21 October 2013
Australia Snaps Up Locally Made Nanotechnology Instrument
Crown Research Institute GNS Science has beat off competition from Europe and the United States to supply a nanotechnology fabrication machine to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in Sydney.
Known as an ion implanter, it is being shipped to Sydney this week in a container.
When installed at ANSTO’s facility at Lucas Heights on the outskirts of Sydney, it will be used to make advanced materials for use in hi-tech industries. ANSTO is the headquarters for Australia’s nuclear science expertise.
The instrument will implant charged atoms into the surface of materials by accelerating them at various energy levels. This gives the implanted material a range of desired properties such as super-hardness, ultra-smoothness, improved electrical conductivity, and greater corrosion resistance.
Potential applications for these ‘new’ materials include industries such as medicine, agriculture, manufacturing, energy production, and transport.
Leader of GNS Science’s Ion Beam Technology Group, Andreas Markwitz, said this was the largest single project his group had undertaken in its 15-year history.
The instrument, measuring 3m by 2m when assembled, was designed and built at GNS Science in Lower Hutt. The only outside component was a 2.4 tonne electro-magnet built by Buckley Systems Ltd in Auckland.
“There are probably fewer than 10 companies in the world that could build an ion implanter such as this from scratch,” Dr Markwitz said.
“This will open the door to other lucrative offshore work and we are already looking at the possibility of supplying a similar instrument to India.”
The ANSTO deal was particularly attractive because it allowed GNS Science to book time on the implanter in Sydney to further its research and development in nanotechnology.
“We already operate three in-house-built implanters in our Lower Hutt facility, and this new one offers a few extra capabilities. It’s the best implanter we have ever built.”
GNS Science had learnt a lot during the project which would help it to offer better science and consultancy services in nanotechnology in the future.
Dr Markwitz believed there were several reasons GNS Science won the contract ahead of US and European companies.
“We have developed a good relationship with ANSTO over many years and they are aware of our expertise in building and operating ion implanters.
“Our package was pretty competitive and it had everything ANSTO was looking for – high performance, low maintenance, reliability, ease of use, and a competitive price.”
The strength of the GNS Science brand in Australia had also helped, Dr Markwitz said.
“It’s a good feeling when Australia looks to us to provide part of its nuclear science infrastructure.”