• Professor Mildren in the lab. Credit: Macquarie University
    Professor Mildren in the lab. Credit: Macquarie University

A university project using man-made diamonds to develop lasers with radically extended power and wavelength has taken out the DST Group Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

The DST sponsored prize is awarded annually for outstanding science or technology that has developed, or has the potential to develop innovative solutions for Australia’s defence or national security.

Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Richard Mildren and his team have patented the technology which has attracted the attention of defence stakeholders worldwide, including funding from US defence agencies.

Professor Mildren’s innovation is an advance on current laser technology because it uses diamonds as the energy source due its exceptionally high thermal conductivity and heat dissipating properties.

High-powered lasers lend themselves to many defence applications, including protection against missile threats. They are also useful in remote sensing, bio imaging, medicine, quantum science, and the management of space debris.

It is hoped the laser technology can be developed to defend against threats such as drones and missiles or even space junk by being accurate and powerful enough to destroy objects that are a great distance away.

“The award is a terrific recognition, not just for the diamond laser team but also as a tribute to the strong tradition of the high power laser research at Macquarie and MQ Photonics over decades," Prof Mildren said.

“It is also very timely – one of our goals is to reach out to government and industry partners for translating the research to end users. We hope the additional exposure will be a great help for promoting these activities.”

Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky said breakthroughs such as the diamond laser technology were the result of cutting edge research being done in Australian universities. 

“The government’s drive to engage industry and academia in developing Defence capability is paying dividends,” he said. 

The Eureka Prizes, hosted by the Australian Museum, represent the premier science event in the country.  

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