Crime busting, art investigating, and racehorse diagnosing aren’t activities that immediately spring to mind when seeking a competitive advantage in fields such as manufacturing, medical research, agriculture, and mining.
But the world class technology at the Australian Synchrotron (AS) is capable both of solving perplexing mysteries, and offering Australians a significant competitive advantage across fields ranging from advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and food, to biotech and health, to energy, environment, resources, transport and defence.
Based in Clayton, the Synchrotron is a large machine (about the size of a football field) that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As the electrons are deflected through magnetic fields they create extremely bright light that is channelled down beamlines to workstations where it is used for research.
“The beams of light produce the best quality data as fast as possible,” says AS Industry Support and Outreach Scientist, David Cookson. “If you use a Synchrotron to conduct your research the results are cleaner and the data is faster.”
The Synchrotron offers a multitude of applications for researchers and businesses across Victoria, Australia, and across the world.
The Synchrotron has been used to minimise defects in soft drink packaging by helping manufacturers to understand injection molding at a molecular level. “Some product designs are dependent on the materials used, and understanding how a product is likely to fail is an area in which the Synchrotron can be of help,” says Cookson.
Australian company Memjet printers was able to address customer complaints and revise their design thanks to the Synchrotron, which identified tiny particles that were negatively impacting print quality. “The Synchrotron allows for positive identifications of things that are otherwise unidentifiable,” says Cookson. “You’re not going to win a Nobel Prize for that kind of research, but you are going to get less customer complaints.”
And, in the Agribusiness space, XFM beamlines enabled researchers to identify that the micronutrients in rice are concentrated in the outer coating and effectively polished off during the production of white rich. That discovery allowed producers to develop new varieties of rice that, when polished, retain their nutritional value that are now under trial in open field environments.
“We can’t help you unless your problem is represented by something you can carry through our front door,” says AS Group Leader Kerry Hayes. “We look at stuff. We facilitate research, others adopt and manufacture.”
The Synchrotron has also been used in a variety of investigations including crime solving, detecting a ‘painting within a painting’ by French Impressionist Edgar Degas, and identifying the higher-than-normal arsenic levels in Phar Lap’s bloodstream in the 30 hours prior to his death. However, the focus is firmly on industry and scientific applications.
“The Synchrotron can bring significant impact and value to solving industry problems,” says Cookson. This facility is a service to Australian science; not just academic science, but research and development. People fly from other counties that have Synchrotrons to use our Synchrotron because it offers something theirs can’t. That’s a nice feeling.”
Matthews Steer partnered NORTHLink in a tour of the AS at the start of May. World-class technology on Melbourne’s doorstep, the AS is available to Victorian businesses and manufacturers at a cost of $950 per hour, which includes the beamtime, and the use of a world-class scientist.
Whether you have a product or manufacturing flaw you are struggling to diagnose, you’ve designed something for small-scale manufacturer that you now need to scale up, or you’re looking to understand your existing manufacturing process better, the AS can assist with your investigations.
And, the AS offers access to the facility free of charge for all researchers who are publishing results in open literature, allocated through a peer-review application process.
“Our guiding principle when deciding whether to assist an investigation is ‘Why do we care’? We don’t do too many wild and wacky things. We’re using valuable beamtime so it has to be helping an industry, or of research value,” says Hayes.
For information on how you can tour, or access the facilities at the Australian Synchrotron please contact Kerry Hayes at email@example.com or call PH (03) 8540 4100.