Infrastructure and technology development

CCFS links three internationally recognised concentrations of analytical geochemistry infrastructure: GEMOC’s Geochemical Analysis Unit (Macquarie University, reorganised in 2016 as MQGA) 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 GeoAnalytical facilities contain

  • 2 Cameca SX-100 electron microprobes a Zeiss EVO MA15 Scanning electron microscope (with Oxford Instruments Aztec Synergy EDS/EBSD and Horiba HCLUE spectral cathodoluminescence detector) JOEL benchtop Scanning electron microscope
  • A Nanomin FEI Field Emission SEM
  • Micro XRF M4 Tornado from Bruecker
  • three Agilent quadrupole ICPMS (industry collaboration; one 7500cs; two 7700cx)
  • two Nu Plasma multi-collector ICPMS
  • a triple quad (Q3) ICPMS 8900
  • a Nu Plasma II multi-collector ICPMS
  • a Nu Attom high-resolution single-collector sector field ICPMS
  • 2 Thermo Finnigan Triton TIMS
  • a Photon Analyte LSX213nm laser ablation system
  • a Photon Machines Excite Excimer laser ablation system
  • a Photon Machines Analyte G2 Excimer laser ablation system
  • a Photon Machines Analyte198 Femtosecond laser ablation system
  • Thermo Fisher Neptune Plus MC-ICPMS
  • a PANalytical Axios 1kW XRF with rocker-furnace sample preparation equipment
  • a Vario El Cube CHNS elemental analyser
  • AEuro EA3000 elemental analyser
  • an Ortec Alpha Particle counter
  • a New Wave MicroMill micro-sampling apparatus
  • a ThermoFisher iN10 FTIR microscope
  • a Horiba LABRAM HR Evolution confocal laser Raman microscope
  • MP-AES (Microwave Plasma Mass Spectrometer)
  • MAT 253+ Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer with IBEX
  • a 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.

Watch the MQGA webinar to learn more about our facilities



This facility has been successively built up to fulfil the vision of providing spatially controlled high-resolution analysis and imaging of trace elements and isotopic abundances in situ, analogous to the then routine capabilities of the mature technology of the electron microprobe for major elements in geological materials. This unique vision and approach enabled benchmark technology and in situ analytical methodology milestones in GEMOC starting with trace elements in mantle minerals from the mid-1990s, Hf isotopes in zircon from 2000, and Re-Os in mantle sulfides and alloys also from 2000. This distinctive in situ approach sparked research into new ways of understanding earth processes and identified GEMOC, then CCFS, as the leading geochemical facility for such applications, and distinguished it from outstanding analytical laboratories that continued to undertake bulk analytical approaches. The new Decadal Plan for Earth Sciences prepared by the Australian Academy of Science National Committee of Earth Sciences has identified the continuation of in situ analysis as the preferred direction for geochemical analytical applications for industry and academia over the next 10 years.

This facility is focused on in situ imaging and microanalysis of trace elements and isotopic ratios in minerals, rocks and fluids. A wide range of in situ geochronological analytical capabilities has backup from traditional solution methodologies.

Major instruments were replaced or upgraded, many by joint ventures with national partners including Teledyne Cetac technologies, Nu Instruments, AMETEK and ThermoFisher Scientific.


Equipment for high-pressure experimentation

The new high-pressure laboratory contains two rapid-quench piston-cylinder apparatuses (GUKO Sondermaschinenbau) and three multi-anvil apparatuses, including one new 1000 ton press with a Walker module (Voggenreiter GmbH). Two older piston-cylinder apparatuses set up by Prof Trevor Green in the old high-pressure laboratory are still functional. There is also a Griggs deformation apparatus, a one-atmosphere quench apparatus and a diamond-anvil cell apparatus.

Current projects are investigating the melting curves and melt compositions produced from peridotites with mixed volatile components, and from pyroxenites containing hydrous phases such as amphiboles and micas. The melting of sedimentary rocks, including limestones, is being investigated in combination with reaction experiments that juxtapose sediments with mantle peridotites. Other experimental projects are looking at trace element mobility in fluids, the partitioning of nitrogen, fluorine and chlorine, and the dissolution of zircons in silicate melts.



1. Sample Preparation Facilities

In 2020 the MQGA Sample Preparation Facility was fully refurbished, providing a high-quality sample preparation precinct including nine laboratories covering ≈250 m2. The facility accommodates the processing of large rocks down to (sub-)micrometric minerals. Instrumentation includes the SelFrag (see below), magnetic separators, heavy liquid separation and hydroseparation processing. The facility also includes fully equipped lapidary laboratories to produce high quality polished blocks and thin sections and an extensive range of crushing and milling apparatus.


Montgarri Castillo-Oliver using the MQGA Sample Preparation Facility.


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, the 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.

We envision that this facility will develop into a research node for sample preparation, mainly, but not strictly limited to mineral separation through collaborative projects with academia and industry. Indeed, there is opportunity for improvement and novel approaches to sample preparation by combining existing technologies and/or new technology.

In the coming decades, critical minerals will be required for a sustainable national (and global) future. This expected reduction in target size and abundance of these critical minerals will require enhanced mineral separation techniques. Concentration by hydro-separation, a capability of the sample preparation facility, is done with almost no loss of mineral grains and with a mineral concentration factor varying (mineral specific) between 100 to 10,000 times the original proportions of minerals. The combination of electrostatic pulse disaggregation (EPD: SelFrag) and hydro separation techniques enable the recovery of rare minerals, with abundances down to few parts per million (i.e. ≈0.0001 vol.%) in very fine fractions (Ø < 1 μm). Preliminary work is being carried out by Montgarri Castillo-Oliver (pictured).

2. Whole-rock analysis

2.1.1. In November 2012, a PANalytical Axios 1 kW X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Spectrometer was installed and 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. The major element calibration was modified in 2015 to extend the spectrum of rock types that could be analysed to include Fe-rich samples such as iron ores and laterites. This year the PANalytical was refurbished to maintain high accuracy and precision. Round-robin tests (GeoPT) show the PANalytica Axios is performing very well.

2.1.2. The high-performance CHNS elemental analyser from Elementar (Vario El Cube), fitted with an extra IR-detector for low-level sulfur analysis, is now in operation and is providing high quality S analyses for projects involving Re-Os isotopic analysis. It also analyses the distribution and abundance of volatile elements in the Earth’s mantle (PhD student Halimulati Ananuer, ECR Michael Förster). An extensive suite of reference materials (n≈43), with variable matrix and composition, has been measured, and the results were presented at the Geoanalysis Conference (held at Macquarie University in July 2018). The Elementar analyser yields remarkably accurate and reproducible measurements for C, H, and S at low levels for relatively small samples (i.e. ≈20 mg). Refurbishment of a second Elemental analyser (Euro Vector) is underway. This instrument will be dedicated to the measurement of small samples (i.e. <20 mg).

2.2. 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. We are testing the performance of the Nu Attom for ultratrace element measurements. 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. Further solution work is caried out on the QQQ Agilent 8900 ICP-MS to assess the precise concentration of elements with reduced interferences from specific matrixes, especially in organic rich matrixes. Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Teledyne Cetac, we are now testing new auto/micro-samplers for the measurement of ultra-trace elements and challenging elements (e.g. halogens) in mono-grain aliquots.


3. Spectroscopy

3.1. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy: The spectroscopy infrastructure includes an FTIR microscope (ThermoFisher iN10 FTIR microscope; 2008) and a confocal laser Raman microscope (co-funded by the Macquarie University Strategic Infrastructure Scheme (MQSIS), 2014 and Future Fellowship funding to Professor 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. 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.

3.2. Raman Spectroscopy: The Raman spectrometer continues to serve the CCFS, the Department and the Faculty. In 2019 the system’s capabilities were extended with the loan of a liquid nitrogen cold stage from the Department of Physics. The instrument continued to grow its user base across the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Macquarie University with users from Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Environmental Sciences as well as users from the Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History and the Museum of Ancient Cultures.

2020-21 research and applications of Raman Spectrometry included:

  • Earth and Planetary Science, analysis of sulfate speciation in glasses (Dr Oliver Alard and Lauren Gorojovsky)
  • Earth and Planetary Science, amphibole characterisation and quantification of volatile content (Dr Oliver Alard and Ananuer Halimulati)
  • Earth and Planetary Science, characterisation of experimental petrology run products, which are now abundantly produced by Prof S. Foley’s laureate team
  • Forensics applications, namely ink characterisation on Egyptian papyrus (Prof Damian Gore and Assoc Prof Malcolm Choat)
  • Chemistry, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) of nano particle interactions in serum (Dr Alfonso Garcia-Bennett and Inga Kuschnerus)
  • Physics and Astronomy, Photoluminescence/ Raman characterisation of UV Laser irradiated diamond surfaces. (Mojtaba Moshkani)
  • Physics and Astronomy, localised dehydroxylation in Muscovite using single ultrafast (fs) laser pulse. (Saurabh Awasthi)
  • Physics and Astronomy, analysis of diamond seeded silicon surfaces and structural analysis of diamond thin films grown at low substrate temperature by microwave plasma chemical vapour deposition (MPCVD) (Fatima Zahra)
  • Archaeology, oxide and corrosion analysis of ancient lead scrolls (Prof Simon Clark and Carla Raymond)
  • Archaeology, identification of pigments used in Egyptian Mummy Carapace (Dr Karin Sowada and Dr Ronika Powers)
  • Archaeology, pigment analysis of Amarna Blue used in Egyptian pottery (Prof Martin Bommas, Dr Tim Murphy, and Penelope Edwell)


4. In situ Spectrometry and imaging

4.1. CCFS and AuScope have provided significant funding support and scientific expertise to purchase a Scanning X-ray spectrometer (M4 Tornado Bruecker) to enable fast scanning and mapping of thin sections and blocks, thus providing a wider and more complete spatial framework for in situ analysis. The acquisition and running of this instrument is a joint venture with Professor Damien Gore (Dept. Earth and Environmental Sciences). The versatility of this instrument has attracted significant interest from most faculties across Macquarie University, including Arts, and is heavily used by MRes and PhD students. Dr Timothy Murphy is leading a group developing new approaches with this instrument in geosciences and beyond.

4.2. Scanning Electron microscopy: The Zeiss EVO SEM, equipped with an EBSD detector, is still performing well and is used in a variety of studies extending beyond geology.

A Horiba H-CLUE CL monochromator was installed on the Zeiss EVO SEM in January 2016. The monochromator system provides spatially resolved quantitative cathodoluminescence spectra, which allow identification of emitters (e.g. REE in zircons), crystal lattice vacancies (e.g. in diamond) and crystallographic information on how specific elements are incorporated in the mineral crystal lattices (e.g. Mn in aragonite). The instrumentation is acquiring a growing group of users and is currently part of projects in biomineralisation (HDR student Laura Otter/Prof Dorrit Jacob), diamond growth (Professor Dorrit Jacob) and zircon characterisation (Honorary Associate Dr Christoph Lenz/Dr Elena Belousova).

The unique Nanomin FEI Field Emission scanning electron microscope is used to (i) identify micro- to nano-meter mineral species, (ii) to assess recovery and representativity (qualitatively and quantitatively) as well as (iii) characterise geochemistry. This approach will allow the production of a new map of occurrence, abundance and chemistry of indicator and critical minerals across the Australian continent, which in turn will be fed into the AGN database, providing the community with an innovative and powerful tool for mineral exploration.

4.3. Electron Microprobe: Dr Timothy Murphy oversees the 2 SX100 electron microprobes nicknamed “Norm” and “Taz”. These two instruments are equipped with 5 WDS spectrometers and a Bruker EDS spectrometer. One instrument is fitted with an anti-contamination stage and Cathodoluminescence Light pipe, while the other was updated with the “Probe” software (J. Donovan). Together these two instruments, despite their respective ages, provide a robust platform for quantitative in situ measurement and chemical mapping of minerals for high-spatial resolution and precise thermo-barometry as well as the chemical characterisation required for further in situ trace element analysis in our laser ablation ICPMS facilities.

4.4. Laser-ablation ICPMS microprobe (LAM): Dr Yi-Jen Lai manages the extensive LA-ICPMS and MC-ICPMS instrument park available at Macquarie. AuScope Research Associate Yoann Gréau provides invaluable technical help and expertise. In 2019 CCFS technical and research staff Romain Tilhac and Hadrien Henry provided generous assistance for users. This was continued by Yoann Gréau and Montgarri Castillo-Oliver in 2020.

The Photon Machines Excite/G2 laser system and Agilent 7700 ICPMS are used for in situ trace element analyses and U-Pb geochronology. An extremely mobile 213 nm Laser (LSX213, Teldyne) has been purchased to ensure service continuity. The facility is used by Macquarie PhD thesis projects, international visitors, Masters Research students and several in-house funded research projects and industry collaborations. Projects include the analysis of minerals from mantle-derived peridotites, pyroxenites and chromitites, meteorites, unusual types of ultra-reduced phases from volcanic sources and ultra-high pressure terranes, high-grade metamorphic rocks and biominerals.


Lauren Gorojovsky and Olivier Alard with Q3-ICPMS (Agilent 8900).



Yi-Jen Lai and collaborators have launched an initiative aiming to develop LA-ICP-MS trace-element imaging. These techniques were applied in biological samples (e.g. skin) and archaeological samples (e.g. cattle’s teeth). Thanks to an enhanced collaboration with Teledyne – PhotonMachine, an Aerosol Rapid Introduction System (ARIS) was recently installed on the Excite Excimer laser ablation system. As expected, the integration of the ARIS system has greatly reduced wash-out time and enhanced resolution which together have led to enhanced trace element mapping capabilities.

The recent developments of Laser-ablation ICPMS microprobe applications include a multi-proxy approach for U-Pb dating of U-containing minerals (zircon, apatite, rutile, etc) to capture a more complete geological history. A particular focus Is the apatite U-Pb dating and improving standardisation (calibration standard) procedure. The Integrated zircon/apatite dating approach aims to resolve the current problems by providing valuable geochronological data for low-temperature events (e.g. mid–low-T, metamorphic, hydrothermal events) and rock types (mafic, ultramafic, metasomatic) that lack zircons.

With the addition of trace gases such as N2 and H2 in the ablation gas, Olivier Alard and collaborators have obtained a significant increase in terms of sensitivity (counts per ppb multiplied by 2) and a noticeable decrease in detection limit. This breakthrough allows researchers to investigate: (i) olivine trace element abundances (i.e. higher sensitivity means complete REE patterns can now be obtained), (ii) ultratrace element concentrations and distributions between silicates, sulfides and oxides of rarely investigated elements such as metalloids from the d- and p-blocks elements (e.g. Sn, Sb, Cd, Mo, W…). This technique is now being applied by Marina Vetter (PhD), S. Foley and S. Demouchy (CNRS, Géoscience Montpellier) and has been published in Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, Demouchy and Alard, 2021 (CCFS publication #1567). This approach has also opened new avenues of research for notoriously difficult to analyse elements i.e. the Halogens (F, Cl, Br, I).

The new Q3-ICPMS (Agilent 8900) was installed in December 2017 and is co-located with the upgraded Nu-Plasma HR. The development of in situ Rb-Sr analysis is well underway. Preliminary results were presented by Lauren Gorojovsky and Olivier Alard (pictured p. 44) at the Goldschmidt conference in August 2019 (Barcelona, Spain) and are now published Gorojovsky and Alard, 2020, JAAS (#1522). In-house reference materials have been characterised to extend the range of material (matrix) analysed. Further applications of in situ Rb-Sr dating are being developed. Dr O. Alard, Dr Stefan Loehr, Mehrmoush Rafei (PhD) and collaborators from Adelaide University are assessing the geochronological potential of glauconite in sedimentary rocks. The team led by Olivier Alard is also working on other developments for the precise (interference-free) measurement of chalcophile and siderophile elements for precise S-Se and Te analyses by LA-ICPMS in submarine glasses. Lauren Gorojovsky developed this approach during her MRes with great success. She is now pursuing this research in her PhD.

MQGA performed extremely well in the international round-robin proficiency test for in situ trace element measurements (G-PROBE, top 10) and had remarkable results in term of accuracy and precision in geochronology (Top 5 in G-CHRON proficiency testing).


5. Mass Spectrometry - isotopes

The clean-room facility established in 2005 continued to be used primarily for isotope separations for analysis on the Triton TIMS and the Nu Plasma MC-ICPMS. Routine procedures continued for Rb-Sr, Nd-Sm, Lu-Hf and Pb isotopes, as well as U-series methods (U, Th and Ra). Isotope dilution routines are being implemented by Peter Weiland and will soon be available.

MC-ICPMS: A Nu Plasma II MC-ICPMS was installed in June 2015 and followed the decommissioning of the Nu Plasma 005 after 16 years of service. Although the Nu Plasma II represents a significant advance in its electronics and engineering, much of the fundamental design is adapted from the Nu Plasma I. This enabled a relatively seamless transition of existing methods developed over the past 15 years on the Nu Plasma I. The combination of the expanded collector array (16 Faraday cups and 5 ion counters) and enhanced sensitivity compared to the first-generation Nu Plasma instruments has enabled the refinement of several in situ techniques pioneered at GEMOC, Macquarie.

Montgarri Castillo-Oliver and Yoann Gréau have refined the measurement of in situ Sr isotopes in carbonate and clinopyroxene by LA-MC-ICPMS. New developments are underway for the in-situ measurement of Sr isotopes in phosphates for Earth sciences (apatite, E. Belousova) and for Archaeological Sciences (dentine and bone). The in situ measurement of U-Pb isotopes in zircon using a combination of the femtosecond laser system and the Nu Plasma II was a world first, with preliminary results first reported at the Goldschmidt Conference in Prague, August 2015 (N.J. Pearson et al.).

The LAM MC-ICPMS is the vehicle to deliver in situ high-precision ratio measurements including the analysis of Lu-Hf isotopes in zircon as a major part of TerraneChron® (see In 2015 a third Photon Machines excimer laser microprobe was installed and co-located with the Nu Plasma HR 034. The interface was upgraded, increasing sensitivity between 1.5 and 2 times, and this contributed to an overall improvement in signal stability, as well as precision of single measurements and long-term reproducibility. This setting significantly improved access and turn over for in situ Lu-Hf in zircon which is a key part of the TerraneChron® methodology. TerraneChron® applications continued and were up-scaled in 2020 with the involvement of Dr Montgarri Castillo-Oliver to meet the increasing demand for this powerful tool for understanding the evolution of Earth’s crust, for isotopic mapping and paleogeophysics, and geochemical remote sensing for the exploration industry.

An UPS and new Daly detectors were installed on the Nu Plasma II MC-ICPMS in early 2020. The larger dynamic range offer more flexibility and stability, especially for in situ techniques requiring simultaneous measurement of abundant and rare isotopes such as in situ Re-Os. CCFS/GEMOC remains one of the few facilities with the capability to perform in situ Re-Os dating of single grains of Fe-Ni sulfides and alloys in mantle-derived rocks. CCFS Research Associate Dr Yoann Gréau and Dr Olivier Alard, have recently made good progress in method development. A novel split-stream approach has been established, involving the simultaneous measurement of Re-Os isotopes on the Nu plasma II and siderophile and chalcophile trace elements on the Agilent 7700. Preliminary results for this world first were presented at the Goldschmidt 2019 conference in Barcelona. Future Fellow Olivier Alard is undertaking studies on worldwide mantle sulfides. The project integrates in situ Platinum Group Elements, Re-Os and S isotopes obtained using the newly established Laser splitting system (MU) and ion probe (CAMECA 1280, CMCA Perth) respectively, in collaboration with CCFS Research Associate Laure Martin (UWA). This project pushes the concept of analytical integration to a new level. Planned applications are (i) combined U-Pb and Lu-Hf characterisation of zircons and (ii) simultaneous measurements of Sr isotopes and trace elements in silicates and carbonates. New technique strategies involving splitting with the Q3-ICPMS are also being investigated.


6 Software and Database

6.1. GLITTER (GEMOC Laser ICPMS Total Trace Element Reduction) software is our online 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 online reduction of U-Pb data. Sales of GLITTER are handled by AccessMQ, and GEMOC provides customer service and technical backup. During 2020 a further 6 licences of GLITTER were sold, bringing the total number in use to more than 300 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 2019 on a consultancy basis, following his resignation and relocation to Rio Tinto (Melbourne) in early 2016. The current GLITTER release is version 4.4.5 and is available without charge to existing customers. GLITTER 5.0 is currently in development, undergoing beta testing by the GLITTER team, and is due for release in 2021. The update will include Ratio/Ratio plots, enhanced sample and standard search functions, segmented external calibration modelling and P/A factor dataset integration and plotting. (see

6.2. AGN database: CCFS is a part of a consortium of Earth Science facilities aiming to develop national geochemistry research infrastructure and increase end-user access to Australian laboratory facilities. Established in 2019, the AuScope Geochemistry Network (AGN, is implementing a national geoscience database, capturing legacy and real-time geochemical datasets aligned with FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) principles. This will enable the co-registration of multiple digital datasets (e.g., geophysical, geochemical, physical state and property, time) in multidimensional space for unprecedented imaging of Earth characteristics.

Guillaume Florin and Yoann Gréau have been developing data templates for data masks specific to in situ U-Pb and Lu-Hf in zircon analysed by LA-(MC)-ICP-MS. The masks will help collect all the necessary “Level 1” data and sample metadata to be uploaded on the AGN AusGeochem platform. They have been working in conjunction with an Expert Advisory Group comprising of representatives from the University of Tasmania, the University of Melbourne, the University of South Australia, GSWA and Macquarie University. The Expert Advisory Group have also been discussing the analytics and graphical outputs to be generated by the AusGeochem platform. Guillaume Florin is writing a Python code to bulk collate Hf data from the various mass-spectrometer into CSV files readily uploadable onto AusGeochem, streamlining the data input process.

The AGN has an ongoing webinar series, the 3rd webinar featuring Macquarie University. AGN webinars and conference presentations are available on the AGN YouTube channel


7. Computer cluster

Computational geodynamics has been supported throughout this project through a number of in-house machines (Enki and Toto), as well as a Macquarie partnership with NCI, that has enabled large project-based allocations on the national machines. The former resources have enabled the development and testing of in-house computational tools, including Aspect modules (led by Craig O’Neill and former postdoc Siqi Zhang) to model crustal production, impact melting and magmatic melt emplacement, and also Litmod in modelling crustal and lithospheric structure. Our access to the large-scale facilities has enabled production-level simulations and has supported > 5 PhD projects, postdocs and numerous Masters projects.


The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA) is a $50M 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 and NanoSIMS 50L)
  • Electron probe microanalysis (2x JEOL JXA 8530F)
  • Focused ion beam (FEI Helios)
  • 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 SIMS1280 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 IMS1280 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). UWA’s Ion Probe Facility can currently lay claim to being the best-equipped SIMS lab in the world, as no other facility has two NanoSIMS alongside an IMS1280.

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, CCFS 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 has continued to contribute to various projects in the context of CCFS. Both 1280 and nanoSIMS laboratories contributed to individual projects in Earth Sciences, originating from CCFS partners, other Australian research institutes and overseas.

CMCA was successful in winning an ARC LIEF grant for a new EPMA to support the characterisation of minerals and materials for researchers in Western Australia. The new instrument was installed in early 2019.

For further information on CMCA facilities please consult



The John de Laeter Centre (JdLC) is based at Curtin University and is the core research infrastructure centre for the Faculty of Science and Engineering. The centre houses advanced instrumentation for high-resolution imaging and analysis of natural and man-made materials. By the end of 2021, the JdLC will host $46M in research 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.


The JdLC will soon be home to new equipment vital for gaining a better understanding of the Earth and its place in the Universe after receiving $8.2 million in federal (AuScope) and state government (GSWA) funding. A new Large Geometry Ion Microprobe (LGIM) will be installed at the John de Laeter Research Centre at Curtin to replace a Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe (SHRIMP), which has been a JdLC flagship platform for 27 years. The new LGIM instrument will be a CAMECA 1300HR3 ion microprobe, which will operate with support from both GSWA and the AuScope Earth Composition and Evolution Program which includes Curtin University, The University of Melbourne and Macquarie University.

The JDLC website ( ) provides detailed information on the multiple facilities, instruments and research staff that make up the Centre.

For further information on JDLC facilities please consult




The Western Australia Paleomagnetic and Rock-magnetic Facility is a national research infrastructure supported by the Australian Research Council and collaborating institutions including Curtin University, the University of Western Australia (UWA), the Australian National University, Macquarie University and University of Queensland. The facility was established at UWA in 1990 by CCFS CI Z.X. Li, and has been progressively upgraded over the years. The facility is now completely housed in purpose-built laboratories on Curtin University’s Bentley campus.


Inside the Shielded Room.


A significant component of the facility is the magnetically shielded room (constructed in mid-2015 by Dr Gary Scott’s team) which provides a 20m2 laboratory space with ambient magnetic fields less than 0.5% of the local geomagnetic field. Within this shielded room are: a 2G 755 superconducting rock magnetometer with a vertical Model 855 automated sample handler (the RAPID system), an AGICO JR-6A spinner magnetometer, and ASC TD-48SC and MAGNETIC MEASUREMENTS thermal demagnetisers. An earlier model 2G 755 cryogenic magnetometer, which underwent repair and upgrade during 2017-18, was installed within the shielded room during the first half of 2019.

RAPID sample stage.


Other apparatus are housed in the renovated laboratory spaces surrounding the shielded room and include: a MAGNETIC MEASUREMENTS MMPM5 pulse magnetiser, an AGICO MFK-1FA Kappabridge, and the Petersen Instruments Variable Field Translation Balance (VFTB). In mid-2018 both the Kappabridge and VFTB were upgraded to bring them up to the current state-of-the-art. A temperature-susceptibility (K-T) module was added to the Kappabridge and a full electronics upgrade was performed on the VFTB system, improving the sensitivity and response time, as well as providing additional functionality (First Order Reversal Curve measurement). An additional module has also been recently installed on the RAPID system to enable acquisition, and subsequent measurement, of Isothermal Remanent Magnetisation (IRM).

The recent purchases, upgrades and co-location of all instruments represent a major enhancement to the productivity and capabilities of the facility. Apparatus in the facility include:

  • a 2G 755 superconducting rock magnetometer with a vertical Model 855 automated sample handler (the RAPID system) and other accessories (including; AF coils, susceptibility meter, ARM and IRM modules)
  • an earlier model 2G 755 cryogenic magnetometer upgraded to a 4K DC SQUID system (plus a recent upgrade carried out by 2G enterprises, including the repair of the lightning-damaged cold head)
  • an AGICO JR-6A spinner magnetometer
  • 1x MMTD80, 2x MMTD18 and a TD-48-SC thermal demagnetiser
  • a Petersen Instruments Variable Field Translation Balance (VFTB)
  • an AGICO MFK-1FA Kappabridge with K-T capacity
  • a MAGNETIC MEASUREMENTS MMPM5 pulse magnetiser


VFTB system.


The facility supports a wide range of research topics, including reconstruction of global paleogeography (the configuration and drifting history of continents) through Earth’s history, reconstructing the evolving geomagnetic field (e.g. paleointensity) through time, analyses of regional and local structures and tectonic histories, dating sedimentary rocks and thermal/chemical (e.g. mineralisation) events, studying past climate changes, and orienting rock cores from drill-holes.

A national workshop on paleomagnetism, rock magnetism and their applications to tectonics, paleoclimate research, and Earth resource exploration has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be reconvened once the pandemic is over, and will include a tour of the facilities along with training on the operation of all instruments for potential users of the laboratory.