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Hall of Fame

In this section we commemorate some of Australia's outstanding inventions.  We salute these inventors for their inspiration, perseverance and determination to make our world a safer and better place for all mankind.

Hearing protection in noisy environments: Sensear Hearing Protection and Communication.

Inventor Professor Sven Nordholm 

Sensear’s Speech Enhancing Noise Suppression (SENS) technology boosts and cleans speech while suppressing background noise. It allows users to clearly and safely communicate in noisy environments through earphones or earpieces and high noise communication devices, which enable face-to-face, mobile phone and two-way radio and short range communication. The new SDP model enables workers to communicate in extreme noise environments up to 120 dB.

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 The Sensear system was developed by Professors Sven Nordholm (left) and Kevin Fynn of Curtin University,Perth WA. Their research work into ‘high noise communication devices’ to help hearing impaired people working in noisy work places. The technology has been commercialised through the company Sensear, which has markets high noise communication devices that allow workers to communicate in noisy environments. A $358,000 Australian Research Council (ARC) will allow Curtin researchers to develop Sensear products to assist people with hearing loss. As Sensear’s Chief Scientist, Sven Nordholm is a Professor in Telecommunications at Curtin University and Research Director of the Signal Processing Laboratory at the Western Australian Telecommunications Research Institute (WATRI). Sven is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities in the field of microphone arrays and digital signal processing.

Sensear devices offer a total high noise communication solution by enabling users to communicate face to face, short range (50 meters) and via connection to two-way radio Bluetooth cell phone, DECT systems for long distance communication. Sensear devices are available in Smart Muff (SM) and ultra light Smart Plug (SP) form factors. The Muff range is available with helmet mount and behind the neck versions. Sensear has also recently launched the Smart Double Protection Smart Muff that delivers communication capability in extreme noise environments and the new IS Smart Muff that delivers a total communication solution in hazardous environments where Intrinsically Safe certifications are required.

These devices are now being used by leading WA companies in mining, aviation, manufacturing and construction. They are also being used throughout the world by some of the worlds leading companies to solve their high noise communication challenges.

Quoted from: 
Curtin University news
CRICOS provider code: 00301J
Ref: Shaun Ratcliff “Curtin thinking sound” Curtain News Date: 29 June 2010 13:54 PM
Photos Courtesy Sensear Pty Ltd Perth


ReCell® – Dr Fiona Wood’s burns treatment

ReCell® was used in the treated many of the burns victims evacuated to Australia after the Bali nightclub blasts in October 2002, to speed the generation of new skin cells over burns. Photo Courtesy of Avita Medical Ltd

Dr Fiona Wood 
Photo Courtesy of Avita Medical Ltd

Winthrop Professor Fiona Wood is accredited with the development of a spray-on treatment for burns which greatly speeds the regeneration of skin tissue after severe burning and greatly reduced the scaring. In 2002 she lead a team in treating the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings. Her treatment was still under development at the time; it is now marketed through Avita Medical under the name of ReCell®.

Dr Wood is a plastic & reconstructive surgeon specialising in the field of burn care, trauma and scar reconstruction. She is the Director of the WA Burns Service of Western Australia, a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Princess Margaret and Royal Perth hospitals and a director of Avita Medical. 
Fiona she immigrated from the UK in 1987, her research into the treatment of burns has been recognised by the Australian Medical Association 'Contribution to Medicine' Award in 2003, an Order of Australia Medal for work with Bali bombing victims. She was the West Australian of the Year for 2004 and again in 2005, and was nominated as a National Living Treasure and Australian Citizen of the Year in 2004. She and Marie Stone, won the 2005 Clunies Ross Award for their contributions to Medical Science in Australia. She was honoured with the Australian of the Year title in 2005.


ReCell® is a single use, stand-alone autologous cell harvesting kit, which processes a thin, split-thickness skin biopsy into a viable cell suspension for immediate application on wounds.

ReCell® enables the delivery of keratinocytes, melanocytes, fibroblasts, Langerhans cells and critically the undifferentiated basal cells harvested from the epidermal-dermal junction, onto the wound surface. The cell suspension is available in 30 minutes for immediate use and can cover a wound about 80 times the area of the biopsy.

Keratinocytes enable quick epithelialisation of the wound, usually in 5 to 7 days and repopulation of melanocytes may result in the restoration of normal pigmentation. By using cells from a site-matched biopsy, ReCell® helps the reconstruction of normal textured epidermis.

Use of the ReCell® kit enables cell processing at the site of treatment without the use of specialised laboratory staff. The process is both cost and time efficient.

(Credit: Avita Medical)


“Mayday – Man Overboard” Radio alarm system on VHF marine radio frequencies giving real-time coordinates of the person in the water.

The Mobilarm V100 was invented by Lindsay Lyon and his team at Mobilarm Ltd in Perth.

Man overboard (MOB) is the single largest cause of marine fatalities. When a crewman wearing a Mobilarm falls into water, the device automatically sends a MAYDAY signal to vessels within VHF radio range. The device also searches for a GPS signal, and when locked on to the signal, it transmits the alert again with the current latitude and longitude coordinates of the MOB. These messages are repeated at regular intervals until the person in the water is rescued.

The device has attracted world-wide interest an the US Navy has ordered XXXx for testing.  


Cochlear® – The “Bionic Ear” helping the profoundly deaf hear again

Rod Saunders and Graeme Clark, the latest Cochlear Nucleus 5 sound processor, schematic and result (pictures courtesy Cochlear) 

Prof Graeme Clerk
Photo Courtesy of

After a decade of research the first cochlear implant surgery was put to the test in 1978. Professor Graeme Clark grew up seeing his father’s struggle with profound hearing loss, the resulting frustration, anguish and isolation and his father’s desire for a greater communication with others. Some research in the 1960’s had indicated that a profoundly deaf person could receive hearing sensations through electrical stimulation. Inspired by this, he began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device. He faced scepticism, unknown risks, lack of funding and the difficulty of fitting tiny electrodes into the inner ear before the successful test in 1978.
To date some 160,000 moderately-to-profoundly deafened adults and children have received a cochlear implant. Professor Clark is still actively involved in the advancement of cochlear implants. He was recently awarded the prestigious Lister Medal for his outstanding contribution to surgical science.

Cochlear Nucleus 5

Remote Assistant
Sound Processor


 (Credit: Cochlear Limited) 


Black Box Flight recorder

Invented in 1956 by David Warren, the modern day equivalent of David's device is now installed in commercial airlines worldwide.

David Warren was born in 1925 on Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory. He was the first white child born there. He went to boarding schools in Launceston and Sydney, and graduated from Sydney University with a Science Honours degree.

In 1934, David's father was killed in a plane crash in Bass Strait. His last gift to David was a crystal set, from which David became interested in electronics and began building radios as a schoolboy hobby, with an ambition to become a “radio ham”. When a wartime ban on amateur radio dampened his hopes, David turned to chemistry as a hobby and this became his lifetime profession. However, his schoolboy knowledge of electronics was to be of value later.

Photo credit: Gizmag

David Warren initially worked as a teacher and lecturer in chemistry. Then, from 1948 to 1951, he was a Scientific Officer at Woomera Rocket Range and Imperial College, London.

David became the principal research scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation's Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne from 1952 to 1983. He was involved in the accident investigations relating to the mysterious crash of the world's first commercial jet airliner, the Comet, in 1953. He came up with the idea that it would be helpful for airline accident investigators to have a recording of voices in the cockpit.

This idea initially raised little interest, so David designed and constructed a black box prototype in 1956 based on a German steel wire recorder which cost him the equivalent of $15 000 in today’s dollars. This prototype could continually store up to four hours of speech, prior to any accident, as well as flight instrument readings. However, it took five years before the value and practicality of the idea was finally accepted, and another five years before it became mandatory to fit cockpit recorders in Australian aircraft.

The NY Times reports that at first, his idea was derided. If it were practical, he was repeatedly told, the Americans would have already made it. Australian civilian aviation authorities said it had “no immediate significance.” The military huffed that it would yield “more expletives than explanations.” The pilots’ union called the device a sinister way to spy on them. When he volunteered to work on developing a flight-recording system, he was rebuffed. Mr. Warren remembered his boss’s saying, “If I find you talking to anyone, including me, about this matter, I will have to sack you.”

The modern day equivalent of David's device is now installed in commercial airlines worldwide. Dr David Warren, the inventor of the “black box” flight data recorder, died in July 2010, aged 85.


WiFi - The miracle of unscrambling radio signals

How many billions of people use John O’Sullivan’s WiFi invention every day? Mobile phones, computers, modems and other wireless devices communicate with each other using patented technology born of the work of John and his CSIRO colleagues in radio astronomy.

Dr John O’Sullivan
Photo Credit: Bearcage Productions

John O'Sullivan and his colleagues it the CSIRO created a technology that made the wireless LAN fast and robust. The problem they faced was the unscrambling the fuzzy ambiguous radio signal that is produced by radio wave reflections that bounce off the many surfaces around the receiver. The reflections arrive as a series of echoes (as in ‘ghosting’ on an analogue television set). The way to solve the problem the is to break the transmission into short snippets and send them slowly, the echoes die down and the message is clear, but this is too slow to be useful. 

Their solution came from John’s efforts to hear the faint radio whispers of exploding black holes. John is a radio physicist, trained at the University of Sydney, ending with a PhD in radio astronomy. In 1974 he started work to work on the Westerbork radio telescope in Holland and returned to Australia nine years later as head of the Signal Processing Group in the CSIRO’s Division of Radiophysics at Parkes in NSW.

In search for radio waves from exploding black holes, he and his colleagues developed techniques to clean up intergalactic radio wave distortion using Fourier transforms. To simplify and speed up the transform task, he worked with Austek Microsystems to create a computer chip that could do the processing. This was the Fast Fourier Transform Chip. Fourier transformation is a mathematical equation which changes information from one form into another … say from radio waves to a spectrum. The beauty of John’s chip was that it could perform thousands of these rapidly.

John and his team realised they could use the same process to send the information over many different frequencies and recombine the signal at the receiver and that they might be able eliminate cables that link computers. 

In 1992 the CSIRO applied for an Australian patent and began prototyping and testing this technology. At that time, many other computer and research groups around the world were also working on radio communication between computers. With John’s Fast Fourier Transform chip, his team solved the refection problem within 6 months. A US patent on the technology was granted in 1996, followed by its incorporation into the IEEE (the global standards body), standards for wireless networking (802.11a, and 802.11g and n). 
Despite the patent protection, major computer and phone companies began using the technology without licence agreements and this led a patent infringement court battle in the US. Simultaneously, there were out of court negotiations and in April 2009 an agreement on licensing terms was reached with wireless computer manufactures. In this

agreement the CSIRO received $250 million for alleged intellectual property infringements. Future earnings could exceed $1 billion in WIFI license fees. 
John O’Sullivan was awarded the 2009 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his achievements in astronomy and wireless technologies.

See video on also

WiFi inventor wins Prime Minister’s Prize for Science Thursday, 29 October 2009 By Niall Byrne
ABC interview with Dr John O’Sullivan produced by Dr Jonica Newby WiFi (08/10/2009)

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