The Australian Synchrotron’s increasing involvement with industry and individual businesses is a crucial part of our mission to catalyse scientific research and innovation for community benefit and to increase productivity in Australia and New Zealand. 

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When I take visitors on tours of the Australian Synchrotron, they’re often surprised at the impact our high-tech facility is already having on industry. The scientists who use our unique capabilities have so far conducted research experiments on behalf of around 200 companies ranging from multinationals to high-tech startups. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also make up a good number of this collective total. On behalf of companies in the mining, pharmaceutical, agricultural and plastics industries,  scientists have identified new product opportunities for further development, and successfully resolved production and quality issues in products and processes.

We have recently increased our capacity to help industry by appointing several dedicated industry liaison officers – the Beamline Industry Group or BIG team. Contact Dr David Cookson if you’d like to know more.

A great example of how to grow industry involvement in synchrotron research is the NSW Government’s industry access program, which aims to strengthen NSW research-industry partnerships and industry competitiveness. Under this program, a number of NSW businesses have moved from working with researchers who use the synchrotron to realising the benefits of being able to use the synchrotron themselves. It’s a model that could readily be adapted to deliver benefits in other regions too.

And speaking of the future, we’re actively engaged in talks with stakeholders, including the federal Department of Industry and the Victorian Government, about the next round of funding for operations and capital development. A key focus of the talks is to engage with stakeholders to discuss possible funding scenarios under a new funding cycle for the facility.

While scientific productivity continues to rise, thanks to the outstanding quality of synchrotron users and staff, we’re increasingly seeing reliability issues with originally installed equipment. To maintain the requisite levels of availability and productivity when the Synchrotron’s current ‘emergency’ funding support runs out in June 2016 will require greater provision for equipment maintenance as well as upgrades to deliver the same high level of service to our users.

The recent replacement of a key component of the linear accelerator is a telling example of the increasing need to replace or upgrade equipment that is beginning to show its age. The linear accelerator or linac is the first of the accelerating structures used at the synchrotron. It has two sections specially designed to accelerate electrons and deliver them into the booster ring.

In April 2013, the first of the linac sections became unstable but our talented and hardworking accelerator specialists managed to keep it going while waiting for a replacement section to become available. Staff, capably assisted by ANSTO root cause analysts, also put a major effort into diagnosing the cause of the problem: flaking from an internal coating. During our annual shutdown in January 2014, staff replaced the culprit and commissioned its replacement, a five-metre-long section of precision copper engineering. The speed and quality of the work is testament to the skills of our staff. The linac is now operating smoothly again to play its part in generating synchrotron light beams for the benefit of users.

Everyone agrees that the Australian Synchrotron is a magnificent facility with an impressive contingent of talented synchrotron users and staff. The next step is to ensure that Australia can continue to gain maximum benefit from its investment in this remarkable piece of essential 21st century scientific infrastructure.

Andrew Peele
Director, Australian Synchrotron