Research - Macquarie University Planetary Research Centre

Research - Macquarie University Planetary Research Centre

Planetary science is by its nature a hybrid discipline. It encapsulates basic physics and astronomy, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, cosmochemistry, and remote sensing of planetary surfaces, including Earth. Additionally, engineering underpins many of the practical aspects of planetary science, from instrumentation, to communications, and space and robotic technologies.

Research Facilities and Infrastructure


High-performance computing

High-performance computing facilities are generally housed in the Faculty Co-Loc space within the larger Informatics server Centre of E6A. Facilities include the 128 core Enki machine (EPS), the similar-scale Toto machine (EPS, with recent RIBG funding for expansion), a Xeon-Phi processor machine (Menrva, EPS), as well as dedicated Astronomy, Engineering and Environmental Science clusters. Remote access is available on these machines subject to administrator approval. Larger scale simulations are possible through Macquarie’s partnership in Intersect, which possesses the 1600 core Orange cluster, and is also a partner in the National Computing Infrastructure’s 57,472 core Raijin cluster.


Organic Geochemistry Lab

The Macquarie University organic geochemistry lab is managed by Prof Simon George (EPS), and is housed in E7B 340. Facilities include a wet chemistry lab with four fume cupboards and all the normal ancillary equipment necessary for preparing samples, heating, cleaning and separation of oils and rocks extracts. Major instruments include an Accelerated Solvent Extractor (ASE300) for solvent extraction, two gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC-MS), and a liquid chromatography-MS system.


High-Pressure experimental Laboratory

The high pressure facilities (housed in the E5A and E5B High-Pressure experimental laboratories) consist of ambient temperature furnaces, two piston-cylinders, a 500 ton multianvil and a 1000 ton press with a walker modules, and a 500 tonne press with a cubic anvil (with a 5000 ton press being delivered), as well as a resistance-heated diamond anvil, plus ancillary equipment.


Geochemical Analysis Unit

The GAU at Macquarie has been systematically established over a number of years and is now managed within the CCFS/GEMOC Key Centre within EPS. Housed in E5B, it includes world-class instrumentation and associated ultra-clean laboratories for the sample preparation and analysis of planetary materials. The GAU is able to analyse a broad spectrum of elements on the periodic table, from major elements (XRF) through to trace elements (ICP-MS and XRF) in additional to high precision radiogenic isotopic measurements (MC-ICPMS and (N-)TIMS). Advanced capability in in-situ analysis through microbeam (electron, X-RAY) techniques are complemented by a range of laser ablation (LA) platforms, including one of a handful of femtosecond lasers for geological material analysis worldwide.


External Central Facilities – Australian Synchrotron

The Melbourne synchrotron has nine available beamlines, including the Image and medical beamline (IMBL, allowing Phase-contrast x-ray imaging, and 2/3D imaging at 10 μm voxels), x-ray fluorescent microscope (XFM), powder diffraction (PD) and x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). The XFM beamline offers a range of x-ray fluorescence techniques at micron and submicron length scales using the KB mirror microprobe and zone-plate nanoprobe respectively, assisted by the Australian developed Maia detector. Both IMBL and XFM have been used for detailed analysis of meteorite samples. The PD beamline provides a unique capability in Australia of high-resolution x-ray diffraction that can be undertaken in situ under a number of extreme environments. Lastly the XAS instrument currently houses Macquarie’s D-DIA press.


Bragg Institute (ANSTO)

Located in the South of Sydney, the Bragg Institute provides a suite of neutron scattering instruments that are acknowledge to be among the best in the world. Like the Australian Synchrotron, these are available to Macquarie researchers through merit based applications. Of the 10 neutron scatting instruments currently available, five are of relevance to the aims of the PRC; the strain-scanning instrument KOAWRI, the diffraction instruments WOMBAT, ECHIDNA and KOALA and the imaging instrument DINGO.

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