Grant Success 2010

The ACMM was pleased to receive two LIEF grants, worth over $1.9 million, during the recent announcements of the Australian Research Council grants for 2010. Academics and researchers in the centre were also chief investigators on two new Discovery Project grants and one Linkage Project grant, led by other departments or universities and worth nearly $1.4 million over their lifetimes.

The two LIEF grants will provide much needed instruments for the research community across Sydney. The first grant is for a 5-D correlative imaging platform that will allow researchers to combine the strengths of light and electron microscopy. The application was led by A/Prof. Filip Braet, bringing together a team across diverse disciplines from across the University of Sydney and UNSW. The platform includes a new-generation multiphoton instrument and best-practice equipment for taking samples from laser imaging direct to electron microscopy. The second grant is for a high-resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) that incorporates an advanced focused ion beam (FIB). The grant was led by Dr Julie Cairney and forged a multidisciplinary team across the University of Sydney, UNSW and the University of Wollongong. Once available, the instrument will provide new capabilities in nanoscale milling, fabrication, specimen-preparation, imaging and analysis, and help meet the massive demand across the Sydney basin for this versatile technique. Also as part of the grant, a new mid-range instrument at UNSW, which already has a high-end FIB-SEM capability, will soak up some of the user demand for more basic FIB milling.

In research grants, Dr Xiaozhou Liao of the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Prof. Simon Ringer will partner with Dr Zhiwei Shan of Hysitron Inc. in a collaborative Linkage Project. The project will be applying Hysitron's novel 'in-situ nanoindentation' system, in which an indenter deforms samples within a transmission electron microscope, to determine the nanoscale structure-property relationships of nanostructured alloys and metallic amorphous-crystalline composites. In one of the Discovery Projects, Dr Margaret Sunde and Dr Ann Kwan of the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences will team up with Dr Wenrong Yang to create functional nanostructured surfaces by using the naturally occurring surface-active protein, hydrophobin. Hydrophobin-coated surfaces are expected to find applications in biosensors, medical diagnostics and other medical devices. In a Discovery Project awarded to the University of Queensland, our own Dr Michael Moody will provide his expertise in atom probe tomography to a team of researchers, the rest of whom are from Queensland. Collectively, this interstate team will work towards a 'unified theory' of phase transformations in materials, drawing on the unique characterisation power of atom probe tomography, and seeking to improve the performance of metals and alloys for applications in automobiles and aircraft.

Grant Success 2009

The ACMM was delighted to receive four grants, three Discovery Project grants and one LIEF grant, worth more than $2.6 million, during the announcements of the Australian Research Council grants for 2009. Our researchers also were involved with successful grants led by other universities.

Professor Simon Ringer, in partnership with Professor Martin Green of the ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), will apply atom probe tomography to reveal the atomic-scale structures and structural evolution in solar cells. A key result from the work will be new design principles for better and more efficient photovoltaic devices.

Dr Rongkun Zheng, joined by Dr Wai Kong Yeoh on an Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship (APD), will use scanning transmission electron microscopy and atom probe tomography to reveal the mechanisms of superconductivity in magnesium diboride. This relatively simple compound is a cost effective superconductor that has good performance for a variety of potential applications in energy transfer and storage.

Dr Melanie Fillios received an APD apply microscopy and other scientific techniques to study changes in bone structure during weathering and fossilisation as part of developing a model for archaeological contexts in the Australian semi-arid zone. The work will help shed light on current issues like modern faunal extinctions and species biodiversity.

In a grant awarded to UNSW, Dr Pall Thordarson at UNSW will collaborate with our own A/Prof. Filip Braet to develop smart bio-mimetic self-assembled gels for localised drug delivery in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

The new LIEF grant is for "A Multi-Resolution X-ray Microtomography Facility (NanoCT & MicroCT) for Non-Destructive 3D Characterisation". The application was led by A/Prof. Allan Jones, bringing together a team across diverse disciplines, which included science, engineering, medicine, dentistry and archaeology, at the University of Sydney and at UNSW. Once available, the new instrumentation will dramatically increase the resolution available for researchers to do tomographic imaging across a plethora of different materials, from hard minerals to soft tissues.

The centre was also involved in several other successful LIEF applications, including facilities for microbial and cellular imaging and analysis at UTS, a system for doing metastable induced electron spectroscopy at Flinders University, and equipment for nanoscale fabrication and surface characterisation at UNSW.

Grant Success 2008

The Australian Research Council grant announcements for funding commencing in 2008 saw the centre receive two Discovery Project grants and one LIEF grant worth a total of nearly $1M over their lifetimes. Researchers in the ACMM also were associated with several successful grants led by researchers from other universities.

A/Prof. Zongwen Liu and Dr Maosong Mo (School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering) will work on a project to explore the nucleation and growth of metallic nanostructures at the atomic-scale by means of in-situ transmission electron microscopy.

Dr Lilian Soon and A/Prof. Filip Braet will collaborate with researchers from the University of Melbourne and from CSIRO to develop a new model of 3-D invasion of cells in high-density biological matrices, in which cellular migration involves formation of claw structures.

In a grant awarded to the University of Wollongong, Senior Lecturer Dr Julie Cairney will work with researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Electromaterials Science to develop and optimise the performance of microscale and nanoscale actuators made from electroactive materials.

The LIEF grant awarded to the ACMM is for a field-emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM). Led by Dr Julie Cairney, the successful application included a multidisciplinary team of investigators from Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; AMME; Anatomy and Histology; Archaeology; Biological Sciences; Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Chemistry; Civil Engineering; ACMM; MMB; Pharmacy; and Physics, as well as from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at UNSW. The new instrument will be a boon to users who want to study physical and/or biological systems on nanometre length scales, offering the latest techniques for SEM imaging and for elemental and structural analysis by electron spectroscopy and diffraction.

The centre was also involved in several other successful LIEF applications, including an in-situ TEM nanoindenter system, new vibrational spectroscopy facilities in the School of Chemistry, a light-microscopy imaging facility for the life sciences at UNSW, and a high-field magnet for materials processing and characterisation at the University of Wollongong.

Grant Success 2007

Staff at the ACMM were awarded five grants, valued at a total of $3.2M, when the Australian Research Council announced its new grants to begin in 2007.

  • Dr Julie Cairney received a Discovery Project on New Approaches to Understanding Grain Boundary Chemistry.
  • A/Prof. Zongwen Liu secured a QEII Fellowship for Development of Carbon Nanotube Nanothermometers and their Application for Temperature Measurement in the Catalytic Layers of Fuel Cells.
  • Prof. Simon Ringer and Dr Julie Cairney will work with a team from BlueScope Steel in a Linkage Project on the Optimisation of Nanostructure in New Microalloyed Strip Cast Steels for Control of Properties.
  • Dr Rongkun Zheng obtained an Australian Research Fellowship to pursue the Microscopic Origin of Ferromagnetism of Diluted Magnetic Semiconductors.
  • A/Prof. Filip Braet led a team to receive a LIEF grant for a High-Resolution Transmission Electron Tomographic Facility for Nanoanalytical Characterisation in the Life and Material Sciences.

Other recent grant successes in the ACMM have included new collaborative projects established under the CSIRO Flagships Collaboration Fund for Atom Probe Tomography of Titanium for Cold Spray Processing and Heat Treatment of High-Pressure Die Castings. Researchers in the centre also continue to acquire funding contributions towards small projects as part of their involvement in the ARC Network for Fluorescence Applications in Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

TEM migrographs

TEM micrographs showing a nanothermometer with a marker (a) and the subsequent temperature retrieving by reheating the nanotube in TEM (b-d). Scale bar = 100 nm.