Nanodiamonds to highlight cancer; plasma in the workplace; super-light night-vision glasses; science-art created by Synchrotron light; and more

Australian Institute of Physics Congress, Media releases

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Nanorubies and diamonds make your cancer cells stand out in a crowd (Melbourne)

Near-infrared fluorescent nanomaterials could help surgeons better identify tumour tissue to remove, and healthy tissue to leave, according to researchers at RMIT. Dr Philipp Reineck and his team tested seven classes of red and near-infrared fluorescent materials in spectroscopy and fluorescence microscopy experiments for the first time. They found that nanomaterials such as nanodiamonds and nanorubies are vastly more stable than the organic dyes currently in use—glowing brighter for longer.

Once such materials are introduced to the body, a near-infrared camera will see the patient glowing from the inside, allowing “new windows into the body” and guiding cancer surgeons in their mission to locate and remove tumours as non-invasively as possible.

Levitating mirrors could reveal the workings of chaos (Canberra)

Imagine a levitating mirror sensitive enough to reveal quantum phenomena, but large enough to be seen with the naked eye. ANU researchers Ruvi Lecamwasam and Giovanni Guccione are working on a 3mm, 1mg mirror that would be held in a vacuum, suspended against gravity only by the radiation pressure from a surrounding tripod of fixed mirrors.

Such a precisely tuned system, completely isolated from the wider world, would be ideal for investigating the spontaneous appearance of chaos, and could even confirm or deny a model for quantum gravity, one of modern physics’ most elusive subjects. The levitating mirror has been in a “theorist’s wonderland” for some time, but today Ruvi, Giovanni and their colleagues will report on their progress towards realising the dream.

The physics of arc welding: plasma in the workplace (Sydney & Melbourne)

CSIRO researchers have produced a workshop-friendly computer model of the physics of arc welding which could help our tradies make stronger, cleaner joints, particularly when working in aluminium.

Although arc welding is one of the most widely-applied plasma processes, researchers have tended to focus on the metal, according CSIRO Manufacturing’s chief scientist Anthony Murphy. That’s why this research, funded by General Motors and Holden, turned its attention to the obtuse workings of the plasma itself, the super-hot gas that arc-welders use to fuse metal surfaces together.

The work informed an easy-to-use Windows-based software package that could make a big difference for car manufacturers working on more complex, precise designs using lighter, more fuel-efficient metals.

Night vision glasses for all using nano-antennas (Canberra)

A team at ANU have been working on disc-shaped nano-antennas which interact with light in novel ways. These tiny devices are similar in size to the wavelength of light, allowing them to interact with incident light in very precise ways. For example, switching the frequency from one specific colour to another, or even from invisible to visible.

Dr Mohsen Rahmani and colleagues believe this invention may soon have exciting applications in diverse industries, from anti-counterfeit devices in our currency to novel biosensors and even super-light night-vision glasses, which could replace the cumbersome goggles currently used by our armed forces.

Art meets science: Fossils being brought to life by Synchrotron light (Queensland)

Physics Congress artist-in-residence and Central Queensland University PhD student Anita Milroy is bringing art and science together through her PhD which focuses on ‘Visualisations of Extinction and Evolution in Queensland Flora’.

Collaborating with the Queensland Museum’s Ancient Environments/Geosciences programs and physicists at the Australian Synchrotron, Anita has been able to re-construct fossils and convert them into artwork including animations, engraving, and even 3D wearable art.

Her large scale digital work was featured at the opening of the Congress in Brisbane and she has created wearable art pieces inspired by science that will be presented as gifts to the plenary speakers.

Images and animations are available for media use.

Also today:

  • Gravitational waves – what are they, what can they show us, have more been found, and why should we care? Professor David Reitze from LIGO and Australian researcher available to speak with media.
  • Diversity in science: where are we at for ‘women in science’, what it means for women’s leadership in Asia and Australia, for LGBTIQ scientists, and diversity generally. Associate Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith from CSIRO and Andrew Doherty from the University of Sydney are hosting the first LGBTIQ in Physics breakfast at the Congress today.
  • ANU physicists, led by Associate Professor Andrew Truscott, have used a technique known as ‘ghost imaging’ to create an image of an object from atoms that never interact with it. The work, published in Nature last week will be presented at the Congress today.

The APCC-AIP Congress is the Joint 13th Asia Pacific Physics Conference and 22nd Australian Institute of Physics Congress incorporating the Australian Optical Society Conference. It’s on at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 4 to 8 December 2016