The School of Molecular and Life Sciences have established an enviable suite of facilities to conduct research and teaching, allowing staff and students to access world-class facilities for their work and study, including the Resources and Chemistry Precinct.

Resources and Chemistry Precinct


Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry

The following facilities are available:

  • Dionex ICS-90 Ion Chromatography System
  • Mitsubishi AOX – Dionex ICS 3000 Ion Chromatography System

The following facilities are available in our teaching laboratories:

  • Agilent 7890A GC-FID with a 7673 Autosampler
  • Agilent 1200 HPLC with a diode array detector
  • Multiple HP5890 GC-FID instruments

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

The following facilities are available:

  • Bruker Avance III 400 MHz spectrometer

    • a BBFO Plus multi–nuclei probe
    • low and high temperature capability
    • Currently available for routine analysis of 1H, 13C, 31P and 11B nuclei. Numerous nuclei capability including 19F and 15N.

Scanning Probe Microscopy

The Scanning Probe Microscopy Facility consists of instruments that provide very high resolution, three dimensional surface topography on an increasing variety of samples and are powerful tools for surface examination.

The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) uses the sense of touch and measures the topography by mechanically moving a sharp probe across the sample to “feel” the contours of the surface in a manner similar to a phonograph stylus tracing the grooves of a record. Moreover, it can operate under liquids, including the corrosive solutions frequently encountered in industry.

The instruments available are as follows:

Digital Instruments NanoScope IIIE

  • Contact mode operation in air
  • Atomic resolution
  • Flowing liquid cell, for non-corrosive fluids at room temperature
  • Simultaneous sample viewing with optical microscope

Digital Instruments Dimension 3000

  • Contact mode and “tapping mode” operation (for viewing soft samples and weakly adsorbed species)
  • In situ liquid cell under ambient conditions
  • Phase imaging, for the study of composite materials, magnetic alloys, etc.
  • Large sample imaging capability

Molecular Imaging PicoAFM – atomic force microscope

  • Sample imaging in controlled gaseous environment (for air sensitive samples, etc.)
  • In situ imaging of samples in corrosive fluids (high and low pH) and at high temperature (up to ca 100oC)
  • Operation in contact and intermittent contact modes

Molecular Imaging PicoSTM – scanning tunnelling microscope

  • Sample imaging in controlled gaseous environment (for air sensitive samples, etc.), with glove box for sample transfer
  • In situ imaging of samples in corrosive fluids

Nikon Optiphot2 optical microscope

  • Double beam interferometry with Mirau objectives
  • Polarising and tilting stages
  • In situ flowing liquid cells
  • High resolution digital camera and image processing

Thermal Characterisation

The thermal characterisation facilities, have provided a thermal analysis service to industry for well over two decades. The Laboratory possesses a range of thermal analysis equipment capable of analysing materials which range from cements to polymers and from minerals to phase change materials over temperatures ranging from -50 to 1500 °C.

Techniques Available

  • Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) measures mass change as a function of temperature.
  • Differential Thermal Analysis (DTA) measures thermal events occurring during a controlled heating program.
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) enables thermal events and heat capacity changes to be measured sensitively and quantitatively.
  • Simultaneous Thermal Analysis (STA) is a combination of TGA and either DTA or DSC.
  • Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) enables gases and vapours produced during thermal analysis to be analysed by infra-red analysis or mass spectrometry.

Materials Analysed

The range of materials which can be characterised by thermal analysis is large and continues to increase. Consequently we have provided a service to a number of significant Western Australian industries including producers of cement, alumina, pigments, ceramics, nickel, gold, pharmaceuticals, polymers and heat storage liquids as well as to consultant engineers and chemists.

Some Applications of Thermal Analysis

  • Activated Carbon used in the C.I.P. process of gold extraction becomes fouled and needs regenerating. TG analysis displays mass loss v temperature. The presence and amount of adsorbed foulants may be deduced and the optimum regeneration temperature determined
  • Calcium Sulphate Hydrates in cement may be estimated. Gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O) and CaSO4.½H2O decompose when heated to just over 100 °C. DSC analysis of this endothermic decomposition is used to estimate the proportions of the two hydrates.
  • Composition of Rubber may be determined using TGA. By controlling the atmosphere used during a TGA run the polymer, carbon black and filler composition can be quickly determined.
  • Quantitative Analysis of Minerals such as gibbsite, clays, carbonates, sulphide, etc. is possible by determining the mass loss over the mineral’s characteristic decomposition temperature range.
  • Gases Evolved during TG analysis may be analysed by infra-red or mass spectrometry (a technique known as TG-EGA). This can be used to help identify a material or the thermal stability of a compound.
  • The Cure of Thermosetting Resins may be investigated using DSC analysis. Use can be made of the exothermic curing reaction or the glass transition temperature to provide useful information.

These are merely a sample of thermal analysis applications developed. Any material which undergoes a change of mass, energy or appearance during a controlled thermal program can, theoretically, be analysed by thermal methods.

Vibrational and Electronic Spectroscopy

The following facilities are available in the area of vibrational and electronic spectroscopy:

  • Bruker IFS66 Fourier transform infrared spectrometer

    • Harrick diffuse reflectance
    • MTEC photoacoustic coupler
    • Specac 6-bounce ATR (Ge, ZnSe, Si crystals)
    • Harrick variable angle ATR (Seagull)
    • Polarized grazing angle reflectance
    • Dipper cell (ZnSe)
    • DiaCell diamond anvil
    • Bruker A390 microscope (transmission and reflectance modes)
  • Bruker RFS100 FT-Raman spectrometer (1064 nm excitation)
  • Dilor Labram 1B dispersive Raman spectrometer (514, 633 & 785 nm excitation).
  • Hitachi F-7000 fluorescence spectrophotometer
  • Hewlett Packard 8452A diode array UV/vis spectrophotometer
  • Cary Eclipse Luminescence Spectrophotometer

The following facilities are available in our teaching laboratories:

  • Perkin Elmer Spectrum 100 FT-IR with Zn/Se Single Bounce Universal ATR accessory
  • Perkin Elmer Lambda 35 UV/VIS Spectrometer
  • Jasco FP-6200 Spectrofluorometer (220 nm – 730 nm)

Other Thermal Analysis Sites

Additional Analytical Instrumentation

The following facilities are also available:

  • Perkin Elmer Series II 2400 CHN Analyser
  • Johnson Matthey Magnetic Susceptibility Balance – MARK I
  • Three Varian SpectAA 50 Atomic Absorption Spectrometers
  • Rudolph Research Analytical – Autopol 1 – Automatic Polarimeter
  • Malvern Instruments Zetasizer Nano-ZS
  • Bomb calorimeter

Resources and Chemistry Precinct

The Resources and Chemistry Precinct houses Curtin’s state-of-the-art chemistry laboratory facilities.

The precinct provides a world class environment in which a wide-ranging array of research activities ranging from fundamental ‘blue sky’ investigations to those directly related to the biotechnology, chemical, minerals, energy and resources sectors. Curtin supports chemistry research activities in the following areas:

  • Analytical Chemistry (including Forensic Chemistry, Organic Geochemistry and Water Chemistry)
  • Chemical Sensors
  • Chemical Synthesis
  • Chemistry Education
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Corrosion Science
  • Medicinal and Biological Chemistry
  • Minerals and Materials Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy and Laser Chemistry

Chemistry also hosts the:

  • Curtin Water Quality Research Centre
  • Curtin Institute of Functional Molecules and Interfaces (Formerly the Nanochemistry Research Institute)
  • WA Corrosion Research Group
  • WA Organic Isotope Geochemistry Centre


  • floor-to-ceiling glass internal walls and full-length, line-of-sight corridors to enhance visibility and promote interaction
  • ‘future proofing’ for potential Occupational Health and Safety revisions
  • expansive open-plan laboratories, with excellent visibility across laboratory space and adjacent office zones
  • uniform layout for exits, fire extinguishers, services, emergency showers and emergency stop buttons. Wash stations at each laboratory entrance to allow decontamination when moving between office and laboratory zones
  • ease of rearranging and optimising research groupings, equipment and facilities
  • provision for ‘working quantities’ only of chemicals, with dedicated areas for chemical storage. Teaching laboratories accommodate microscale chemical manipulation (to improve safety, and minimise chemical costs and waste disposal volumes)
  • Physical Containment Level 2 (PC2) requirements in all laboratories, air-handling capability, chemical storage areas, access patterns and management structures
  • acid-resistant modular bench tops, with mobile under-bench storage
  • power and data management, with blank access plates and wiring for future expansion
  • oil- and moisture-free compressed air, water aspirator grade vacuum, Milli-Q grade deionised water
  • steam (to one laboratory on each floor)
  • high-grade nitrogen and argon
  • fumehoods that contain a full set of laboratory services (and doubled for students)
  • specialised overhead directional fume extraction for weighing balances
  • large wash-up sink with fume extraction around the lip.

Waste Management and Disposal

  • chemical storage, including cabinets within dedicated dangerous goods stores. These can be grouped by hazardous goods category, with lockable cabinets assigned to individual research groups. Dedicated weighing facilities in each store allow usable quantities to be measured out, without moving bulk chemicals to the laboratories
  • Type-3 dangerous goods (flammable liquids) storage. These fire-rated facilities contain anti-static floors (a copper sheet and earthing unit beneath a wall-to-wall conducting epoxy coating) and are fully bunded. Decanting benches with scavenging ductwork minimise the risk of major spills, and avoid the need to shift large volumes in laboratories
  • dangerous-goods handling rooms, purpose-built for chemical manipulations with significant safety requirements, or the purification of large amounts of solvents. Each room has three booths with a grated floor to contain large spills, and is equipped with laboratory services, chilled water and steam. Each booth has an explosion-proof polycarbonate door, and a pressure-release hatch angled towards the ceiling
  • specially gas manifold cabinets contain manifolds for up to three pairs of cylinders, piped into localised laboratories. As one cylinder empties, the manifold automatically switches to the second, and alerts the BMS for replacement
  • large fridge/freezer rooms for storing heat-sensitive chemicals and samples. These rooms have moisture-proof power outlets, and so can be equipped with benches for cold experimentation. One floor has an oversized fridge/freezer room connected to back-up power for additional sample preservation.


  •  a ground-floor room is designed for segregation and storage of all classes of chemical waste
  • the various classes of waste are contracted out for professional disposal
  • gases extracted from acid-digestion fumehoods are scrubbed to remove acidic compounds, and released through stacks six metres above the roof’s apex – twice the legal height requirement. Modelling studies confirm that dispersion profiles are excellent under a range of weather conditions. Periodic air monitoring for a range of chemicals, including volatile organic gases, particulates and noise is in place in the immediate vicinity and across the University campus. Data is compared with baseline values to ensure environmental impact is minimised and within acceptable levels.

Environment and Agriculture

Research Laboratories

Environment & Agriculture has 10 research laboratories in Building 311 for molecular biology, plant growth, disease management and ecology, animal physiology and microbiology.

Four molecular biology laboratories are for communal use with laboratory space allocated twice yearly. Another two Molecular Biology laboratories are rated for quarantine containment level 1 (QC1) studies and have state of the art real time PCR machines and bench top DNA sequencing systems.

Equipment available include dissecting and stereo microscopes, biological and chemical safety hoods, seed germination cabinets, drying ovens, a furnace, -80°C freezers, respirometry and plethysmography systems, protein and DNA gel apparatus.

Plant growth facilities

Plant growth facilities are available for teaching and research available in both Building 311 and in the large Field Trial Area 126.

Building 311 has a rooftop glasshouse which is mainly used for teaching purposes. There is also research laboratory with plant growth light benches and two Conviron controlled environment plant growth systems.

The Field Trial Area 126 is at the south end of the Bentley campus and is used for Teaching and Research programs. It houses a six room glasshouse, four hoop houses, a poly house, a disease nursery, over 1000m2 of growing area with bird exclusion netting and a specialised Conviron facility with two Convirons and three plant growth rooms with light benches. This facility and two of the glasshouse bays are able to be certified for physical and quarantine containment levels PC2 and QC2.

Curtin Aquatic Research Laboratories (CARL)

Building 611 at Technology Park houses the Curtin Aquatic Research Laboratory and the Ecotoxicology Laboratory.

CARL has three 50 tonne recirculating aquaculture systems for seawater, freshwater and inland saline water and a 70-tonne mesocosm tank which can replicate most aquatic ecosystems through manipulation of temperature, lighting regimes and habitat structures for ecosystem and behavioural studies. The aquatic systems are controlled by a central computer system which monitors the conditions, feeding and other activities. Quarantine, live feed and algae culture rooms are available, as are numerous aquariums, tanks and equipment for housing any aquatic organism.

The Ecotoxicology Laboratory specialises in evaluation of the health status of aquatic organisms in contaminated environments. The facilities include multiple aquariums for toxicological testing, cryogenic storage, refrigerated high speed centrifuges, electrophoresis equipment, spectrofluorescence and spectrophotometry readers and scanners and microplate readers.

Horticulture Research Laboratory (HRL)

Building 611 at Technology Park also houses the HRL which investigates post-harvest treatments of fruit, vegetables and flowers to increase quality and storage life.

Facilities include three temperature controlled rooms, six temperature and humidity control cabinets, a Hunter Lab ColourFlex, UV/VIS Spectrophotometer, a Servomex Infra-Red CO2 and O2 Gas Analyser, two Agilent Gas Chromatography instruments -6890N, a Waters HPLC, a Lloyds texture analyser and a digital refractometer.