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

June 2020: Phase 1 complete

October 2020: Project complete

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
  • Provide a prototype to the Centre and pursue commercialisation of the static monitor
  • Conduct a feasibility study examining the minaturisation of a wearable monitor

If the feasibility study proves that minaturisation is possible, then the research partner will continue to phase 2.

Phase 2: Wearable monitor  - Design and Build

  • Ready a prototype for field trials and address miniaturisation challenges
  • Conduct accuracy and durability field trials
  • Provide a functionally tested prototype to meet the hardware deliverable requirements of the project
  • Pursue commercialisation of the wearable monitor

Research partners and stakeholders

Trolex Nome Australia

Want to know more?

To work with the Centre, or stay up to date with our research, head to our Engage with us page.

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