible opportunity for us as a nation to change our culture for women in technology, and more broadly, women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Changing stereotypes in STEM on screen

Children start forming their views on what careers are, and whether they are for a man or a woman, from an early age. These views are reinforced by messages from all directions. Very few family films show women in positions of power, or with active careers; only 45% of females in family films are shown to have careers, while STEM male roles outnumber STEM female roles by five to one.

These unconscious biases impact how we, and our children, develop our understanding of who we are, and who we can be. We urgently need to address this if we are to see the diverse technology community that we need.

Connecting STEM professionals with schools

Australian teachers need ongoing support from our industry and university sectors. We need to collectively engage with our schools to help teachers understand and guide technology creation.

Programs such as CSIRO’s Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program, FIRST Australia and Code Club Australia, among others, provide valuable opportunities to volunteer and support your local communities in understanding STEM. These programs help explore the amazing ability of technology to solve community problems, and work to engage our students. All of our students.

Associate Professor Katrina Falkner

Head of School of Computer Science, University of Adelaide

Read next: The University of Newcastle’s Dr Nikola Bowden addresses misconceptions about the biggest issues for women in STEM.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on women in ICT using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Graduate Futures Thought Leadership Series here.

Using nanoparticles to transform glass

Featured image above: the making of a glass optical fibre

The innovative method was developed by researchers from The University of Adelaide in South Australia, which enables the glass to hold transparency and proceed into various shapes including very fine optical fibres.

Principal researcher Tim Zhao says this new method of injecting upconversion nanoparticles into glass could have multiple applications including remote nuclear radiation sensors, interactive 3D display screens and biomedical engineering equipment.

“For example, neuroscientists currently use dye injected into the brain and lasers to be able to guide a glass pipette to the site they are interested in,” he says.

“If fluorescent nanoparticles were embedded in the glass pipettes, the unique luminescence of the hybrid glass could act like a torch to guide the pipette directly to the individual neurons of interest.”

Upconversion nanoparticles are able to convert near infrared radiations with higher energy emissions or visible light.

They exhibit unique luminescent properties and show great potential for imaging and biodetection assays.

Zhao, a researcher at the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS), says previous methods of integrating upconversion nanoparticles into glass did not allow researchers to have control over the nanoparticle properties, making it difficult to disperse.

“The key to our method was finding a balanced temperature. We heated the glass at a really high temperature, about 550-575°C, making it really homogenous to return its optical properties,” he says.

“After it was melted we lowered the temperature down as low as possible. Lowering the temperature makes it foam like water and then like honey at room temperature. At that point we enter in our nanoparticles and the glass helps it all disperse in time.”

Although the new method was developed with upconversion nanoparticles, researchers believe their new “direct-doping” approach can be generalised to other nanoparticles with interesting photonic, electronic and magnetic properties.

“We’ve seen remarkable progress in this area but the control over the nanoparticles and the glass compositions has been limited, restricting the development of many proposed applications,” says project leader Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heideprem.

“With our new direct doping method, which involves synthesising the nanoparticles and glass separately and then combining them using the right conditions, we’ve been able to keep the nanoparticles intact and well dispersed throughout the glass.

“We are heading towards a whole new world of hybrid glass and devices for light-based technologies.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with Macquarie University and University of Melbourne. It was published online in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead on 7 June 2016. Read the original article here.

Smart Contact Lens

Smart Contact Lens

The University of Adelaide in South Australia worked closely with RMIT University to develop small hi-tech lenses to filter harmful optical radiation without distorting vision.

Dr Withawat Withayachumnankul from the University of Adelaide helped conceive the idea and says the potential applications of the technology included creating new high-performance devices that connect to the internet.

“With advanced techniques to control the properties of surfaces, we can dynamically control their filter properties, which allow us to potentially create devices for high data rate optical communication or smart contact lenses,” he says.

“There is also the potential for it to have Wi-Fi access points and connection to external devices.”

The small lenses could also be used to gather and transmit information on a small display.

While there are numerous possible applications of the device, Withayachumnankul says the original purpose of the lens was an alternative to radiation protective goggles.

“We used a stretchable material called PDMS (Polydimethylsiloxane) and put some nano-material structures inside that layer which interacts with light,” he says.

“The functionality of the device is that the lens filters the light while maintaining a fully transparent structure, and can protect the eyes from radiation.”

Tiny artificial crystals termed “dielectric resonators” were used to help manipulate the waves of light.

The resonators are a fraction of the wavelength of light (100–500 nanometres) and are 500 times thinner than human hair.

“The current challenge is that the dielectric resonators only work for specific colours, but with our flexible surface we can adjust the operation range simply by stretching it,” Withayachumnankul says.

The materials used to make the lens have proven to be biocompatible and do not create any irritation to the eyes, making the device safe to wear.

Findings of the research were published in leading nano-science journal ACS Nano and were undertaken at RMIT’s Micro Nano Research Facility.

The discovery comes after scientists from the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute this month successfully completed “proof of concept” research on a polymer film coating that conducts electricity on a contact lens, with the potential to build miniature electrical circuits that are safe to be worn by a person.

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead on 19 February 2016. Read the original article here.

Gravity waves hello

Gravity waves hello

Featured image above credit: NASA/C. Henze

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected by twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Louisiana and Washington in the USA. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy (ACIGA) and the GEO600 Collaboration) and the Virgo Collaboration.

Australian scientists from The Australian National University (ANU), the University of Adelaide, The University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia (UWA), Monash University and Charles Sturt University (CSU), contributed to the discovery and helped build some of the super-sensitive instruments used to detect the gravitational waves.

Leader of the Australian Partnership in Advanced LIGO Professor David McClelland from ANU, says the observation would open up new fields of research to help scientists better understand the universe.

“The collision of the two black holes was the most violent event ever recorded,” McClelland says.

“To detect it, we have built the largest experiment ever – two detectors 4000 km apart with the most sensitive equipment ever made, which has detected the smallest signal ever measured.”

Associate Professor Peter Veitch from University of Adelaide says the discovery was the culmination of decades of research and development in Australia and internationally.

“The Advanced LIGO detectors are a technological triumph and the discovery has provided undeniable proof that Einstein’s gravitational waves and black holes exist,” Veitch says.

“I have spent 35 years working towards this detection and the success is very sweet.”

Professor David Blair from UWA says the black hole collision detected by LIGO was invisible to all previous telescopes, despite being the most violent event ever measured.

“Gravitational waves are akin to sound waves that travelled through space at the speed of light,” Blair says.

“Up to now humanity has been deaf to the universe. Suddenly we know how to listen. The universe has spoken and we have understood.”

With its first discovery, LIGO is already changing how astronomers view the universe, says LIGO researcher Dr Eric Thrane from Monash University.

“The discovery of this gravitational wave suggests that merging black holes are heavier and more numerous than many researchers previously believed,” Thrane says.

“This bodes well for detection of large populations of distant black holes research carried out by our team at Monash University. It will be intriguing to see what other sources of gravitational waves are out there, waiting to be discovered.”

The success of LIGO promised a new epoch of discovery, says Professor Andrew Melatos, from The University of Melbourne.

“Humanity is at the start of something profound. Gravitational waves let us peer right into the heart of some of the most extreme environments in the Universe, like black holes and neutron stars, to do fundamental physics experiments under conditions that can never be copied in a lab on Earth,” Melatos says.

“It is very exciting to think that we now have a new and powerful tool at our disposal to unlock the secrets of all this beautiful physics.”

Dr Philip Charlton from CSU says the discovery opened a new window on the universe.

“In the same way that radio astronomy led to the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, the ability to ‘see’ in the gravitational wave spectrum will likely to lead to unexpected discoveries,” he says.

Professor Susan Scott, who studies General Relativity at ANU, says observing this black hole merger was an important test for Einstein’s theory.

“It has passed with flying colours its first test in the strong gravity regime which is a major triumph.”

“We now have at our disposal a tool to probe much further back into the Universe than is possible with light, to its earliest epoch.”

Australian technology used in the discovery has already spun off into a number of commercial applications. For example, development of the test and measurement system MOKU:Lab by Liquid Instruments; vibration isolation for airborne gravimeters for geophysical exploration; high power lasers for remote mapping of wind-fields, and for airborne searches for methane leaks in gas pipelines.

This information was first shared by Monash University on 12 February 2016. Read their news story here

New tool for grapevines

New tool for grapevines

Featured image: courtesy of Wine Australia

A new tool for grapevines, a free phone app developed by University of Adelaide researchers, will help grape growers and viticulturists manage their vines by giving a quick measure of vine canopy size and density.

The iPad and iPhone app uses the devices’ camera and GPS capability to calculate the size and density of the vine canopy and its location in the vineyard. The aim is to help users monitor their vines and manage the required balance between vegetative growth and fruit production. 

The development of the app – called VitiCanopy – has been supported by Wine Australia as part of a wider project investigating the relationships between vine balance and wine quality. 

“Overcropped vines or vines with excessive canopy are referred to as ‘out-of-balance’ – generally being associated with lower quality fruit and hence lower returns,” says project leader Dr Cassandra Collins, Senior Lecturer in Viticulture with the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

“To achieve vine balance, grapevines require enough leaf area to ripen the fruit and produce a desired fruit quality, but not too much that it’s detrimental to fruit development through shading or a higher incidence of disease.” 

Vine balance can be measured as a ratio of leaf area to fruit yield. Traditional ways, however, of measuring leaf area are tedious, laborious and time-consuming and can damage the vines – or alternatively it can require expensive and complex instruments. 

“Our app offers a very simple way to measure leaf area index (LAI),” says chief investigator Dr Roberta De Bei. “This measurement can then be related to fruit yield for an assessment of vine balance as well as capture canopy variation across a vineyard. The GPS capability of the app means that information gathered can also be mapped.” 

The research and development team also included Professor Steve Tyerman and Associate Professor Matthew Gilliham, University of Adelaide, and Dr Sigfredo Fuentes, University of Melbourne, and Treasury Wine Estates.

Wine Australia’s Research Development and Extension Portfolio Manager, Dr Liz Waters, says this new app will help viticulturists optimise vine balance for best grape quality. 

“Wine Australia is committed to helping viticulturists manage their vines to maximise quality, profit and sustainability and to improve competitiveness across the grape and wine community. We encourage growers to explore this new tool to help them get the most from their vineyards,” says Waters. 

The app is available from Apple’s app store. To use the app a grower takes a standardised image of the vine canopy. The app then analyses the image and calculates LAI, taking into account the canopy shape and density, and recording the time and location of the image. An android version of the app is being developed. 

The University’s commercialisation company, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI), has supported the release of the app. The project was supported by Wine Australia, the University of Adelaide Wine Future initiative (formerly the Wine2030 Research Network) and The Vineyard of the Future.

This article was first published on 22 October by the University of Adelaide. Read the original article here.


About Wine Australia

Wine Australia supports a competitive wine sector by investing in research, development and extension (RD&E), growing domestic and international markets and protecting the reputation of Australian wine.

Wine Australia is funded by grape growers and winemakers through levies and user-pays charges and the Australian Government, which provides matching funding for RD&E investments. 

Wine Australia is the trading name of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority, a Commonwealth statutory authority established under the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act 2013.