Real-Time silica detection

What is this research about?

Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) consists of silica dust particles which are small enough to penetrate deep into the lung and is known to cause severe damage to health.

RCS can be released into the air during tasks such as cutting, grinding, blasting, polishing or jackhammering. Materials such as sand, concrete, rock and manufactured stone can contain high levels of RCS. Workers inhaling RCS are at risk of developing serious, sometimes fatal illnesses such as silicosis and lung cancer. It has also been linked to other illnesses including kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, and an increased risk of tuberculosis.

The Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022 has a target of a 50% reduction in serious injuries and illnesses by 2022, including reducing exposures to priority hazardous chemicals and materials by 30%. Through the implementation of the Hazardous chemicals and materials exposures baseline reduction strategy, the level and impact of workplace exposures will be identified and reduced.

The Centre has engaged Trolex Nome Australia to help develop a RCS sensor that provides real time feedback to workers who are at risk of exposure.

The research will identify existing technology or create new technology that can be used in the design and build of a RCS detection device. This device needs to be scalable (i.e. after prototyping, it should be able to miniaturise the device), economical (i.e. the components and build must produce a financially viable device) and reliable (i.e. the device is easily used by workers and continually produces accurate readings of exposure).


January 2020: Project commences

September 2020: Phase 1 completion

December 2021: Phase 2 Completion: Delivery of a market ready, transportable real time RCS detection unit and accessories

2023: Delivery of a market ready, miniaturised (wearable) real time RCS detection unit and accessories

What will the researchers do?

Phase 1: Static monitor  - Design and build

  • Identify technology that could be used in the design of a RCS static monitor. If no existing technology exists, the researcher will create the technology.
  • Build a functionally tested prototype that can take measurements and monitor RCS particulates in real-time
  • Conduct a feasibility study examining the minaturisation of a wearable monitor

Outcome of Phase 1

Phase 1 has been completed (September 2020). Significant testing has showing that the technology is able to accurately monitor silica dust exposure in real time. This device and the technology within will now follow a fast tracked path to commercialisation. The results of the feasibility study, examining the minaturisation of the wearable monitor, showed that while theoretically would be plausible, the size of the currently available technology makes minaturisation prohibitive. While this aim is still within scope of the final product, Phase two will now focus on expediting the larger monitor to market.

Updated Phase 2: Commercialisation of fixed and transportable unit

  • Design update of sensing technology following Phase 1 learnings and trials
  • Hardware design update and build of additional prototypes
  • Phase 2 field trials and lab tests in UK and Australia
  • Design of user interface, maintenance hardware and methodology and accessories
  • Development of and transfer to production-ready unit and accessories

Research partners and stakeholders


icare Foundation

Want to know more?

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Supporting documents

Centre for Work Health and Safety Research Blueprint

Hazardous chemicals and materials exposures baseline reduction strategy

Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022