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New atom probe to provide researchers with ore-some view

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WA researchers will soon have a more advanced way to study important ore deposits, with the future arrival of a new atom probe at Curtin University.

The Geosciences Atom Probe is part of a new Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility (ARCF) in Perth, for which Federal Innovation, Industry Science and Research Minister Kim Carr yesterday announced a $12.4 million grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).

The facility is a partnership between Curtin University, CSIRO and The University of Western Australia, and will give scientists access to three new cutting-edge research tools.

Curtin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research & Development Professor Graeme Wright said the Geosciences Atom Probe is a revolutionary tool that would provide a three-dimensional picture of atom distribution in very small volumes of natural materials.

The technology has previously been used in the fields of materials science and nanotechnology but the application to geosciences is in its infancy.

“There is a strong history of collaboration between each of the three ARCF partners and I look forward to seeing these partnerships grow from strength to strength, starting with this new equipment, as we make Perth the hub for resource capability,” Professor Wright said.

“Curtin has a great track record in minerals and energy sciences and this newly announced investment will definitely build on Western Australia’s capability to undertake industry-relevant science and innovation, providing a bright future for the sector and our graduates.”

Professor Steve Reddy of Curtin’s Department of Applied Geology said the Geosciences Atom Probe will provide a new way of characterising minerals associated with ore deposits.

“The instrument will provide a means of characterising the fine scale distribution of economically important metals and help understand the fundamental processes responsible for element transport in ore minerals,” Professor Reddy said.

“It will help support future mineral exploration as well as the optimisation of production from known deposits.”

Besides the Geosciences Atom Probe, the ARCF will also include a Maia Mapper for chemical mapping of drill core and a NanoSIMS for elemental and isotopic mapping of minerals at sub-micron resolutions.

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