NSW laser defence project among Eureka Prize winners

31 August 2017

A/Prof Richard Mildren, Macquarie University

A project to develop a high powered laser to help defend against threats such as drones, missiles or even space junk are among NSW winners of Eureka Prizes.

The Eurekas - dubbed the 'Oscars of Australian science' - are Australia’s premier science awards celebrating scientific breakthroughs from around the country.

NSW picked up a string of awards at the 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes Awards ceremony.

Among them was Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Richard Mildren, who was named winner of the Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

Using man-made diamonds, Associate Professor Mildren has developed lasers with radically extended power and wavelength.

The patented technology has attracted the attention of defence stakeholders worldwide, including funding from US defence agencies.

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.

High-power lasers also have other potential applications from medical imaging to manufacturing, or powering deep space probes.

“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," said Associate Professor Mildren.

“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.”

The NSW Government's Defence and Industry Strategy, New South Wales: Strong, Smart and Connected, aims to build the State's defence industry including by building Defence and industry collaboration with universities to enable faster development and commercialisation of technologies.

Other NSW winners of 2017 Eureka Prizes

  • Associate Professor Salah Sukkarieh from the University of Sydney - winner of the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science for his work at the world’s largest field robotics institute, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, to make Australia a world leader in farm automation and also develop robotics for the aerospace, transport and the mining industries.
  • Dr Emilie Ens of Macquarie University - Dr Ens together with 300 Aboriginal elders and youth in the South-East Arnhem Land Indigenous Protected Area developed a unique project to manage local natural and cultural assets, winning the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.
  • Professor Justin Gooding of the University of New South Wales - Professor Gooding was named winner of the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers for his work in mentoring young researchers to help develop the next generation of leaders for labs, research institutions and industry.
  • A national team of scientists including from Sydney and Adelaide won the Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research for the development of a blood test that is twice as effective as existing non-invasive blood testing methods at detecting recurrent bowel cancer. NSW team members included the CSIRO's Dr Peter Molloy, Dr Jason Ross and Susan Mitchell and Dr Susanne Pedersen and Dr Lawrence LaPointe from Clinical Genomics Pty Ltd of Sydney.
  • Year 4 students Caitlyn Walker and Amelia Lai from the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Sydney, won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Primary students after the nine-year-olds made a film, Icy Cold But Toasty Warm, to explain how penguins stay warm in Antarctica using feathers, blubber, counter-current heat exchange, size and huddling to survive.