The Victorian Defence Science Institute (DSI) and the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) are stimulating new sensor research and the formation of Defence-oriented multidisciplinary teams through funding awarded under the “DSI-Hazardous Agent Challenge (HAC)”.
The HAC is a DSI-led joint venture with DSTG that drew together Defence subject matter experts, end-user communities, industry and academia to explore the context and requirements for operating in environments which are potentially contaminated by a chemical or biological threat.
"Chemical and biological hazards, whether released on purpose or by accident, are some of the most insidious and challenging threats faced by Defence personnel and civilian first responders," the DSI said in a statement. "Early warning provided by advanced sensor technology, and before dangerous levels are reached, is a cornerstone capability that protects our frontline operators from harm."
The DSI, working closely with other states through the Australian Defence Science and Universities Network (ADSUN), invited the submission of multi-disciplinary proposals in the context of a defined set of military and first-responder scenarios. In total, 35 teams from across Australia responded to the HAC with the proposals assessed by an international panel of experts including specialists from the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency. Although $1 million was originally budgeted to support this challenge, the 'high standard and potential for impact' of many of the proposals warranted the injection of additional funding of $0.34 million to support a total of four projects.
The successful teams from academia, industry and a publicly funded research agency span a range of disciplines across the physical, life, data and engineering sciences and will deliver prototypes for assessment by Defence within the next 18 months.
The four projects that are going to be granted funding under the HAC are:
- Gram-scale infra-red spectrometer concept for multi-analyte airborne chemical threat detection. (University of Melbourne & Flame Security International)
- Wireless platform for stand-off detection of chemical hazards. (Monash University, University of Melbourne)
- Sensing platform for defence-relevant airborne chemical threats. (University of Melbourne, Monash University, Ideation Product Solutions)
- Porous photonic micro cavities – enhanced in-field toxic chemical sensor. (Monash University, University of New South Wales and Queensland University of Technology)
The DSI-HAC forms part of a co-ordinated program of activities across a range of technology readiness levels under DSTG’s Operating in CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) Environments STaR Shot which aims to enhance the ADF’s capability to respond faster and more flexibly to chemical and biological threats.