Sensing technology is needed to accurately monitor tool performance and working environments in the resource extraction industry. However, state-of-the-art conventional sensors are not robust or reliable enough to endure the harsh environments of mine sites. Using unique fabrication technology, researchers at Griffith University have developed world-first silicon carbide nanowires for use in nanoscale sensors that are suitable for harsh environments.
The technology is based on the superior properties of silicon carbide nanowires, which are thousands of times smaller than a strand of human hair and extremely sensitive and robust compared to existing sensor technology. Using facilities at the Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre (QMNC) in the ANFF-Q node, the research team was recently the first in the world to successfully grow device-grade silicon carbide films onto large silicon wafers. They were then able to fabricate silicon carbide nanowires from the film using focused ion beam, electron beam lithography, and etching processes. The silicon carbide nanowires have shown excellent properties for the detection of stress and strain.
Future work will focus on using these nanowires to develop robust nanoscale sensing devices capable of detecting pressure, vibration, and temperature in mining sites and mining tools to enhance the safety and productivity of resource extraction. Ongoing work is being supported by a multinational company and there is a great potential for this technology to be commercialised by Australian mining companies.