AMMRF - News

Incredible Inner Space at RiAus 07/09 - 21/11 2012


13 September 2012
2012 Eureka Prize goes to Digitalcore
A research spin-off technology company enabled by microscopy has been awarded the Rio Tinto Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation. Digitalcore uses high-resolution 3-D scanning of oil-bearing rocks combined with supercomputing to improve the efficiency of the oil and gas industry.

Digitalcore was formed in 2009 to commercialise technology based on X-ray microtomography and data analysis of rocks. 3-D imaging of porous materials at a microscopic level is combined with software to perform the complex calculations required to interpret the images. This technology enables more effective extraction of hydrocarbons such as oil and natural gas. It is also valuable in understanding efficient sequestration of carbon dioxide. Analysis of reservoir and seal rocks enables assessment of the storage capacity and geological risks of injecting CO2.

Following the 2010 ENI Award for Frontier Technology in the Energy Industry, widely regarded as the 'Nobel Prize for Energy', the Eureka award is sure to contribute to continued success for Digitalcore. Microscopy in the AMMRF at the Australian National University (ANU) and at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) enabled the innovation recognised in these awards. Prizes, new patents and a new-generation X-ray microtomography scanner have set Digitalcore on a path of exponential growth as this Australian technology gains acceptance around the world.

The Award-Winning Digitalcore Team:

8 May 2012
Scanning Probe Microscopy module live on MyScope
MyScope continues to grow with the arrival of its new Scanning Probe Microscopy module. It provides an online training environment for users who wish to take advantage of this increasingly powerful technique. People from around the world are now recognising the value of MyScope training for advanced research. To explore this free resource go to

MoU with embl6 March 2012, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Co-operation between AMMRF and EMBL Australia formalised in MoU
A Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) was recently signed by Prof. Simon Ringer, AMMRF Executive Director and CEO and Prof. Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head of EMBL Australia. The AMMRF and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Australia are now formally co-operating to establish programs of research collaboration underpinned by the capabilities of the AMMRF. These programs will bring significant benefits to the communities served by both institutions.
Read more

1 Feb 2012, Heidelberg, Germany
European partnership signed
Image of signatories The AMMRF and EuroBioImaging ( signed a memorandum of understanding at a joint AMMRF–EuroBioImaging strategic planning workshop in Heidelberg today. The objective of the partnership is to mutually benefit the AMMRF and EuroBioImaging in the establishment of national research infrastructure that supports research in the areas of biological and medical sciences.

Speaking at the workshop, Prof. Simon Ringer, CEO and Executive Director of the AMMRF said "We are delighted to be entering into this partnership with EuroBioImaging and to be able to share our experiences of establishing and operating world-class research facilities. There are many opportunities for our organistions to work together and I look forward to the outcomes of our work to enhance bioimaging research capability in Australia and Europe."

21 November 2011
Science meets beauty in Inner Space
The Incredible Inner Space exhibition has opened at Questacon in Canberra. The images for this memorable exhibition have been brought together from all around the AMMRF and highlight how much microscopy matters in providing fundamental data to researchers and in communicating the wonders of science to a wide audience of Australians.

Surrounded by the assembled guests Patricia Kelly, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research spoke enthusiastically about the exhibition and the AMMRF, emphasising that the images are not only beautiful but the result of real scientific enquiry made possible by the strategic investment in national research infrastructure. Dr Paul Willis, Director of RiAus and former Catalyst presenter, then opened the exhibition with an insightful and entertaining talk about the nature of science and the role of the unseen in shaping our vision of the world.

Guests remarked on the beauty and variety of the images on display and were fascinated by the stories behind them. By all accounts, the exhibition is also being extremely well received by visitors to Questacon. This was experienced first-hand by your editor, as a member of the public said to her excitedly after viewing the images, “aren’t they just fabulous!”

Incredible Inner Space has also inspired the media, with excellent coverage received in Australia and internationally.

11 November 2011
Young tall poppy
Congratulations must go to Dr Peter Liddicoat, the AMMRF's atom probe scientist. He has been doubly recognised for his significant research achievements resulting from his atom probe analysis of super-strong, yet light, aluminum alloys. On November 3, at a ceremony at the Powerhouse Museum, Dr Liddicoat was presented with a 2011 NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Award by Prof. Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) from the University of Sydney.

In a separate ceremony on October 28, the University of Sydney recognised him as a finalist in the running for the Rita and John Cornforth Medal for excellence in his PhD. His postgraduate research to determine the nanostructural hierarchies that give the new aluminium alloys their extreme strength was published last year in Nature Communications. Peter already has eleven book and journal publications, two patent applications and 25 conference and seminar presentations to his name.

18 October 2011
AMMRF user captures the limelight
A/Prof. Min Chen, an AMMRF user from the University of Sydney, has been awarded the Science Minister's Prize for 2011 Life Scientist of the Year. Prof. Chen won the prize for her work on understanding the chlorophylls. She is a world expert on chlorophyll d, a light-capturing protein found in cyanobacteria living in low light conditions on the Great Barrier Reef. In her search for chlorophyll d in cyanobacteria from stromatolites in Shark Bay in Western Australia, she discovered a new chlorophyll, chlorophyll f. Her work on this newly discovered protein was published in Science last year and shows how it can capture the energy from particularly low energy, far-red light.

A/Prof. Chen uses the AMMRF in her research and in particular has used cryo transmission electron microscopy in the AMMRF at the University of Queensland to determine the detailed structure and arrangement of phycobiliprotein molecules in the photosynthetic membranes of cyanobacteria. Phycobiliprotein works in conjunction with chlorophyll d to capture additional wavelengths of light to optimise energy collected by these bacteria in difficult, low light conditions.

Chlorophylls, and their associated light-capturing proteins, particularly those that can capture low levels of light efficiently, are highly significant to technological developments, not only in agriculture but in biofuels and solar industries more widely.

16 September 2011
...and the Winners are...
The Inaugural Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers went to Prof. Jian-xin Zhao Dr Zhao is the Director of the Radiogenic Isotope Facility at the AMMRF, University of Queensland. He leads this world-class laboratory, which is highly recognised for its ability to very precisely determine the age and composition of rock samples using elemental concentration and isotopic ratio analysis. "Dr Zhao is hailed by students and younger colleagues for his outstanding science, his professional guidance and his leadership both in and out of the lab. He fosters integrity, trust and empowerment by avoiding hierarchy and actively encouraging students to engage in discussion and think with him."says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum.

The Eureka prize for Research by an Interdisciplinary Team went to Prof Mark Kendall and the Nanopatch team Prof. Kendall and his team are users of the AMMRF at the University of Queensland, using the facilities to help develop and optimise their revolutionary Nanopatch technology. The Nanopatch vaccination team includes engineers, mathematicians, materials scientists and immunologists. It also receives input from the laboratories of cervical cancer vaccine inventor Professor Ian Frazer, the Translational Research Institute at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital; Professor Michael Roberts, director of the Therapeutics Research Unit at Queensland University's School of Medicine; and the University of Melbourne's Professor Lorena Brown from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

"For immunisation experts, the Nanopatch is vaccine utopia," says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum. "It is cheap, painless, very effective, can save countless lives at very low risk, can be transported without refrigeration and can be given without the need for extensive training."

06 September 2011
Media frenzy as the AMMRF discover earliest life on earth
There has been significant media flurry as a result of research carried out by AMMRF researchers at the University of Western Australia, and collaborators from the University of Oxford, into the oldest known life on Earth. 3.4 billion year-old fossilised bacteria were discovered in rocks from the Pilbara region using microscopy and microanalysis carried out on several AMMRF instruments including two flagships. The ion probes at UWA and the focused ion beam instrument at University of Adelaide helped the team, led by Dr David Wacey, to thoroughly analyse the rocks.

3.4 billion years ago there was little or no oxygen present and these bacteria used sulphur as the basis for their metabolism, with the mineral pyrite as a food source. The presence of carbon and products of pyrite metabolism in the rocks adjacent to the fossils provide supporting evidence to the visual images of bacterial forms. There are still sulphur-based bacteria today living in hot springs and hydrothermal vents. These results were published in Nature Geosciences last week and push back the date of the earliest life found on Earth by 300 million years. The coverage of these results has extended around the world with reports in the BBC News, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Discovery News and The China Post, to name just a few.

Read the journal article

04 Febuary 2011
AMMRF on the International Stage
The AMMRF has been selected to participate in the European Union–Australia Bilateral Workshop on Research Infrastructure to be held on 4–5 April 2011 in Brussels. The purpose of the workshop is to promote cooperation between the EU and Australia in the area of research infrastructure. It will be an excellent opportunity for the AMMRF to establish new links and reinforce existing relationships with EU counterparts for the benefit of both research communities.

The AMMRF will convene one of three concurrent discussion sessions focusing on cooperation in the development, management and use of research infrastructure. Of particular interest will be discussions exploring best practice in the operation of world-class research infrastructure.

At the core of the AMMRF program will be sessions on health and life sciences; advanced materials and nanotechnology; the earth and emerging energy technologies. These themes will stimulate discussion on how microscopy and microanalysis is enabling this research in Australia and the EU, now and into the future. The planned objectives include analysis of operational aspects of multi-user facilities, creation of a roadmap for future microscopy and microanalysis needs in Australia and the EU, and new steps towards formal linkages of the AMMRF to one or more EU facilities.

The Australian Synchrotron and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) are also taking part in the workshop and the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) will contribute to discussions related to data management and handling across all three sessions.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for the AMMRF to showcase itself on the international stage and we are looking forward to some important outcomes," said Prof. Simon Ringer, Executive Director of the AMMRF.

20 April 2010
Ancient DNA from eggshells
There has been considerable excitement over work done in an international collaborative effort led by researchers at Murdoch University in Western Australia and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. DNA was extracted from fossilised avian eggshells, the oldest dated at 19,000 years. Ancient eggshell was not previously considered as a source of DNA but the researchers managed to extract the DNA from extinct moa and elephant bird eggs and from those of old Australian emus and owls.

Researchers at the AMMRF at the University of Western Australia used microscopy to reveal the presence and location of the DNA within the fossils. Consequently, by tailoring the DNA extraction technique to the specific characteristics of eggshell, the team was able to extract significantly larger amounts of the ancient DNA than can be extracted from other types of material. It appears that the particular structural features of eggshell are conducive to the preservation of DNA and to keeping bacterial contamination at bay.

This work will allow much more extensive characterisation of historic and fossil collections of eggs making it possible to link genetic information to changes in diets and the environmental conditions in which the birds lived. The technique could also be relevant to conservation and forensic applications.

09 April 2010
Microscopy essential to microelectronics breakthrough
Prof. Jin Zou from the AMMRF at the University of Queensland (UQ) along with collaborators at the University of California, Los Angeles and at the Intel Corporation, have created magnetic quantum dots made of germanium and manganese, a highly advanced semiconductor technology that could revolutionise the microelectronics industry.

The work was published recently in the journal Nature Materials. Confirming the structure of the dots and understanding how the components are distributed within them was dependant on the microscopy carried out at the AMMRF at UQ. Prof. Zou said "Developing quantum dots that are able to harness both charge and spin of electrons may help to significantly reduce the size of electrical devices and reduce power dissipation inherent in electrical systems, because the collective spins in spintronics devices are expected to consume less energy than current charge-based technology." The result that makes this work so important is that their dots function at temperatures much higher that had been thought possible, which along with their unique structure, allows the dots to interface effectively with current silicon-based technology.

05 March 2010
Learning from nature – water-repelling termite wings
A collaborative project between Dr Gregory Watson and Dr Jolanta Watson from James Cook University and Dr Bronwen Cribb from the AMMRF at the University of Queensland has discovered that termites' wings are ideally structured to repel water, providing high repulsion for minimal weight gain.

SEM of water-repelling structures on a termite wing
Scanning electron micrograph of the water-repelling structures on a termite wing.

Many species of termites tend to fly in the rain, probably to avoid predators and to be sure that there will be mud available for establishing a new nest when they arrive at their destination. By using a variety of microscopic techniques at the AMMRF, the team has found that these termite wings are covered with long, grooved hairs interspersed with small star-shaped domes that effectively repel different-sized water droplets, allowing water to roll easily off the wing.

The ability to produce efficient water-repelling surfaces is essential to many industrial applications from medical diagnostics to large-scale anti-fouling surfaces. Therefore, understanding how nature has created its own efficiencies will be extremely valuable to innovation in the design of new types of water-resistant surfaces. As in the pharmaceutical industry, biodiversity provides ready-made reservoirs of useful molecules and structures that, when understood and harnessed, can bring significant benefits to many aspects of our lives.

19 January 2010
AMMRF – supporting conferences in 2010
A number of upcoming conferences will be sponsored by the AMMRF in 2010 and numerous presentations will feature work carried out using AMMRF capability. The conferences will span a diversity of topics from nanotechnology at the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Sydney in February, to specialised plant structures at Plasmodesmata 2010. Latest advances in cell biology will also be supported at the 10th Hunter Cell Biology Meeting in March. A major sponsorship opportunity is the 21st Australian Conference on Microscopy and Microanalysis (ACMM-21) in Brisbane in July. This conference brings together all the leading lights in the field of microscopy and microanalysis in Australia. Around the same time are several synergistic specialist meetings that will also be supported by the AMMRF, including IFES 2010, the 52nd International Field Emission Symposium in Sydney and the Scanning Probe Microscopy Workshop in Adelaide.

As well as these Australian conferences, the directors of the two NSW nodes of the AMMRF, Prof. Simon Ringer and Prof. Paul Munroe, are leading the bidding to host the 18th International Microscopy Congress in Sydney in 2014. If successful, this will bring thousands of international experts in microscopy and microanalysis to Australia, providing the opportunity for important interactions with our international colleagues and the chance to raise our profile further within the international research community.

01 December 2009
Australian National Fabrication Facility at ANU – a new Linked Centre
The Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) node at the Australian National University (ANU) has become an AMMRF Linked Centre. The ANU node of ANFF has expertise and facilities in the area of photonic electronic materials growth, and the processing and fabrication of devices including micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS).

Linked Centre partnerships are formed with major research centres at institutions or publicly funded research organisations through the joint funding of a support engineer. The engineer plays a major, and pivotal, role in assisting that centre's researchers perform high-level microscopy and microanalysis at the local node as well as at other AMMRF nodes across the country.

A support engineer will be appointed early in 2010 to facilitate linkages between the characterisation and fabrication centres and will require a unique blend of skills in characterisation and fabrication with the experience to enable them to advise researchers from ANU on the most appropriate techniques and facilities to solve the users' research problems. The engineer will assist in the training of researchers from the node in fabrication processes, microscopy and microanalysis techniques, assist in the acquisition of data and give support in data analysis and interpretation.

20 October 2009
Fidel Castro, Jr. visits the AMMRF at the University of Sydney
Fidel Castro, Jr. visits the AMMRF at the University of Sydney Dr Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, Scientific Advisor of the State Council of Cuba, recently visited the Australian Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis (AKCMM) at the University of Sydney as part of a visit by a Cuban delegation, coordinated by the Commonwealth Government's Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Dr Castro is the eldest son of Fidel Castro, the former prime minister and later president of Cuba. He and the rest of the Cuban delegation were here to examine Australia's research in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology, looking for opportunities for collaboration and exchange of ideas. Dr Castro was particularly interested to learn about the innovative collaborative structure of the AMMRF and to see the facilities and the research done within one of its nodes. He was fascinated by the detailed tour of the some of the unit's major instruments and laboratories, led by the AMMRF CEO, Prof. Simon Ringer, and was keen to meet the students and staff doing the work. Dr Castro has an extensive scientific and research background with a masters degree in nuclear physics and a PhD in physical-mathematical sciences from Russian institutions during the 1970s, and did postdoctoral research in nuclear-power generation in Moscow. In later years, he also undertook a masters degree in strategic planning and higher management and he was awarded a doctor of sciences in 2000. Dr Castro has received several prizes and distinctions during his career and has more than 150 scientific publications and 10 books.

25 August 2009
AMMRF – its engagement with industry
Prof. Simon Ringer, Executive Director and CEO of the AMMRF, recently attended the annual conference of the Australasian Industrial Research Group held in Parliament House, Canberra, on 20 August 2009. He had been invited to address the conference on the industrial use of NCRIS-funded research infrastructure. In a very-well received presentation to key government officials and industry leaders, he spoke on the many ways that the AMMRF engages with industry to maximise innovation across the sector.
The AMMRF continues to work closely with industry, providing testing services, contract research services and long-term research collaborations that enable solutions to many industrial R&D questions. They also provide training and access to the facilities. There is increasing recognition that a great deal of quality research is done in industrial research programs and that the NCRIS-funded research infrastructure is in a prime position to support these endeavours.

27 July 2009
Microscopy crucial to new swine flu vaccine
Professor Anton Middleburg's team at the University of Queensland, who are making the first Australian swine flu vaccine, are using AMMRF microscopy facilities to visualise their vaccine particles. High-resolution images created on the University of Queensland flagship instrument are essential, allowing the team to monitor the structure and assembly of the particles. The team has used new, highly efficient and much faster technology to rapidly produce the vaccine using cultured microbial cells rather than the traditional method using eggs. They intend to work on improving the technology even further to ensure a rapid response to future influenza threats.

In-vitro assembly of virus-like particles visualised with cryo-electron microscopy

In-vitro assembly of virus-like particles visualised with cryo-electron microscopy. Image: Centre for Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Queensland and AMMRF.

01 July 2009
AMMRF Executive Director calls for infrastructure support

AMMRF Executive Director and CEO, Prof. Simon Ringer, is quoted in The Australian, Higher Education on 1 July, 2009, supporting the call to recognise the critical importance of 'super technicians' to support Australia's peak researchers. The federal government's commitment to spend $1.1 billion on upgrading the national research infrastructure is widely welcomed and Prof. Ringer says it is "very exciting, but Australia needs brains as well as new stainless steel". "There's a skills shortage of hundreds across the peak science infrastructure necessary for the infrastructure road map of the future."
"It may not sound like much, but it's a huge number of people given these are high-end specialists who will have a really important impact on Australia's global competitive position, to take us up the innovation rankings." Prof. Ringer is one of numerous voices emphasising that the provision of operating costs to support the impressive new hardware is just as crucial, if Australian research and innovation is to flourish in the 21st century.

18 June 2009
AMMRF joins the Sydney Forensic Medicine and Science Network
Microscopy and microanalysis are crucial to forensic science. The AMMRF is fostering links with researchers in this field and has become a corporate member of the newly established Sydney Forensic Medicine and Science Network. This broadly-based network provides a forum for highlighting a range of activities in forensic medicine and science, leading to the development of new interactions and initiatives. The AMMRF is in a prime position to add value to research programs in many areas of forensic science, and is already forging collaborative links with the New South Wales Police Forensic Services Group.


Vol. 19, Sept 2012 (PDF, 1.9 MB)

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Vol. 16, Dec 2011 (PDF, 1.5 MB)

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Vol. 14, June 2011 (PDF, 1.5 MB)

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Vol. 12, December 2010 (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Vol. 11, September 2010 (PDF, 1.5 MB)

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