Feeds

Super-tough wireless sensors 'to be dropped into volcanoes'

Anakin Skywalker? Big girls' blouse

Top three mobile application threats

Topflight engineers based in Newcastle have hit upon a radical plan for warning of volcanic eruptions. They intend to build a heatproof sensor unit which can be dropped into a volcano's caldera and wirelessly transmit data to monitoring stations despite being possibly immersed in molten rock.

"At the moment we have no way of accurately monitoring the situation inside a volcano and in fact most data collection actually goes on post-eruption. With an estimated 500 million people living in the shadow of a volcano this is clearly not ideal," explains Dr Alton Horsfall of Newcastle uni's Centre for Extreme Environment Technology.

"We still have some way to go but using silicon carbide technology we hope to develop a wireless communication system that could accurately collect and transmit chemical data from the very depths of a volcano."

The Newcastle boffins say their silicon-carbide electronics would be used to measure small changes in the levels of certain gases within the caldera - for instance the dioxides of sulphur and carbon - so providing early warning of possible eruptions.

According to Horsfall and his fellow nails-tough tech developers, their carbide electronics can keep working up to temperatures of 900°C. This is actually sufficient to withstand immersion in some lavas/magmas, though by no means all. In any case it's difficult to see how any wireless signal could be transmitted through molten minerals, so presumably the inventors are talking more about locating their kit in places within a caldera which - although extremely hot - are not enough so to actually melt rock.

In any case the volcano application is merely the headliner that the boffins have chosen to publicise their inventions. The Centre for Extreme Environment Tech has wider aspirations including the use of their kit in nuclear reactors, underwater, inside the blazing guts of jet engines or even in space.

"The situations we are planning to use our technology in means it’s not enough for the electronics to simply withstand extremes of temperature, pressure or radiation – they have to continue operating absolutely accurately and reliably," says Prof Nick Wright, Newcastle pro-vicechancellor. It's well known that ionising radiation, for instance - as found in nuclear machinery and throughout space beyond Earth's protective magnetic field - is hell on regular electronics.

"Increasingly mankind is spreading out into harsher and more extreme environments as our population grows and we explore new areas for possible sources of energy and food in order to sustain it," says Wright.

"But with this comes new challenges and this is why research into extreme technologies is becoming ever more important."

There's more on extreme tech from Newcastle uni here. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.