Advanced microanalysis for Adelaide

Thursday, 7 December 2006

South Australian researchers and industry will have access to the most advanced microscopy and microanalysis facilities in the country under a new national network being established.

With potential benefits for all science-based research and development - including medicine, engineering, physical sciences and plant and animal sciences - the national network will have a node in each major capital city.

In Adelaide, new development will be centred on the existing Regional Facility for Microscopy and Microanalysis, a collaborative arrangement between the University of Adelaide's Adelaide Microscopy, the University of South Australia's Ian Wark Research Institute and Flinders University's School of Chemistry, Physics and Earth Sciences and the Flinders Microscopy & Image Analysis Facility.

Advanced microscopy and microanalysis facilities allow researchers to analyse what materials are made of and their structures at an elemental level.

Adelaide Microscopy Director John Terlet said the new facilities would enable significant advancement in this area. He said: "For example the new equipment to be housed at Adelaide Microscopy - a Focused Ion Beam Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope - will allow us to cut samples in materials like very hard steel. We will be able to section it and look at the internal microstructures at very high resolution, and identify the chemistry even at the boundaries of the grains of metal - something that is very difficult to do. And in plant science, for example, we will be able to cut open and look at the internal structures of plant cells without damaging the rest of the material."

The National Network of Microscopy and Microanalysis Facilities will be funded under the Federal Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy which recently allocated $47.5 million for the 'Characterisation Capability', most of which will go towards establishing the network. The Adelaide facility has been boosted with another $2.5 million from the State Government with a total of almost $7 million new investment in South Australia.

University of Adelaide Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Alan Johnson said: "This is a truly national collaborative network that will allow researchers throughout the country to have access to leading edge advanced microscopy and microanalysis platforms. Working together, the three universities have brought Adelaide to the national stage in this field."

UniSA Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Professor Caroline McMillen said the acquisition of a Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (ToF-SIMS) at UniSA as part of the funding would give a huge boost to research in SA.

"The ToF-SIMS will form part of a national network of advanced microscopy and microanalysis instrumentation, giving researchers across the state's three universities, and in industry, access to a state-of-the-art facility with extraordinary power to analyse the surfaces of materials," Professor McMillen said.

"This capacity feeds into some of our most vital industries - minerals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology and a range of defence manufacturing applications - it is a coup for the State."


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