New radar wins national engineers' award

La Trobe University's new TIGER-3 digital radar system has won this year's Australian Engineering Excellence Award for Innovation.

The annual awards by the nation's peak engineering body celebrate some of the finest engineering accomplishments in the world.

They were presented at this week's Engineers Australia Convention, which has attracted more than 5,000 delegates to Melbourne's Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The new $1.7 million instrument was designed and built in South Australia by La Trobe University electronic engineers and physicists leading a five-member consortium of universities and government organisations.

It is operated remotely from La Trobe University's main Melbourne campus at Bundoora. Earlier this year it took out the Victorian section of the award.

Better view than existing research radars

TIGER stands for Tasman International Geospace Environment Radar. It is the most sophisticated system of its kind in the world for research into the upper atmosphere and how space weather and solar flares impact on global communication and navigation infrastructure.

Along with two other radars in southern Tasmania and New Zealand, TIGER offers scientists far greater sensitivity, increased range and a much wider field of view than existing analogue instruments.

Providing coverage from mid-latitudes just south of Australia all the way to the polar regions over Antarctica, the radar helps study the motion of the upper atmosphere, called the ionosphere, 100 to 500 km above the Earth's surface.

Australia's TIGER system plays a key role in a global network of more than 30 research radars.

International sales

Project leader Professor John Devlin said the win was a great credit to the team of some 20 researchers and technicians who competed against 37 commercial projects, many funded for hundreds of millions of dollars.

'I would particularly like to thank (Emeritus Professor of Physics) Peter Dyson for his vision and guidance in forming the TIGER group all those years ago, and his continued contribution.'

Professor Devlin said the new digital radar has already attracted international attention. One has been sold to the British Antarctic Survey while another, built by South Africa's National Space Agency, is deployed in Antarctica.  Nagoya University in Japan has shown interest in a third for its Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory.

Read more about the winning project, the research group, and the radar.

Media Contact: Ernest Raetz, 0412 261 919

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Image: The radar during construction in Buckland Park, north of Adelaide, South Australia