• The team responsible for the Sapphire Clock have taken out DST's Eureka prize. University of Adelaide via Twitter
    The team responsible for the Sapphire Clock have taken out DST's Eureka prize. University of Adelaide via Twitter
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Technology using a pure sapphire crystal to accurately measure time has taken out the 2018 Defence Science and Technology (DST) Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

The sapphire clock, officially known as the Cryogenic Sapphire Oscillator, is so precise it gains or loses only one second over 40 million years.

The sapphire clock team is working closely with Defence scientists to use the technology for upgrades and enhancements to the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN).

The sapphire clock has the potential to produce the purest of signals which, when fed into JORN, could generate high quality surveillance data.

“With its unparalleled precision, the Sapphire Clock offers the potential for an upgrade of the Jindalee Over-The-Horizon Radar Network (JORN) system, which monitors aircraft and ships off Australia’s northern approaches,” team leader Professor Andre Luiten, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, said.

“The sensitivity to detect objects at great distances depends on the purity of the reference clock frequencies. Our Sapphire Clock would allow JORN to generate signals that are 1000 times purer than its current technology."

Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne congratulated Professor Andre Luiten and his team on developing the clock.

“This innovation delivers a step change in radar frequency, purity and overall performance over conventional devices giving Defence a significant capability edge,” Minister Pyne said.

“This is an example of world-leading research with a positive impact on Australia’s defence and national security. It is a fantastic result which will be a game-changer for Defence capability.”

The DST Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia is awarded annually for outstanding science or technology that has developed, or has potential to develop, innovative solutions for Australia’s defence or national security.

Last year's prize was won by Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Richard Mildren and his team for developing lasers with radically extended power and wavelength using man-made diamonds.

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