Infrastructure and technology development

CCFS links three internationally recognised concentrations of analytical geochemistry infrastructure: GEMOC’s Geochemical Analysis Unit (Macquarie University) and the associated Computing Cluster, the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (UWA/Curtin) and the John de Laeter Centre of Mass Spectrometry.  All are nodes for the NCRIS AuScope and Characterisation Capabilities, and have complementary instrumentation and laboratories.  In addition, Curtin and UWA share a leading facility for paleomagnetic studies, and facilities for experimental mineralogy and petrology are being built up at Macquarie and Curtin.







CCFS links three internationally recognised concentrations of analytical geochemistry infrastructure: GEMOC’s Geochemical Analysis Unit (Macquarie University) and the associated Computing Cluster, the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (UWA/Curtin) and the John de Laeter Centre of Mass Spectrometry.  All are nodes for the NCRIS AuScope and Characterisation Capabilities, and have complementary instrumentation and laboratories.  In addition, Curtin and UWA share a leading facility for paleomagnetic studies, and facilities for experimental mineralogy and petrology are being built up at Macquarie and Curtin.



The analytical instrumentation and support facilities of the Macquarie University Geochemical Analysis Unit (GAU) represent a state-of-the-art geochemical facility.

The GAU contains:

  •   a Cameca SX-100 electron microprobe
  •   a Zeiss EVO MA15 Scanning electron microscope (with Oxford Instruments Aztec Synergy EDS/EBSD)
  •   four Agilent quadrupole ICPMS (industry collaboration; two 7500cs; two 7700cx)
  •   a Nu Plasma multi-collector ICPMS
  •   a Nu Plasma high resolution multi-collector ICPMS
  •   a Nu Attom high resolution single-collector sector field ICPMS
  •   a Thermo Finnigan Triton TIMS
  •   a custom-built UV laser microprobe, usable on the Agilent ICPMS
  •   three New Wave laser microprobes (one 266 nm, two 213 nm, each fitted with large format sample cells) for the MC-ICPMS and ICPMS laboratories (industry collaboration)
  •   a Photon Machines Excite Excimer laser ablation system
  •   a Photon Analyte G2 Excimer laser ablation system
  •   a Photon Machines Analyte198 Femto-second laser ablation system
  •   a PANalytical Axios 1kW XRF with rocker-furnace sample preparation equipment
  •   a LECO RC412 H2O-CO2 analyser
  •   an Ortec Alpha Particle counter
  •   a New Wave MicroMill micro-sampling apparatus
  •   a ThermoFisher iN10 FTIR microscope
  •   a JY Horiba LABRAM HR Evolution confocal laser raman microscope
  •   selFrag electrostatic rock disaggregation facility
  •   clean labs and sampling facilities provide infrastructure for ICPMS, XRF and isotopic analyses of small and/or low-level samples
  •   experimental petrology laboratories include four piston-cylinder presses (pressures to 4 GPa), hydrothermal apparatus, controlled atmosphere furnaces, Griggs apparatus and a multi-anvil apparatus for pressures to 27 GPa



GEMOC is continuing to develop a unique, world-class geochemical facility, based on in situ imaging and microanalysis of trace elements and isotopic ratios in minerals, rocks and fluids.  The Facility for Integrated Microanalysis now consists of four different types of analytical instrument, linked by a single sample positioning and referencing system to combine spot analysis with images of spatial variations in composition (“micro-GIS”).  All instruments in the FIM have been operating since mid-1999.  Major instruments were replaced or upgraded in 2002-2004 through the $5.125 million DEST Infrastructure grant awarded to Macquarie University with the Universities of Newcastle, Sydney, Western Sydney and Wollongong as partners.  In late 2009 GEMOC was awarded an ARC LIEF grant to integrate the two existing multi-collector inductively-coupled-plasma mass spectrometers (MC-ICPMS) with 3 new instruments: a femtosecond laser-ablation microprobe (LAM); a high-sensitivity magnetic-sector ICPMS; a quadrupole ICPMS.  The quadrupole ICP-MS was purchased and installed in 2010; a Photon Machines femtosecond laser system was installed in June 2012; and a Nu Attom ICP-MS was installed in January 2013.  In 2012 GEMOC was awarded ARC LIEF funding for a second generation MC-ICPMS and a Nu Plasma II is scheduled for delivery in April 2015.


In 2013, a period of expansion of the high-pressure experimental facilities began which continued through 2014.  The experimental laboratories already housed two old piston-cylinder apparatuses for experiments primarily on melting and fluids to pressures of 4 GPa, a Griggs apparatus for deformational studies at crustal pressures, and a multi-anvil apparatus for pressures up to 27 GPa.  An additional multi-anvil apparatus is scheduled for delivery in 2015 and funds for the acquisition of a diamond-anvil experiments at pressures of the lower mantle have been secured.  Dr George Amulele joined the team in December 2014 from Yale University, and brings in extensive experience in experimentation at deep mantle pressures.


1. Facility for Integrated Microanalysis

a. Electron Microprobe:  The Zeiss EVO MA15 SEM carried the electron imaging workload providing high-resolution BSE and CL images for TerraneChron® ( and all other research projects, including diamonds and diamondites, PGM in chromitites and experimental petrology.  The Oxford Instruments AZtecSynergy combined Energy Dispersive System and Electron Back-Scatter Diffraction detector installed in 2012 provides simultaneous elemental and crystal orientation mapping.  This capability has enabled new research directions in the study of deformation processes in mantle and crustal rocks, including melt/rock interaction in high-grade metamorphic rocks and metasomatism of mantle-derived peridotites, pyroxenites and chromitites.  The Cameca SX100 electron microprobe (fitted with 5 wavelength dispersive spectrometers and a Bruker Energy Dispersive Spectrometer system) continued to service the demands for quantitative mineral analyses and X-ray composition maps for all projects including analysis of chromites; analysis of base metal sulfides and platinum group minerals; minor and trace element analysis of metals.


GAU Geochemist David Adams at the EMP. 

b. Laser-ablation ICPMS microprobe (LAM):  In 2014 the LAM laboratory was used by ten Macquarie PhD thesis projects, eleven international visitors, 6 Masters Research students, three users from other Australian institutions and several in-house funded research projects and industry collaborations.  Projects included the analysis of trace elements in the minerals of mantle-derived peridotites, pyroxenites and chromitites, in sulfide minerals and in a range of unusual matrices.  U-Pb analysis of zircons was again a major activity with geochronology projects (including TerraneChron® applications: from Australia (NSW, WA, SA), New Zealand, Algeria, Bostwana, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile, Laos, PNG and Russia.  Method development was also undertaken for the U-Pb dating of baddelyite and rutile.  The LAM laboratory also routinely provides data for projects related to mineral exploration (diamonds, base metals, Au) as a value-added service to the industry.


Visitors Dr Justin Payne and Mr Henry Chalk (University of Adelaide), with GAU Director Norman Pearson, using the LA-ICP-MS.


c. MC-ICPMS:  The high demand for LA MC-ICPMS time for in situ high-precision ratio measurements was again led by the analysis of Lu-Hf isotopes in zircon as a major strand of the TerraneChron® activities (see and Re-Os dating of single grains of Fe-Ni sulfides and alloys in mantle-derived rocks.  In situ Hf isotopes were measured in zircons from Australia (NSW, WA, SA), New Zealand, Algeria, Bostwana, Brazil, Indonesia, Laos, PNG, Russia and Tibet.  Re-Os studies were undertaken on xenoliths from eastern China, Siberia, Mongolia, Italy, Spain and South Africa, and sulfide and platinum group minerals in chromitites from Cuba, Spain, Turkey.

d. Laboratory development:  The clean-room facility established in 2004 continued to be used primarily for isotope separations for analysis on the Triton TIMS and Nu Plasma MC-ICPMS.  Routine procedures have been established for Rb-Sr, Nd-Sm, Lu-Hf and Pb isotopes, as well as U-series methods (U, Th and Ra).  Further refinement was undertaken of methods for whole-rock Re-Os isotopes of basaltic rocks and the adaptation of conventional techniques for Rb-Sr and Nd-Sm isotope separation to the nano-scale to process small sample sizes.

Further development of  ‘non-traditional’ stable isotopes was undertaken on Mg isotopes in mantle minerals, including chromite.

e. Software:  GLITTER (GEMOC Laser ICPMS Total Trace Element Reduction) software is our on-line interactive program for quantitative trace element and isotopic analysis and features dynamically linked graphics and analysis tables.  This package provides real-time interactive data reduction for LAM-ICPMS analysis, allowing inspection and evaluation of each result before the next analysis spot is chosen.  GLITTER’s capabilities include the on-line reduction of U-Pb data.  Sales of GLITTER are handled by Access MQ and GEMOC provides customer service and technical backup.  During 2014 a further 12 full licences of GLITTER were sold bringing the total number in use to more than 250 worldwide, predominantly in earth sciences applications but with growing usage in forensics and materials science.  Dr Will Powell continued in his role in GLITTER technical support and software development through 2014.  The current GLITTER release is version 4.4.4 and is currently available without charge to existing customers and accompanies all new orders.

2. X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis

In November 2012 a PANalytical Axios 1 kW X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer was installed and through 2014 produced major and trace-element data for a wide spectrum of rock compositions.  The Axios is a wavelength spectrometer system and replaced the Spectro XLAB2000 energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer, which was installed in November 2000.  The Axios instrument is used routinely to measure whole-rock major element compositions on fused glass discs and trace-element concentrations on pressed-powder pellets.  In 2013 the sample preparation equipment was upgraded and included a new furnace to make high-quality cast glass beads.

3. Whole-rock solution analysis

An Agilent 7500cs ICPMS produces trace-element analyses of dissolved rock samples for the projects of CCFS/GEMOC researchers and students and external users, supplementing the data from the XRF.

The ICPMS dedicated to solution analysis is also used to support the development of  ‘non-traditional’ stable isotopes with the refinement of separation techniques and analytical protocols (see 1. d above ).

4. Diamond preparation and analysis

The GEMOC laser-cutting system (donated by Argyle diamonds in 2008) was used during 2014 to cut thin plates of single diamond crystals as part of the on-going research into diamond genesis.  The plates are used for detailed spatial analysis of trace elements, isotopic ratios and the abundance and aggregation state of nitrogen.  The nitrogen measurements are made using the ThermoFisher iN10 FTIR microscope, which allows the spatial mapping of whole diamond plates at high resolution with very short acquisition times.

5. selFrag - a new approach to sample preparation

GEMOC’s selFrag instrument was installed in May 2010 and was the first unit in Australia.  This instrument uses high-powered electrical pulses to disaggregate rocks and other materials along the grain boundaries.  It removes the need to crush rocks for mineral separation, and provides a higher proportion of unbroken grains of trace minerals such as zircon.  Since its installation selFrag has been used for a range of applications including zircon separation, the analysis of grain size and shape in complex rocks, and the liberation of trace minerals from a range of mantle-derived and crustal rocks.

6. Spectroscopy

Investment in spectroscopy infrastructure started with the purchase of an FTIR microscope (ThermoFisher iN10 FTIR microscope) in 2008 followed by a confocal laser Raman microscope in 2014 (co-funded by MQSIS and Future Fellowship funding to A/Prof Dorrit Jacob).  The FTIR is used to measure H abundance in a range of nominally anhydrous minerals (e.g. olivine, pyroxene, garnet) and H and N contents in diamond.  Raman spectrometry delivers information for non-destructive phase-identification and characterisation at one micrometre spatial resolution.  In developing the spectroscopy capability an emphasis has been placed on hyperspectral mapping to produce integrated datasets and multi-layered information in a spatial context.  In 2014 MQSIS funds were granted for a CL monochromator to be attached to the Zeiss EVO SEM.  The distribution of CL is a powerful tool in geological research; it provides textural evidence of crystal growth, overgrowths and replacement, deformation, diagenesis and provenance.  The monochromator system will provide imaging of individual emitting species and their distribution in a sample, and semi-quantitative estimates of the individual CL activators; the system will be purchased and installed in 2015.

7.  Computer cluster

The cluster Enki has continued to be a powerhouse for the geodynamics group, supporting two funded research projects, 3 PhD projects, a postdoc, and numerous Masters-level projects.  Recent developments have included the development of planetary evolution capability of the mantle convection code Aspect (based on the deal.II finite element libraries), led by Siqi Zhang.  In addition O’Neill and Zhang have developed a new smoothed-particle hydrodynamic code to simulate early solar-system processes, and have been utilising Enki for these simulations.  A recent RIBG round to expand the lithosphere/seismic cluster “Toto” was successful (led by JC Afonso).  In addition, a GPU Tower (supplied by Xenon systems) continues to act as a development machine for GPU-capable code, including the recent SPH code, and a Xeon-Phi server (supplied by Dell) has recently been installed, enabling the modelling group to start development and migration of their codes onto this next generation hardware.

8.  Raman spectrometry

The purchase of a confocal Micro-Raman spectrometer (JY Horiba Labram Evolution, 514 and 623 nm wavelength lasers), with outstanding spectral and spatial resolution as well as fast imaging capabilities, extended the analytical capabilities of the CCFS this year.  It is only the third instrument with this setup at an Australian University and the first of its kind in Australian Earth Sciences.  The instrument is central to the ARC Future Fellowship project of A/Prof Dorrit Jacob where it will be used for imaging and accurate characterisation of the ephemeral phases present in biominerals.

The instrument was delivered, installed and commissioned in July 2014 and was immediately functional.

In addition to being used by Jacob and her students, the instrument has been used intensively by postgraduate students from CCFS, EPS, other Departments at Macquarie University (Dept. Physics, Dept. Biological Sciences) as well as by visitors from the Research School of Earth Sciences at ANU.

Overall the new instrumentation has extended the spectroscopy capabilities and intensive interest in its use shows Raman spectrometry and its applications are readily accepted and already form an integral part of the instrumental analytical possibilities at EPS/CCFS. 



The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA) is a $40M core facility providing analytical solutions across a diverse array of scientific research.  The world-class facilities and associated technical and academic expertise are the focus of micro-analytical and characterisation activities within Western Australia, while strong links and collaborations have earned the CMCA an excellent national and international reputation.  The CMCA incorporates the Western Australian Centre for Microscopy, and is a node of the NCRIS Characterisation capabilities, the National Imaging Facility (NIF) and the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF).  It is also associated with the NCRIS funded Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), and AuScope, which have made a substantial contribution to facilities run by CMCA.

CMCA capabilities:

  •   Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (CAMECA IMS 1280 and CAMECA NanoSIMS 50)
  •   Electron probe microanalysis (JEOL JXA 8530F)
  •   Transmission electron microscopy (FEI Titan, JEOL 2100)
  •   Scanning electron microscopy (FEI Verios XHR, Zeiss 1555, Tescan Vega3)
  •   X-ray powder diffraction (Panalytical Empyrean)
  •   X-ray micro-CT (Xradia)
  •   Confocal Raman imaging with AFM (WiTec Alpha 300RA+)
  •   NMR spectroscopy (2 Bruker Avance and 2 Varian spectrometers)
  •   X-ray crystallography (Oxford Diffraction)
  •   GC and HPLC mass spectrometry
  •   Bioimaging, flow cytometry, cell sorting, and laser micro-dissection
  •   Optical and confocal microscopy
  •   Biological sample cryo-preparation and ultramicrotomy


The CAMECA IMS 1280 and NanoSIMS 50 are flagship instruments of the AMMRF.  The AMMRF Flagship Ion Probe Facility offers state-of-the-art secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) capabilities to the Australian and international research communities, allowing in situ, high-precision isotopic and elemental analyses, and secondary ion imaging on a wide range of samples.

The IMS 1280 large-geometry ion probe, installed in 2009, was co-funded by the University, the State Government of Western Australia, and the Federal Government’s Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) under the ‘Characterisation’ (AMMRF) and ‘Structure and Evolution of the Australian Continent’ (AuScope) capabilities of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).  The NanoSIMS 50, installed in 2003, was funded through the Federal Government’s NCRIS-precursor, the Major National Research Facility scheme (NANO-MNRF).

The Ion Probe Facility is a key characterisation component within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems.  To ensure the highest levels of quality and throughput, the CCFS has provided funding for a Research Associate position within the Ion Probe Facility, to facilitate direct scientific and technical interaction for all CCFS users and projects.

The Ion Probe Facility is also a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL), performing U isotope analyses on environmental dust particles for Nuclear Safeguards.


Recent successes in ARC LIEF funding have updated the electron microscopy facilities at CMCA, with the installation in 2014 of a FEI Titan TEM, a FEI Verios XHR high resolution SEM, and Confocal Raman with AFM.  Further success in the 2014 LIEF round will see the installation in 2015-16 of a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) platform for the preparation of TEM, NanoSIMS and atom probe samples.

The CMCA has also received funding for a new Cameca NanoSIMS 50L ion probe through CSIRO’s Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) via the National Resources Science Precinct (NRSP).  The new instrument will be part of the tripartite Advanced Resources Characterisation Facility, along with a Cameca LEAP4000 Atom Probe to be located at Curtin University, and the in-house development of a MAIA mapping facility at CSIRO.  The NanoSIMS 50L represents a considerable technological advance over the existing NanoSIMS, with a seven-FC/EM multicollector array and a new oxygen ion source allowing high-resolution isotope measurements on geological samples.

In 2014, the Ion Probe Facility has continued to contribute to various projects in the context of CCFS.  These have included a wide range of topics, from the magmatic processes and crustal growth, the origin of ore deposits (O isotopes in zircon, E. Belousova and Y. Lu; S isotopes in sulfides, M. Fiorentini) and the exploration of redox processes in the deep Earth (Si and C isotopes in moissanite; J. Huang and W. Griffin).  In addition, the NanoSIMS has also been involved in the measurement of element diffusion across mineral interfaces, trace element transportation along grain boundaries, and S isotopes (D. Wacey, M. Fiorentini).

High-precision isotope measurement with SIMS requires calibration against known standards to correct for instrumental mass fractionation between analysis sessions.  This varies significantly between different materials, such that each new material analysed by SIMS necessitates the development of new standards.  Standards are in constant development at CMCA and currently include pyroxene and olivine (O isotopes) as well as a range of Si-bearing materials (SiC, Si metal, silicates) for Si isotopes.  Development continues on diamond (C isotopes), lawsonite, pyroxene, garnet and olivine (O isotopes), tourmaline and serpentine (B isotopes), pentlandite, pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite (S and Fe isotopes).  The development of standards for unknown isotope systems aims to identify potential new geochemical tools.


Once again the Ion Probe Facility at CMCA was highly productive during 2014, contributing to a number of projects across the whole CCFS.  Highlights include:

Zircon analysis

Zircon is a robust mineral whose chemical and isotopic composition has the ability to preserve information about its growth environment.  The analysis of oxygen isotope in zircon is thus a powerful tool to identify the magmatic origin of these crystals.  E. Belousova and co-authors have conducted an integrated isotopic (U-Pb, Hf and O) study of zircon crystals from upper-mantle rocks from the Tumut ophiolite complex.  Their study shows that crustally-derived zircons can be introduced into mantle rocks even after their obduction onto the continental crust, thus proposing an alternative explanation for the presence of this mineral in ultramafic rocks from ophiolite complexes.  This work has been published in the journal Geology [Belousova, E., Gonzáles-Jiménez J.-M., Graham I., Griffin, William L., O’Reilly S.Y., Pearson N., Martin L., Craven S., Talavera C. (2015).  The enigma of crustal zircons in upper-mantle rocks: Clues from the Tumut ophiolite, southeast Australia. Geology, vol. 43, p. 119-122].

Sulfur isotope analysis

The ability to measure all 4 stable sulfur isotopes in sulfide minerals in situ, makes the CAMECA IMS1280 one of the most powerful techniques available for S isotope analysis.  During 2014, the IMS1280 was used to analyse several sets of Precambrian sulfides in order to determine sulfur sources in deep time.  One project, led by CCFS SAC member James Farquhar at the University of Maryland, measured S isotopes in 2.5 billion year old carbonate rocks from Brazil to investigate S sources in the Neoarchean ocean.  The data revealed that bacteria were metabolising sulfate even when the ocean contained 1000 times less sulfate than today.  The results were published in the prestigious journal Science (see CCFS publication# 568).

Isotopic Standard development

Due to the strong ‘matrix effect’ inherent in SIMS analysis, each new material requires a chemically (and isotopically) homogeneous standard of known composition with which to calibrate the instrument.  In addition, the testing of new standards extends our capabilities into hitherto unexplored isotope systems.  Recent development has included Si isotopes in silicates, SiC and Si metal, C isotopes in SiC, Zr isotopes in zircon crystals from different provenance.  O isotope analysis in garnet is in constant development in order to cover the complex chemistry of this mineral.  The development of a Cr-rich garnet standard is underway in collaboration with J. Huang and aims to provide a better characterisation of mantle-derived garnets.  The combined development of Li and O isotope measurements in olivine and clinopyroxene is also in progress.

Ultra-fine resolution diffusion

The NanoSIMS proved once again that size does matter as a number of projects utilising the ultra-high spatial resolution and sensitivity to determine diffusion profiles across mineral interfaces.  One study, published in Chemical Geology (Saunders et al., Chem. Geol., 364, 20-33), demonstrated how the ability to acquire high-resolution diffusion profiles could be used to better constrain the timing of volcanic processes on the order of days to years.  Similarly, experimental studies on Ni and Co revealed that the activity of SiO2 has a significant effect on the diffusion rates of these elements in olivine from magmas with different compositions (Zhukova et al., Contrib. Mineral. Petrol., 168, 1029).


For further information on JDLC facilities please consult


The John de Laeter Centre (JDLC) is a collaborative research venture involving Curtin University, the University of Western Australia, CSIRO and the Geological Survey of Western Australia.  It hosts over $28M in infrastructure supporting research in: geosciences (geochronology, thermochronology and isotope studies); environmental science; isotope metrology; forensic science; economic geology (minerals and petroleum); marine science; and nuclear science.  Highlights for the 2014 period include:

  •   Success in 5 Australian Research Council LIEF proposals resulting in the commissioning of $3,460,000 in high-technology research facilities in 2013 and 2014.
  •   National leadership of the AuScope Earth Composition and Evolution program; the award of $800,000 in NCRIS funding to create a laboratory information management system (LIMS) for mineralogical data and a prototype for the national geochemistry community in cooperation with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).
  •   A $12,400,000 Science and Industry Endowment Fund grant will create a collaborative Advanced Resources Characterisation Facility (ARCF) in 2015; JDLC will be responsible for managing the ARCF Geoscience Atom Probe and accessory equipment worth $4,200,000.
  •   A major funding agreement with the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences permitting remote operation of the JDLC Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe (SHRIMP) from Beijing.
  •   The commercialization of JDLC technology was boosted by a four-year R&D agreement with Australian Scientific Instruments (ASI) to advance the commercial potential of the RESOchron laser ablation mass spectrometry instrument platform developed at Curtin, and to develop integrated U-Th-Pb-He geochronology and thermochronology applications.  In 2013, ASI delivered RESOchron systems, based on the JDLC prototype, to labs in China and Canada.
  •   High-profile publications, including:
  •   the oldest age yet obtained for samples from Mars and the first evidence of the composition of the ancient Martian atmosphere,
  •   the oldest age yet obtained for samples from the Apollo Moon missions with implications for understanding the bombardment history of the early Earth,
  •   a 200-year climate record for NW Australia obtained from Ningaloo reef corals and a greater understanding of the variability of the Leeuwin warm current,
  •   a major study of multiple ice cores confirmed widespread Pb pollution of the Antarctic continent in 1889, almost 22 years before human exploration began.  This date coincides with the onset of base metal smelting activities at Broken Hill and Point Pirie, Australia.
  •   A study linking high CO2 contents in the Triassic atmosphere to sea level rise, anoxic oceans and the mass extinction of marine and terrestrial species.

The components of the JDLC are organised into thirteen major facilities.

1.  The Advanced Ultra-Clean Environment (ACE) Facility:  This consists of a ~400m2 class 1000 containment space housing four class 10 ultra-clean laboratories, a class 10 reagent preparation laboratory and a −18 °C class 10 cold clean laboratory, located at Curtin University.  The extremely low ultimate particle counts are achieved with successive ‘spaces within spaces’ and HEPA filtration at each stage.

2.  Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS) Facility:  This facility is located at UWA and consists of:

  •   TJA (VG/Fisons) PlasmaQuad 3 Quadrupole ICP-MS.
  •   TJA (VG/Fisons) Laserlab high resolution 266 nm (Frequency quadrupled Nd-YAG) laser, capable of the ablation of craters down to 10 μm in diameter.
  •   GBC Optimas 8000 Time of Flight ICP-MS
  •   Leco Renaissance Time of Flight ICP-MS
  •   A wide range of chromatographic and thermal dissociation interfacing is also available.

3.  Argon Isotope Facility:  This is located at Curtin and is equipped with a MAP 215-50 mass spectrometer with a low-blank automated extraction system coupled with a NewWave Nd-YAG dual IR (1064 nm) and UV (216 nm) laser, an electron multiplier detector and Niers source.  Laser analysis allows spatial resolution up to 10 μm for UV laser and 300 μm for IR laser.  Larger sample sizes (>8-10 mg) are accommodated by an automated Pond-Engineering low-blank furnace.  The extraction line has a Nitrogen cryocooler trap and three GP10 getters that allow gas purification.  An Argus VI Mass Spectrometer and a Photon Machines Laser are on order. 

4.  Joint ANU-John de Laeter Centre for Mass Spectrometry (JdLC) Argon Facility:  The new instrument enables work on rare extra-terrestrial sample materials, such as micrometer-size grains recovered from the Itokawa asteroid (see below) by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa.

5.  A Thermo Argus VI multi-collector noble gas mass spectrometer was installed in November 2012 with funding from a 2012 ARC LIEF grant.  This is a low volume (~700 cc) instrument providing excellent sensitivity and is particularly suited to the isotopic analysis of small samples of the noble gases, and in particular, Argon.  The muticollector design allows simultaneous measurement all five Ar isotopes leading to reduced analysis time and greater productivity.

6.  Organic Geochemistry Facility:  This facility is located in Applied Chemistry at Curtin and the instruments used for biomarker, petroleum and water studies include:

  •   GCMS (Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer)
  •   GC-HRMS-MS (Gas Chromatograph-High Resolution Mass Spectrometer)
  •   Py-GC-MS (Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer)
  •   LCTOFMS (Liquid Chromatograph-Time of Flight-Mass Spectrometer)
  •   LC-MS-MS (Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry-Mass Spectrometer)
  •   HPSEC-DAD (High Performance Size Exclusion Chromatograph-Diode-Array Detection)
  •   GCIRMS (Gas Chromatograph-Isotope Ratio-Mass Spectrometer)
  •   TD-GC-IRMS (Thermal Desorption-Gas Chromatograph-Isotope Ratio-Mass Spectrometer)
  •   EA-IRMS (Elemental Analysis-Isotope Ratio-Mass Spectrometer)

7.  Sensitive High Resolution Ion Micro Probe (SHRIMP):  
The facility at Curtin has two automated SHRIMP II ion microprobes capable of 24-hour operation, together with a preparation laboratory that was remodelled in 2014.  The equipment allows in situ isotopic analysis of chemically complex materials with a spatial resolution of 5-20 microns.  The main application of the SHRIMP instruments at Curtin is for U-Th-Pb geochronology of zircon and other U-bearing minerals, including monazite, xenotime, titanite, allanite, rutile, apatite, baddeleyite, cassiterite, perovskite and uraninite where multiple growth zones commonly require analyses with high spatial resolution.  

8.  Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (SIRMS) Facility:  The West Australian Biogeochemistry Centre (WABC) at UWA is associated with the JdLC.  The WABC currently operates three isotopic ratio mass spectrometers (IRMS) and additional analytical instrumentation (GC, HPLC, CE autoanalyser) for biogeochemical studies.  A fourth IRMS (especially for small-sample δ13C and δ18O and carbonate analysis) is now being commissioned.  The IRMS are coupled with a variety of sample preparation modules to facilitate analysis of a broad range of sample matrices.


David Adams (GAU), John Cliff and Matt Kilburn (CMCA) at the June CCFS Research Meeting.



9.  Thermal Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) Facility:  
The TIMS facility at Curtin incorporates a Thermo Finnegan Triton™ and a VG 354 multicollector mass spectrometer.  The Triton is equipped with a 21-sample turret and 9 faraday cups, enabling a precision of 0.001% on isotopic ratios.  As well as geological applications within the broad field of isotope geochemistry (Re/Os, U/ Pb, Pb/Pb, Sm/Nd, Rb/Sr) the TIMS instruments can be applied to a variety of isotope fingerprinting, such as forensics and the environmental impact of human activities.  The TIMS instruments are also used for the calibration of isotopic standards and the calculation of isotopic abundances and atomic weights.

10.  AuScope GeoHistory and (U-Th)/He Facility:  The laboratory at Curtin hosts the prototype of the Alphachron™ automated helium microanalysis instrument now marketed by Australian Scientific Instruments in Canberra.  (U-Th)/He thermochronology involves the measurement of 4He generated by the radioactive decay of U and Th in minerals.  The JDLC (U-Th)/He Facility provides thermal-history analysis of metallogenic and petroleum systems by integrating several age-dating capabilities along with 4D thermal modelling.  The Facility is also involved in fundamental collaborative research in the fields of orogenic tectonics, volcanology and quantitative geomorphology.  It now operates a new Alphachron™machine coupled to a RESOlution Excimer laser + Agilent 7700 mass spectrometer.  This “RESOchron” instrument enables the development of in situ U-Pb and (U-Th)/He dating on single crystals of U-bearing minerals and immensely increases the application potential.  In addition, laser-ablation trace element analysis and U-Pb geochronology is now routinely undertaken in this facility, supporting industry, government and University projects.

11.  K-Ar Geochronology Facility:  The K-Ar facility utilises the following instrumentation and techniques:

  •   VG3600 noble gas mass spectrometer
  •   Heine double vacuum resistance furnace
  •   Clay mineral separation laboratory utilising cryogenic disaggregation of rock samples
  •   XRD, SEM, TEM, particle size analysis for clay characterisation
  •   Vacuum encapsulation station for Ar-Ar dating of ultrafine samples
  •   Clays - illite: Dating the timing of diagenetic and deformation events
  •   Fault gouge dating (illite) - earthquake and hazard assessment

12.  selFrag Facility:  A new selFrag facility, supported by an ARC LIEF grant, has been installed within the Department of Applied Geology at Curtin University.  The facility provides electric pulse disaggregation for mineral separation, which allows mineral grains to be separated from rock samples without the damage associated with standard crushing techniques.

13. Electron Microscopy Facility (EMF): 
 The EMF is a new node of the JdLC located at Curtin University; it has three scanning electron microscopes, all with EBSD capability, and a transmission electron microscope, for applications across Earth sciences, materials science, engineering, chemistry and biology.


The following is a summary of the capabilities of our major instruments;

Zeiss NEON 40 EsB - The Neon is a dual beam focused ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) equipped with a field emission gun and a liquid metal Ga+ ion source.  This instrument combines high resolution imaging with precision ion beam ablation of focused regions which allows for site specific analysis of the surface and subsurface of samples in 2D or 3D.

Key Capabilities

  •   High resolution imaging using SE, BSE and inlens detectors (resolution is 1.1 nm at 20 kV to 2.5 nm at 1 kV)
  •   Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) point analysis and mapping
  •   Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) mapping, including 3D EBSD
  •   Focused Ion Beam (FIB) milling
  •   Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) lamella, Transmission Kikuchi Diffraction (TKD) foil and atom probe tip preparation
  •   High resolution 3D tomography 

Tescan MIRA3 XMU with Oxford AZTEC EBSD-EDS system

The MIRA is a variable pressure field emission scanning electron microscope (VP-FESEM) equipped with a range of detectors suitable for research in Earth science, forensics, life science and materials science.

Key Capabilities

  •   High resolution SE and BSE imaging of 1-3 nm (depending upon conditions used)
  •   Fast Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) mapping
  •   Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) point analysis and mapping
  •   High quality cathodoluminescence (CL) imaging
  •   Electron Beam Induced Current (EBIC) imaging
  •   Low vacuum secondary electron imaging up to 500 Pa
  •   Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM) imaging
  •   Beam Deceleration Mode (BDM) for low voltage imaging of beam sensitive samples
  •   Simultaneous EBSD and EDS mapping
  •   Large area autonomous data collection
  •   Stereoscopic imaging


Zeiss EVO

The Zeiss EVO 40XVP is a variable pressure scanning electron microscope (VP-SEM) equipped with a tungsten filament.  The microscope is suitable for general-purpose microstructural analysis at high vacuum, or for the analysis of non-conductive/hydrated samples at lower vacuum.    

Key Capabilities

  •   Secondary Electron (SE) imaging
  •   Backscattered Electron (BSE) imaging
  •   Cathodoluminescence (CL) imaging  
  •   Low vacuum secondary electron imaging
  •   Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) point analysis and mappingElectron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) mapping


Jeol JEM 2011

The JEM-2011 is a transmission electron microscope (TEM) with a LaB6 filament.  It is equipped with an EDS detector and a scanning transmission electron microscope attachment, allowing for elemental and microstructural analysis at very high magnifications.

Key Capabilities

  •   High resolution bright field and dark field imaging
  •   Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM) imaging
  •   Selected Area Electron Diffraction (SAED) 
  •   Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) analysis

For further information on JDLC facilities please consult



The Western Australia Paleomagnetic and Rock-magnetic Facility was established at the University of Western Australia by CCFS CI Z.X. Li in 1990, funded by a UWA start-up grant to the late Professor Chris Powell.  It was subsequently upgraded through an ARC Large Instrument Grant in 1993 to purchase a then state-of-the-art 2G Enterprises AC-SQUID cryogenic magnetometer and ancillary demagnetisation and rock magnetic instruments.  It was upgraded again in 2006 into a regional facility, jointly operated by Curtin University, UWA and the Geological Survey of WA through an ARC LIEF grant with a 4k DC SQUID system plus a Variable Field Translation Balance (VFTB).  A MFK-1FB kappa bridge was installed in 2011.  In 2014, a national consortium consisting of Curtin University, The University of Western Australia, the Australian National University, Macquarie University and University of Queensland was awarded an ARC LIEF grant to purchase a new 2G 755 superconducting rock magnetometer with a vertical Model 855 automated sample handler (the RAPID system) and other accessories (ovens etc.), to be housed in a purposely built magnetic shielded room at Curtin University’s Bentley campus.  This new system is expected to be installed in early 2016.  We have also ordered an AGICO JR-6A spinner magnetometer and a TD-48SC thermal demagnetiser, expect to be delivered in May 2015 to the Bentley laboratory.

The joint WA facility is one of three similar laboratories in Australia.  The new purchases will build on existing instruments in the facility, including:

  •   2G cryogenic magnetometer upgraded (LE0668377) to a 4K DC SQUID system (currently back to 2G for a minor upgrade and for repair of the lightning-damaged cold head)
  •   MMTD80 (one) and MMTD18 (two) thermodemagnetisers
  •   Variable Field Translation Balance (VFTB)
  •   MFK-1FB kappabridge
  •   Bartington susceptibility meter MS2 with MS2W furnace

A wide range of research topics have been investigated using the facility, including reconstructing the configuration and drifting history of continents all over the world from the Precambrian to the present, analysing regional and local structures and deformation histories, dating sedimentary rocks and thermal/chemical (e.g. mineralisation) events, orienting rock cores from drill-holes, tracing ancient latitude changes, paleoclimates, and recent environmental pollution.

Program 1:  Regional and Global Tectonic Studies

Paleomagnetism and rock magnetism are employed to study tectonic problems ranging from global to microscopic scales.  The WA research group plays a leading role in a worldwide effort to establish the configuration and evolution of supercontinents Pangaea, Gondwanaland, Rodinia, and pre-Rodinia supercontinents.  

Program 2:  Ore genesis studies and geophysical exploration 

We carried out a major research program on the timing and genesis of the giant iron ore deposits in the Pilbara region, and obtained a systematic set of petrophysical parameters for rock units in the region that enables more reliable interpretations of geophysical survey results (gravity and magnetic).

Program 3:  Magnetic signatures in sediments as markers of environmental change

Sediments in suitable environments can incorporate a large number of environmental proxies.  A major strength of environmental-magnetism analyses, such as magnetic susceptibility and saturated isothermal magnetism, is that they provide a rapid and non-destructive method of obtaining information on changes in paleoclimate and environment of sedimentation.  In addition, rock magnetism can be used for monitoring and tracing industrial pollution.

Program 4:  Magnetostratigraphy 

We are conducting major research programs in the Canning Basin and in East Timor, both linked to petroleum resources.