Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility  

ARCF: Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility

The first major facility being developed under the auspices of the National Resource Sciences Precinct (NRSP) was announced by the Australian Government, in August. A $12.4 million grant, as part of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), has been dedicated to the establishment of a new Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility (ARCF) in Perth. Building on existing infrastructure, the ARCF will draw together state-of-the-art equipment for geoscience and resource characterisation already available between the NRSP's foundation partners, CSIRO, Curtin University and UWA, and establish three new world-class instruments to provide a global hub for 'metre-to-atomic-scale' analyses of rock cores. The total project value (including the SIEF grant) invested by the partners is $37.8 million over five years.

The new equipment includes a Maia Mapper (for core-scale chemical mapping) at ARRC, a nanoSIMS (secondary ion mass spectrometer, for sub-micron elemental and isotopic mapping) at UWA and a geoscience atom probe (for sub-nanoscale characterisation) at Curtin University. Combined with the partners' existing equipment, and data management, processing and integration made possible by the Pawsey Centre supercomputer, the ARCF will provide a multiscale approach to the characterisation of geological materials unmatched anywhere in the world.

A flagship instrument of the ARCF 

The next generation Nanosims from Cameca, a flagship instrument of the Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility. Image Source: UWA.

The nanoSIMS and geoscience atom probe are existing (albeit very rare) commercial instruments, and should be delivered, installed and commissioned within three years. In contrast the Maia Mapper, an x-ray microprobe elemental imaging system developed by CSIRO and Brookhaven National Laboratory, currently exists as a prototype model. It uses the Australian synchrotron's x-ray fluorescence microprobe beamline to produce high definition, quantitative elemental images with microscopic detail in real time. CSIRO will be adapting the detector technology to a laboratory-scale x-ray source over the next three years, creating a routine-use instrument for high resolution x-ray microprobe imaging. Once operational, the laboratory-scale Maia Mapper will be able to create nanoscale elemental maps of a 2 × 1 cm rock sample in about six hours, providing enormous increases in sensitivity, detection limit and spatial resolution over conventional systems.

In bringing a unique and world-leading suite of characterisation facilities together, the ARCF will develop a collaborative and workflow approach to sample characterisation, allowing geoscientists to investigate drill core samples down to the atomic scale, without losing contextual information in the process. The facility will provide routine, multi-scale element mapping of large samples, through to atomic scale geochronology, integrated with compositional and textural information. Since complexity is inherent in drill core samples, with diverse structures and textures related to deposition and mineralogical variation at multiple scales, this ability will allow the true determination of the timing of fluid flow, fluid–rock interaction, metal deposition and reservoir diagenesis, within a complete geological context.

The richness of this information will further our understanding of the processes by which materials are transported and precipitated in geological systems, with fundamental implications for the mineral and petroleum exploration, mining and processing operations of the future.

Image of data
Image: A large sample area Maia trace element map of a carbonate vein from the Sunrise Dam Gold Deposit. Image shows Strontium in red, Iron in green and Zirconium in blue.  Image Source: CSIRO.

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For further information please contact:

Dr Robert Hough, robert.hough@csiro.au, (08) 6436 8763

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Prof Steven Reddy, s.reddy@curtin.edu.au, (08) 9266 4371

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Prof Matt Kilburn, matt.kilburn@uwa.edu.au, (08) 6488 8068

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