Glass blowing inspires new class of quantum sensors

August 12, 2020

When Adelaide glass blower Karen Cunningham made art using diamond and glass she had no idea it would inspire a new kind of hybrid material. Now a consortium of scientists, including from RMIT University and University of Adelaide, is using the technology to make a new class of quantum sensors.

The study published in APL Materials reveals how high-performance diamond sensors can be made using conventional glass fibres.

By embedding micron-scale diamond particles within the cross section of a silicate glass fibre, the team has demonstrated the use of a robust fibre material capable of sensing magnetic fields.

Study lead author and RMIT School of Science's Dr Dongbi Bai said it was an exciting achievement that opened the door to many applications in underwater monitoring, mining and beyond.

"This allows us to make cheap quantum sensor networks that are able to monitor changes in magnetic field, with many useful applications and the answers to questions we haven't thought of yet," she said.

Diamond is one of the front runner technologies for quantum magnetic field sensing, with applications as diverse as brain scanning, navigation and mineral exploration.

But, diamond particles need to be viewed through high-end microscopes that aren't suited for use over an extended period or in the field.

University of Adelaide Deputy Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem, said the team had been working to get around this issue for a decade.

"But because diamond burns at high temperatures, we've been limited in the glasses that we can use," she added.

The team has learnt a lot from these so-called 'soft glasses', but these glasses are non-standard and not as good at guiding light as conventional silica fibres, such as those used in the National Broadband Network.

From art to science

This is where glass artist Karen Cunningham comes into the picture. 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.

"We gave Karen some of our larger diamonds to see how they worked," RMIT School of Science's Professor Brant Gibson, explained.

The diamonds he gave Karen were around one micron in diameter, which is 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

"For most of our work, these diamonds are just too big, so we use them mainly for testing," he said.

Incredibly, the diamonds survived Karen's glass blowing, and were part of her exhibition at JamFactory in Adelaide, in 2017.

"For us, it was the lightbulb moment and we knew we could make diamond sensors in more conventional glass fibres," Heike said.

To go from Karen's art to prototype sensors took another three years of testing and fabrication, explained Dr Dongbi Bai.

"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," she said.
The study, 'Fluorescent diamond microparticle doped glass fiber for magnetic field sensing', is published in APL Materials (DOI:10.1063/5.0013473) and was funded by the Australian Research Council and the Defence Science and Technology Group through the Next Generation Technology Fund.

The consortium included scientists from RMIT University, University of Adelaide, University of Melbourne, University of South Australia and the Defence Science and Technology Group.

For RMIT interviews and media enquiries, please contact Diana Robertson skype +61 399 252 626, or media phone 0439 704 077

For University of Adelaide interviews, please contact Crispin Savage, +61 (0)481 912 465 or +61 (0)8 8313 7194

RMIT University

Related Magnetic Field Articles from Brightsurf:

Investigating optical activity under an external magnetic field
A new study published in EPJ B by Chengping Yin, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Quantum Engineering and Quantum Materials, South China, aims to derive an analytical model of optical activity in black phosphorous under an external magnetic field.

Magnetic field and hydrogels could be used to grow new cartilage
Instead of using synthetic materials, Penn Medicine study shows magnets could be used to arrange cells to grow new tissues

Magnetic field with the edge!
This study overturns a dominant six-decade old notion that the giant magnetic field in a high intensity laser produced plasma evolves from the nanometre scale.

Global magnetic field of the solar corona measured for the first time
An international team led by Professor Tian Hui from Peking University has recently measured the global magnetic field of the solar corona for the first time.

Magnetic field of a spiral galaxy
A new image from the VLA dramatically reveals the extended magnetic field of a spiral galaxy seen edge-on from Earth.

How does Earth sustain its magnetic field?
Life as we know it could not exist without Earth's magnetic field and its ability to deflect dangerous ionizing particles.

Scholes finds novel magnetic field effect in diamagnetic molecules
The Princeton University Department of Chemistry publishes research this week proving that an applied magnetic field will interact with the electronic structure of weakly magnetic, or diamagnetic, molecules to induce a magnetic-field effect that, to their knowledge, has never before been documented.

Origins of Earth's magnetic field remain a mystery
The existence of a magnetic field beyond 3.5 billion years ago is still up for debate.

New research provides evidence of strong early magnetic field around Earth
New research from the University of Rochester provides evidence that the magnetic field that first formed around Earth was even stronger than scientists previously believed.

Massive photons in an artificial magnetic field
An international research collaboration from Poland, the UK and Russia has created a two-dimensional system -- a thin optical cavity filled with liquid crystal -- in which they trapped photons.

Read More: Magnetic Field News and Magnetic Field Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to