Materials Australia

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SA Branch - Site Tour IPAS

IPAS visit at The University of Adelaide


On the 18th April the Materials Australia SA branch was treated to an excellent tour of the facilities of Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (or IPAS for short) at the University of Adelaide.

The Deputy Director (Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem) along with Stephen Warren-Smith, Erik Schartner and Alastair Dowler showcased the capability of the team and the current projects that area keeping them busy.

The team have the ability to make and tune the chemistry of their own glass, draw the glass billets into a vast range of shaped fibres and then, most importantly, look to real world application of the fibres in many applications.

The 225 researchers at IPAS develop novel photonic, sensing and measurement technologies that go in to new tools for scientific research and stimulating the creation of new industries.

Technologies being developed at IPAS include:

  • novel glasses and optical fibres
  • optical fibre-based sensors
  • fibre, solid-state, planar waveguide and supercontinuum lasers
  • precision timing signals
  • laser radar for water vapour, methane and wind
  • radiation detection

During the visit the team demonstrated a fibre draw (see picture). IPAS’ specialty is creating multi-core fibres, which form the heart of their advanced sensor technology. To achieve this the team must engineer their own nozzles, that are then 3D printed in titanium or conventionally manufactured. IPAS co-locates with the ANFF “Opto-FAB” a facility that has advanced equipment for the fabrication of these devices and can be easily accessed for very competitive rates by any researcher (academic or industrial). For more information on these facilities go to

One example, that shows the industrial problem solving based approach the team has, was to help a furnace operator actually measure the temperature of their furnace (which they haven’t been able to do until now). The technology relies on how laser light behaves in a modified glass fibre. Changes in dimensions (due to thermal expansion) can be measured by shifts in the laser signal and then related to temperature. These high temperatures would destroy a thermocouple, but the high melting point of glass means that the sensor survives long enough to get a reading.

After the tour the conversations continued over dinner at a nearby restaurant. The SA branch of Materials Australia would like to thank Heike and her team for the enjoyable visit.