New miniature sensor technology capable of analysing anything from crop quality to the freshness of fruit and vegetables in the supermarket could soon be made available to consumers after a licencing deal between The University of Western Australia and private firm Panorama Synergy (ASX:PSY).
After working on Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) based infrared spectral sensors for over a decade, UWA’s Microelectronics Research Group (MRG) has developed a spectrometer sensor potentially small enough to fit into a smartphone.
Head of MRG, Professor Lorenzo Faraone’s said the tiny sensor uses light to analyse the properties of different objects.
“Infrared spectroscopy already has many uses – the grains industry uses it to determine the quality and value of crops, the pharmaceutical industry uses it for raw materials testing and quality control and there are many other applications in industries as diverse as oil and gas, medical diagnostics, defence and security,” he said.
“Those applications however require expensive laboratory grade instruments and that is set to change with the UWA Microspectrometer.
“It is a MEMS device, manufactured using cleanroom processes developed for the electronics industry and hence can be mass produced at very low cost.
“This change effectively takes spectroscopy from laboratory-based scientific and industrial uses and places it in the hands of consumers and commercial users for field-portable applications,” he said.
Professor Faraone said that future uses may see the sensor fitted to smartphones, allowing shoppers to check the freshness of their fruit, vegetables and meat in real time just by pointing their phone at the product in a fresh food section.
“It could also be used in drones to help search for minerals in the ground or to identify water around crops and for a multitude of other innovative commercial applications, Professor Faraone said.
He said the potential of the technology has long been recognised by several US and Australian defence organisations as well as the Grains Research and Development Corporation resulting in research funding of more than $10million over the past decade.
“Credit must also go to the Australian Research Council, and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) for its support of the cleanroom infrastructure that made this research possible,” he said.
“The team’s vision has always been to create real impact with the technology, and this aligns with the Turnbull government’s recent innovation statement encouraging translation of research to real applications.
“The MRG is looking forward to many years of collaboration with Panorama Synergy to ensure the new sensor will be a major commercial success and benefits the wider Australian community.”
Caption: The Microspectrometer team (from right to left): Prof Lorenzo Faraone, Terry Walsh (MD of Panorama Synergy), Prof Robyn Owens (Deputy Vice Chancellor Research), Prof John Dell (Dean of Engineering), Jarek Antoszewski, Marius Martyniuk, Dilusha Silva, Dhirendra Tripathi and Tom Schnepple (UWA Innovation office); Inset: Microspectrometer prototype.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716