Annual Report 2002 Research Support


Demand for Electronics support remained strong during the year. Maintenance activities accounted for 18.0% of human resources, administration and group support/ renovations planning 15.3%, with the remaining 66.7% devoted to development activity.

            Notable developments undertaken included:

· Design of 2 “Filament Degassers” to support the renovated 61 and NG61 Mass Spectrometers . (D Corrigan).

· Design and fabrication of 4 “Traverser Driver” units for stepper motor stage applications in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. (A. Welsh and J . Arnold).

· Fabrication of 4 “AntPAC 2002” instrument modules, incorporating a revised data storage computer and Iridium satellite modem support for Geodynamics and the University of Tasmania, for GPS data collection in Antarctica. (A Welsh, J Arnold, N Schram, A Forster).

· Refurbishment, safety interlocking and furnace control development for the “Rig 3” high pressure apparatus within the Petrophysics group. (A Forster ).

· Development and commissioning of LabVIEW data acquisition software for the “Rig 1” high pressure apparatus within the Petrophysics Group. (J. Lanc).

· Commencement of design of updated control electronics for early SHRIMP II instruments. (A Welsh).

· Completion of 3 ‘FC3’ Field Controller Units, for application to SHRIMP II, SHRIMP RG, and the NG61 Mass Spectrometer. Commissioning of the SHRIMP RG FC3. (N. Schram and J Lanc ).

· Detailed design and partial implementation of fibre-optically controlled High Voltage systems and test software for the renovated 61 and NG61 Mass Spectrometers (N Schram, J Arnold, A Latimore, A Forster).

· Design, manufacture and commissioning of automation-compatible HV Control, Magnet Pole-piece positioning and LN2 trap ‘auto-top-up’ for the VG5400 Mass Spectrometer used by the Noble Gas Group. (A Latimore).

· The wiring and commissioning of valve controllers and furnace for the Helium extraction line and Mass Spectrometer built by the Noble Gas group. (J Arnold) .

· The wiring of 4 furnaces and control systems for the Geology Department, (J Arnold) .


            The group comprises 7 permanent Technical Officers. D Corrigan specialises in Electro-mechanical design, working closely with both Engineering and Electronics staff. His primary focus remains ancilliary equipment for the NG61 Mass Spectrometer. J Lanc retired in December. The group initiated recruitment proceedings for 2 Trainee Technical Officers, for appointment early in 2003, as part of the school’s succession planning strategy.        


            2003 promises to be an interesting year, as we turn our attention to SHRIMP updates, and further development for the NG61 Mass Spectrometer project. The profound changes to costing and accounting introduced in 2002 are yet to affect our workflow, as many projects undertaken in 2002 were ‘brought forward’ to avoid higher recharges anticipated from 2003 onwards. We remain concerned that the recharge system may constrain development initiatives in the longer term. The Group’s accommodation will be extensively refurbished during the first half of 2003. Client service will continue through the renovation period, although some development activities are expected to experience delays. We look forward to occupying the renovated accommodation, which will enhance our efficiency and professionalism.

Mechanical Workshop

It was another busy year for the Mechanical Workshop with several major projects continuing from 2001.

External work took up more of our time than usual (21%). A significant part of this work was the quadrupole lens modifications to the SHRIMP RG at Stanford University. This job commenced in August and all workshop staff including David Hall, who was contracted for three months, have made excellent progress. The modifications will be completed in January 2003.  Administration, Training and general workshop maintenance required 19% of human resources, with the remaining 60% committed to jobs for RSES.

The SHRIMP multi-collector redesign was finished in June with all workshop staff making a significant contribution.

Early in the year David Thomson and Geoff Woodward worked on the filament degasser for Earth Environment.

Valther Baek-Hansen and David Thomson made steady progress on the NG61 Electrometers with Geoff Woodward and Andrew Wilson involved later in the year.

Andrew Wilson continued with the broadband lens for OSL (Optically Stimulated Luminescence). Iain McCulloch designed this system to significantly extend the capabilities of OSL dating. The lens system, completed in November will be tested soon. More work on this project is expected in 2003.

Roger Willison built a new vacuum chamber for Dr Dunlap’s Helium line. Roger carried out many repairs to coring equipment, built a new clay corer and a Lithium reactor all for Earth Environment.

Late in the year work commenced on degasser units for the NG61 mass spectrometer.

Other projects included

  • various refinements made to SHRIMP;

  • new solar panel frames for use in Antarctica;

  • two new valve assemblies designed by Derek Corrigan and built for the Finnigan Triton and Neptune mass spectrometers.

We carried out regular tasks such as

  • refurbishing pressure vessels;

  • general repairs to vacuum components;

  • grinding of synthetic samples;

  • grinding high-pressure ceramic and tungsten carbide pistons.


The group consists of 6 Technical Officers. Bob Waterford and Roger Willison (both of whom are due for retirement in April of 2003). Valther Baek-Hansen (part time 3 days per week), David Thomson, Geoff Woodward and Andrew Wilson.  We are very pleased to have Brendan Taylor who began his apprenticeship in November. It has been a privilege to have David Hall to help during high-workload periods. David was contracted for two separate periods of 3-months.


With the retirement of Bob Waterford and Roger Willison, 2003 will see significant changes to staffing in the workshop. The refurbishment of electronics and extension of the mezzanine floor will provide us with a ceiling over the entire workshop. As a result we anticipate much better lighting and improved temperature consistency year round. During construction the rear section of the workshop will be closed and therefore some machines will not be operational. We will attempt to maintain services but ask for users to be patient during periods of disruption.