Curtin rises on new argon isotope unit

CURTIN University has opened the new Western Australian Argon Isotope Facility, and renamed its Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry as the John de Laeter Centre of Mass Spectrometry.

The opening and renaming took place officially on Tuesday.

The Mass Spectrometry Centre was established in 1999 with financial assistance from the State Government, and is a cooperative effort involving Curtin, UWA, the CSIRO and the Geological Survey of WA to promote and develop industry-focused R&D.

The centre was renamed in honour of Emeritus Professor John de Laeter’s contribution to the advancements of scientific research and education. Professor de Laeter, the first Western Australian to serve on the board of the CSIRO, joined Curtin in 1968 and played a significant role in the development of Technology Park in Bentley. He was chairman of the WA Technology Park board from 1988 to 1993 and was substantially involved in the establishment and continued development of the Scitech Discovery Centre in West Perth. His contributions to the WA astronomy community led to the eponymous naming of a planet – Minor Planet 3893 de Laeter.

The $1.8 million WA Argon Isotope Facility will provide universities, governments and industry with world-class mass spectrometry facilities to determine the age of rocks and natural resources.

It houses the CSIRO’s K-Ar dating laboratory, which is dedicated to providing data for Australia’s petroleum industry. Some of its work includes research into the application of radiogenic isotopes and geochemistry to sedimentary systems and low-grade metamorphic terrains.

The facility also includes an Ar-Ar laser-dating laboratory, which incorporates, among other equipment, an ultra-high vacuum extraction system and ultra-violet laser and an infra-red laser.

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