Materials and geosciences - The University of Sydney

Materials and geosciences

Supporting research in materials engineering, biomaterials and geological sciences.

We offer state-of-the-art stress/strain measurements, precision cutting and polishing, high-temperature thermal analysis and customised controlled environment options.

Australian Stress Engineering Facility

The Australian Stress Engineering Facility at Sydney Analytical provides a portfolio of industry-proven non-invasive and semi-invasive techniques for residual stress characterisation in full-size components. Residual stress data can be used for quality control or failure analysis and to inform decisions in mechanical design, materials selection, manufacturing and processing.

All of the instruments in the laboratory are portable and can be transported to worksites by prior arrangement with SA staff.

The X-raybot is a state-of-the-art residual stress diffractometer mounted on a 6-axis robot goniometer, allowing automated non-destructive measurement of surface residual stresses. This freedom of movement allows multi-point scanning of complete and complex objects, psi and omega analyses with multiple phi directions.

The X-raybot is fitted with a Mythen 1K detector and has Cr, Mn and Cu X-ray tubes to suit a range of metals and alloys.

The Centre-Hole Drilling (CHD) residual stress measurement technique is a semi-invasive mechanical strain relief (MSR) technique used for analysis of near-surface residual stresses in a wide range of metals and non-metals. As a shallow hole is incrementally drilled into the object, the changing surface strains (measured by strain gauges) are used to back-calculate the formerly existing residual stresses. The incremental technique gives the bi-axial stress distribution as a function of depth.

In addition to circular holes, the VEQTER drill can be used for slitting and slotting and in conjunction with the ultrasound stress analyser.

Ultrasound Stress Measurement (USM) is a non-destructive, sub-surface or through-thickness stress measurement technique applicable to a wide range of materials. The magnitude and direction of stresses present within a material alter the speed of sound waves through the solid, and thus the time-of-flight of ultrasound pulses (relative to a stress-free reference) can be used to calculate the residual stress.  The VEQTER Ultrasonic Stress Analyser is mounted on a motorised arm which allows automated stress mapping of objects. Measurement depths of up to 150 mm are possible.

The GOM ATOS-5 is a high-speed, high-precision 3D optical scanner that can be used for non-contact measurement and inspection of complex shapes and surfaces. Two measurement volumes are available, (170 mm)3 and (1000 mm)3, with measurement precisions down to 30 μm. The system is ideal for assessing machined, cast, forged or additively manufactured components. The powerful GOM Inspect Pro software can easily compare scans of fabricated parts with their original CAD models.

Raman spectroscopy can also be used for residual stress analysis. For more information on our Raman instrumentation, please visit our Vibrational Spectroscopy section.

The Stress Engineering Facility complements capabilities at major facilities run by ANSTO: the Kowari strain scanner at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering and the new Advanced Diffraction and Scattering beamlines at the Australian Synchrotron.

Cutting and Polishing Laboratory

The Cutting and Polishing (CaP) Laboratory at Sydney Analytical provides sample preparation services across a wide range of material types and analytical instrumentation, as well as access to a range of preparation equipment available to users. Our capabilities span from cutting and grinding to polishing of bulk samples, prepared mounts and sections, with the ability to adapt every step in the preparation process to individual needs and a focus on quality and quick turnaround times. The CaP Laboratory cuts rocks half as thick as human hair (30 microns), allowing examination under polarised light.

We provide thin-section preparation as a service, as well as variety of other preparations, such as polished mounts, epoxy impregnation and sample staining. We can prepare a range of materials from a variety of research fields, including geoscience, materials science and engineering, medicine, archaeology and cultural heritage.

The CaP laboratory houses a range of diamond wet saws for the cutting of samples. These include GEMASTA benchtop saws and a block/brick saw for larger samples, as well as a Stuers Accutom 50 precision saw. Samples can be cut as a service by staff or may be booked for use.

Our laboratory is equipped with a Tema ring mill for the pulverising of samples, with both tungsten carbide and steel bowls available. The mill can be used to grind a variety of samples and is recommended for crushing sample amounts in the range of 1g to 100g, depending on material type.  A final size of approximately 100 µm is typical, with the potential present to reach 75 µm.

For preparation of pure metals and alloys we recommend contacting the Materials specimen preparation lab at Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis.

In addition to our standard polishing down to the 1 μm suspension stage, we also provide submicron polishing ideal for electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). We achieve this using a colloidal silica suspension (0.09 μm) enabling a chemo-mechanical polish, in which process a thin reactive layer is formed on the surface of the sample and then removed through mechanical action. This provides a high quality finish for samples undergoing EBSD.

Thermal analysis of materials

Thermal analysis is an important class of analysis methods for materials research. Sydney Analytical operates two high-end instruments located in the Engineering precinct.

The Netzsch STA449 F3 Jupiter measures mass change and heat flow over a range of 25 – 1500°C. It can operate with a blend of up to three gases or under vacuum. The STA is coupled to a Bruker Invenio-X infrared spectrometer, allowing immediate and integrated analysis of evolved gases over the spectral range 8000 – 350 cm-1.

The Invenio-X is also available as a stand-alone IR spectrometer with a diamond attenuated total reflectance (ATR) accessory, allowing rapid, high-quality spectra of solids to be measured over the range 8000 - 350 cm-1.

The Netzsch Photo-DSC204 F1 Phoenix measures heat flow rate during heating and cooling over the range -180 – 600°C, and cryogen-free down to -85°C. Automatic sample changing and gas blending with up to three gases is supported.

Controlled sample environments

Sydney Analytical offers a wide range of control sample environments for in situ experiments, and our staff are always on the lookout for opportunities to develop our capability further. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Our variable temperature options span the range 12 K (-261°C) to 1000°C. X-ray diffraction (powder and single crystal) and Raman spectra are both able to be measured over a wide temperature range. More modest temperature control is available for some other techniques.

A wide-aperture diamond anvil cell allows single-crystal diffraction data to be collected at pressures up to 20 GPa.

Many measurements can be made under a range of gases at elevated or reduced pressure, controlled humidity, or under vacuum.

We have developed in-house equipment for measuring samples under specific light-irradiation and in-situ battery cells


Cutting and Polishing: Sample preparation services

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Sydney Analytical

  • Sydney Analytical maintains instruments in locations across the Camperdown / Darlington campus. Our principal locations are the Madsen Building (F09), Chemistry Building (F11), and Molecular Bioscience Building (G08), with satellite locations in the Sydney Nano Hub (A31) and the J03 Engineering Precinct Building. Our administration is in room 222, Madsen Building (F09), Camperdown Campus, University of Sydney.