Curtin University, July 1999
Department of Applied Physics
The present laboratory had its origins in the X-ray analysis facility established in 1967 by John de Laeter, the founding Head of Physics at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (renamed Curtin University of Technology in 1987). The facility was mainly used in the initial years to provide X-ray powder diffraction and fluorescence spectrometry support for mineral science, meteorite and cultural heritage projects. Geoff Kerrigan and Ian Bailey shared laboratory direction during this period.
Brian O’Connor was appointed to lead the laboratory in 1971 having gained a PhD in crystallography at the University of Western Australia (UWA) with the late Ted Maslen, and then having worked as a post-doctoral fellow with Terry Willis at Harwell and Dorothy Hodgkin at Oxford, and again with Ted Maslen on electron density studies. Brian had not even seen a powder diffractometer on arrival at Curtin.
Some 15 years ago, Brian and Mark Raven (then a student) committed to the development of Rietveld modelling for microstructural characterisation whereas the technique had been largely used up to that time as a crystal structure refinement tool. While atom position definition is now of interest to the Curtin team, their principal focus with Rietveld analysis continues to be the development of procedures for absolute phase abundance measurements, texture, strain, crystallite size, etc.
The laboratory is currently equipped with a Bragg-Brentano Siemens D500 diffractometer for pattern acquisition, and a multi-purpose D5000 instrument for pole-figure, residual stress and grazing incidence diffraction. Extensive use is also made of neutrons (MRPD and HRPD powder instruments at Lucas Heights, mainly for high temperature data acquisition), and synchrotron radiation (BIGDIFF at the Photon Factory, Tsukuba, Japan) to supplement laboratory-based X-ray diffraction measurements. The laboratory also has a Siemens X-ray fluorescence/emission (XRF) spectrometer which is invaluable for applying attenuation corrections to diffraction data according to Compton scatter intensities.
Crystallographic expertise is largely provided by Deyu Li, Arie van Riessen, Craig Buckley and Brian O’Connor. Li joined Brian at Curtin in 1987 from the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics where he had acquired the Rietveld disease after gaining a PhD under the distinguished Russian crystallographer Valentin Simonov.
The laboratory has produced various crystallographers-cum-materials scientists in recent years including Bruno Latella (now at ANSTO), Bee K Gan (UTS), John Carter (Australian Fused Materials), Husin Sitepu (NIST, USA) and Mark Raven (CSIRO). We were delighted when Bee and Bruno married during their time as PhD students. Recently the group has become a popular choice for Indonesian postgraduates, notably Pheman Suherman, Dwi Asmi, Suminar Pratapa, Athanasius Bayuseno and Simon Sembiring. The large Curtin Rietveld gang (approximately 15 at any one time) is fortunate to have Hugo Rietveld as a mentor through Hugo’s regular visits to Perth to see family.
The laboratory is now one of the principal facilities of the Curtin Materials Research Group which specialises in industry-directed research. The most substantial research achievements in recent years have involved (1) bauxite processing by the Bayer method, (2) processing of alumina-matrix advanced ceramics, and (3) metal corrosion. Craig Buckley's recent arrival has expanded the diffraction research armoury to include small-angle neutron scattering measurements and computational modelling of electron density distributions.
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