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Our facilities

The facilities associated with Physics and Astronomy are as follows:

Mass Spectrometry

The Mass Spectrometry Laboratory was established within the Discipline of Applied Physics in 1967.

SHRIMP II Mass Spectrometer (A)

The Sensitive High Resolution Ion Micro Probe mass spectrometer depicted in the photograph is one of only about 10 such instruments operating anywhere in the world. It is regarded, without peer, for accurately measuring the age of rocks. This is achieved by extracting small crystals called zircons from rocks, mounting them in a form suitable for insertion in SHRIMP, and analysing the the resulting uranium and lead isotopes to enable the age of the host rock to be measured.

SHRIMP is located in the School of Physical Sciences at Curtin University, but is operated by a consortium of geologists and physicists from the Curtin University, the Geological Survey of Western Australia and the University of Western Australia. In addition to its value in zircon geochronogy it is capable of many applications, including the analysis of meteoritic material to discover the nuclear processes which caused the synthesis of the chemical elements in stars.

SHRIMP II Mass Spectrometer (B)

The Discipline now has two SHRIMP (Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe) mass spectrometers. The new SHRIMP B is a state-of-the-art secondary ion mass spectrometer capable of rapid in situ isotope and chemical analysis of natural and synthetic materials. It is used predominantly as a means of dating mineral samples using radiogenic isotopes, but can be applied to stable isotope studies also. The new SHRIMP has more automated features than SHRIMP A, and is unrivaled in terms of mass resolution and sensitivity.

VG-354 Mass Spectrometer

This instrument is fully automated and is fitted with 9-ion collectors for high precision measurements and a Daly collector for high sensitivity. Clean air laboratories are available for contamination free preparation of ultra small samples.

Thermal Ionisation Mass Spectrometers (TIMS) produced ions by evaporating atoms of the sample from a hot rhenium or tantalum metal surface. The isotopes are separated by a magnetic field and measured as small electric currents.

Microgram to femtogram (thousand million millionth of a gram) size quantities of an element can be analysed. Both the isotopic composition and concentration can be measured with high accuracy. Most samples require chemical processing before they can be analysed.

More Information

For more information go to the Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry.

Advanced Ultra-Clean Environment Laboratory

The Advanced Ultra-Clean Environment Facility (AUCEF) has been designed to accommodate a new level of ultra-clean sample processing for mass spectrometry. The facility consists of ~400 m² class 1000 containment space which will house four class 10 ultra-clean laboratories, a class 10 reagent preparation laboratory and, a world first, -18°C class 10 cold clean laboratory. The extremely low ultimate particle counts are achieved with successive “spaces within spaces” and HEPA (99.999% high efficiency particle arresting) filtration at each stage.

Prototype Laboratory

The Curtin University research groups are well served by the Department of Applied Physics’ Prototype Laboratory. These facilities and services are now also available to parties outside the university.

Precision manufacture of original apparatus ranging from explosive proof ballmills for nanoparticle manufacture, high temperature geopolymer molds and molecular biology culture habitats have been designed and manufactured at this facility.

The only limits placed on the possible prototypes that can be created here is the imaginative limits of the design team, which comprises firstly the Client, then the Lab Manager (Prototype Laboratory), and any number of academic and technical staff available within the university.

Other services include electronic design and servicing facilities (testbench and onsite), surfacing and polishing of samples and workshop technology teaching to permit student use of equipment.

Electron Microscopy and X-ray Analysis

The EM Facility and X-ray Laboratories offer access to world-class skills and equipment in microstructural and nanostructural materials characterisation and evaluation, professional management of intellectual property, and strict maintenance of commercial confidentiality.

Online Booking System for EM and XRD Equipment

The online booking system is only for licensed users of the Curtin EM and XRD equipment. A password is necessary for access.

X-ray analysis

Capabilities include:

  • X-ray diffraction (XRD)
  • grazing incidence diffraction
  • Rietveld full pattern modelling with X-ray and neutron diffraction data enabling quantitative phase analysis, crystallite size, non-uniform strain and many more crystallographic features to be extracted.


Capabilities include:

  • scanning electron microscope (SEM) and field emission SEM (FESEM)
  • focussed ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIBSEM)
  • transmission electron microscope (TEM)
  • research-quality light microscopes
  • confocal microscopes, field emission TEM and environmental SEM are available through Curtin’s membership of the Nanoscale Characterisation Centre.