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Environmental Luminescence Facility

  • Environmental Luminescence Facility Overview
    Environmental Luminescence Facility

    The Environmental Luminescence Group (formerly Physical Archaeometry Group) studies a range of applications of luminescence phenomena to diverse problems in Environmental Monitoring, Quaternary Geology, Defence and National Security, Archaeology and Palaeontology. These include the use of luminescence for determination of absorbed radiation dose (Luminescence Dosimetry and Dating), the real-time monitoring of radiation fields in the environment, and the use of luminescence and fluorescence for trace substance detection. Our research interests lie both in the underlying physics and the applications.

    The radiation sensing and Luminescence Analysis takes place in our Environmental Luminescence facility. This facility is currently located in the SCP Physics Bldg and Oliphant Wing, but from February 2013 will be operating from the new state-of-the-art IPAS laboratory building, "Illumin8", currently under construction. The new laboratory will be named the "John R. Prescott Laboratory" to honour the pioneering contribution made by the late Professor John Prescott and colleagues in the University of Adelaide Department of Physics to Luminescence, both within Australia and globally.

  • The Facility

    The Environmental Luminescence facility brings together an apparatus suite which enables state-of-the-art Geochronology and a great range of research possibilities.

    The facility includes:

    • 3D TL Spectrometer - Interferometer-based, 200-720 nm sensitive range for temperatures up to 600°C - the world's most sensitive TL spectrometer
    • Photon-Counting Imaging System (PCIS) - developed in collaboration with ANU and to be transferred to IPAS on long-term loan. An LN-cooled silicon CCD camera is interfaced with a Risø OSL/TL-DA-15 with fast (f0.9) reflective optics to enable exploitation of the full 200-1050 nm sensitive range of the CCD.
    • R1: a Risø  TL-DA-8 with cooled red (S20) PMT module optimised for red TL
    • R2: a Risø TL/OSL DA-20 with Single-Grain Module with green and IR lasers, dedicated to Single-Grain Optical Dating
    • R3: a Risø TL/OSL DA-20 with fast photon timer module for time-resolved OSL (POSL), and Single-Grain Module with green and IR lasers.
    • R4: a Risø OSL/TL-DA-12 for blue TL, with blue/UV (bialkali) PMT, and a 470 nm LED pack for optical stimulation
    • Elsec Automated OSL/IRSL Reader Type 9010
    • A "Single-aliquot" fading chamber for anomalous fading investigations (gift from Prof Dave Huntley, Simon Fraser University, Canada)
    • Modified "Elsec" TL glow oven for Kinetics; this is optimised for low count rate TL with a low-noise EMI 9635QA PMT and is capable of heating rates as low as 0.0008 k/s.
    • Princeton Instruments Spectrofluorometer (PIXIS 256 detector) enables fluorescence analysis
    • Single-photon avalanche photodiodes (free-space and fibre-coupled)


    Sample collection in the field:

    • a water-cooled "Hilti" coring drill is used for sampling building materials and lithic materials
    • sediment samples are collected using coring cylinders


    Field dosimetry is performed using:

    • Two calibrated 27 cubic inch NaI portable gamma-ray spectrometers
    • TLD Capsule Dosimetry


    Laboratory in-house dosimetry includes:

    • Four LN-cooled high-resolution Ge-gamma ray spectrometers
    • Six alpha-counters for thick-source alpha counting

    In addition, we routinely use external providers for ICPMS/OES, XRF (K), and neutron activation and delayed neutron activation.

    Sample Preparations

    Well-equipped sample preparation darkrooms include separate areas for field kit, a "saw room" with masonry saw, Buehler diamond wafering slow-saw and water-cooled coring drill, and a preparation lab dedicated to the extraction of mineral grains; apparatus includes 38 mm and 100 mm micromesh sieve stacks, a facility for batch density separation using lithium heteropolytungstate, Franz magnetic separator, centrifuge, ultrasonic baths, hotplates, precision electronic balances, drying ovens, a tube oven and wide range of laboratory glassware.


    Alpha (Am241) and beta (Sr90/Y90) particle irradiations are administered by sources either mounted within the four Risø automated luminescence readers, or in stand-alone automated irradiators. These include two Elsec "6-position" alpha irradiators, an Elsec automated alpha irradiator Type 9010, two Elsec Type 9010automated beta irradiators, two Daybreak automated beta irradiators, and a Littlemore automated beta irradiator. In addition, a set of free standing Sr90/Y90 sources with activities ranging from 0.7 MBq to 1.5GBq and a free-standing 14 MBq Am241 alpha source are available for purpose-configured experiments on Elsec readers or within lead castles.

    Ancillary apparatus includes a 1000W Oriel solar simulator, a comprehensive set of Schott, Ealing and Hoya filters, four microprocessor-controlled ovens, lasers (UV to NIR), binocular microscopes, pyroelectric radiometers, and calibrated Si photodiodes.

    The Laboratory space exceeds 200 m2, with individual booths and rooms for separate apparatus within a common darkroom, and services including adjustable intensity safe-light options (red and orange), reticulated vacuum, ultra-high purity nitrogen, cooling water and deionised water.

  • The Expertise

    Lum1Our Optical Dating and Environmental Dosimetry researchers specialise in the physics and applications of luminescence, particularly of minerals and artificial materials, leading to the advancement of luminescence techniques for forensic dosimetry, dose reconstruction (retrospective dosimetry) following radiological incidents, and the application of TL Dating and Optical Dating to a diverse range of questions in Environmental Monitoring, Quaternary Geology, Defence and National Security, Archaeology and Palaeontology.

    Strong areas of research also include detection of trace quantities of explosives using microstructured optical fibres, the real-time monitoring of radiation fields using radiation-sensitive optical fibres as distributed sensors, and investigations into the detection of prior exposure to radiation of suitable natural and artificial materials, including opportunistically-available materials in the locality of a radiological event and items fortuitously carried by people in such an area.

  • Commercial Services

    Environmental Luminescence commercial services

  • Key Contact

    Prof Nigel Spooner

    Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS)  
    The University of Adelaide, AUSTRALIA 5005  
    Telephone:  +61 (0)8 831 34852

Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing

North Terrace Campus
The Braggs Building
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005


T: +61 8 8313 9254

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