A Mechanical Engineer at the University of Southern Queensland believes he can help prevent injury and death on mine sites by detecting early mechanical issues in oil and gas pipelines using new sensors made of silicon carbide.
Dr Toan Dinh (pictured) has spent the past six years developing these sensors, with the aim of detecting imminent danger in the most harsh and corrosive environments.
Dr Dinh said these sensors are five to 100 times smaller than the width of a single human hair and perform a thousand times better than conventional sensors.
“The current silicon technology can’t be used in harsh environments because they can’t survive a long time in conditions of high temperature and corrosion,” Dr Dinh said. “The sensors I have developed can operate in up to 600°C for a wide range of applications, including oil and gas industries and aerospace technologies.”
Dr Dinh said it was critically important that the industry made working conditions safer for miners and more efficient.
“My sensors can detect and measure the tiniest of movements in the environment, as well as monitor, in real time, the structural health of a system, such as a pipeline, in case there is any changes or faults.
“This can help prevent a major system failure from occurring, not only reducing maintenance costs but potentially avert a catastrophic situation that could lead to injury or death.”
Dr Dinh recently received a A$440,675 ($339,949) grant under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme to further develop his research. This award scheme provides more focused support for researchers and creates more opportunities for early-career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions in Australia, according to the university.
The award will also enable him to travel to California, USA, where he will collaborate with researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to look at how the sensors could be used in space exploration.
“My goal is to start testing the sensors in real industry conditions as early as this year before they are ready for commercialisation,” Dr Dinh says.