VU associate wins top defence prize

Cutting-edge defence technology developed by a Victoria University and CSIRO researcher has won a prestigious national science award.

Institute for Sustainability and Innovation Adjunct Professor Yonggang Zhu won the $10,000 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Support of Defence or National Security at the August 28 award ceremony.

"I am proud to have won this prestigious Eureka Prize", Dr Zhu said.

Dr Zhu, who is also a CSIRO research group leader, developed the portable chemical detector to 'fingerprint' chemical warfare agents from swabs, water or soil samples in around 30 seconds with the same accuracy as a fully staffed laboratory.

"There are no other commercially available instruments able to do this," he said. "Current devices are difficult to use, unable to be deployed in the field, and have too high a rate of false alarms."

Dr Zhu said with further miniaturisation of electronics and power supply, the device could be reduced to the size of a mobile phone.

"With the wireless communication capability of the sensor board, the device can be fitted into the clothing of soldiers and first responders for real-time monitoring of toxic chemicals," he said. "Commercialisation of the device could also generate a significant manufacturing and export industry for Australia."

Even though the current focus of development is on the detection of chemical warfare agents, the sensing principle allows the device to be applied to detection of other substances such as explosives, pesticides, insecticides, toxic metals, food contaminants, drugs and biological agents.

More information can be found at

The prize was supported by the Defence Science & Technology Organisation.

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