glass
Original Published Date: 
Monday, August 24, 2020

Full article issued by RMIT University and The University of Adelaide.

The diamond and glass artworks of Adelaide glass blower Karen Cunningham have inspired a consortium of scientists, including ARC Future Fellow, Professor Andrew Greentree from RMIT University, to develop a new class of quantum sensors which are able to monitor changes in magnetic fields, with implications for mining and underwater monitoring.  

By embedding micron-scale diamond particles within the cross section of a silicate glass fibre, the research team has demonstrated how high-performance diamond sensors can be made using conventional glass fibres.

Diamond is one of the front runner technologies for quantum magnetic field sensing, with applications as diverse as brain scanning, navigation and mineral exploration. However diamond particles need to be viewed through high-end microscopes that aren’t suited for use over an extended period or in the field. The research team had been working to get around this issue for a decade but were limited in the kinds of glasses they could use.

The team shared some diamonds which were one micron in diameter, 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair, with glass artist Karen Cunningham. She was making art using nanoparticles to show how light moves through glass and was fascinated by the diamonds that were used by Heike and her colleagues in her research. Incredibly, the diamonds survived Karen’s glass blowing, and were part of her exhibition at JamFactory in Adelaide, in 2017.

It took the research team an additional three years of testing and fabrication to develop prototype sensors based on Karen’s art. 

“It always takes hard work to go from the idea to the product, but I’m so excited by what we’ve achieved, and even more excited by where this new quantum sensor can take us,” says lead researcher, Dr Dongbi Bai.

Photo credit: 

Glass rings by artist Karen Cunningham. The coloured light reveals the internal line of the diamond used in the artwork. Credit: Michael Haines Photography.