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Introducing the Deakin Advanced Characterisation Facility

The Deakin Advanced Characterisation Facility (Deakin ACF) is an open-access facility, located and administered within the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University. It provides a unified platform of advanced characterisation capabilities and expertise, which includes the Electron Microscopy (EM), X-ray and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facilities.

IFM was established to address some of the major challenges facing society through innovations in materials design and performance, leading to transformational benefits to society.

IFM can process, simulate and characterise materials across all scale lengths, from the atomic level through to entire structures. With two major research themes: re-designing materials for a circular economy; and imparting materials with extraordinary functionality; IFM’s research areas cover the spectrum of materials research – from fibres and textiles to advanced alloys, nanotechnology, infrastructure materials and electromaterials. IFM has about 150 academic staff, more than 150 PhD students and about 200 industry partners across 15 countries

The EM facility features a comprehensive collection of instruments covering scanning electron microscopy, focused ion beam microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, atom probe tomography, and associated specimen preparation facilities.


Case study: Creating stronger Aluminium

Due to their light weight and corrosion resistance, aluminium alloys are used in many industrial applications, including aerospace, marine, and automotive manufacturing. To strengthen them for manufacturing they are heated to high temperatures over an extended period of time in order to alter the atomic structure of the alloy making it less brittle. This method hasn’t changed for over a hundred years since it’s discovery and is energy and time intensive.

In a new breakthrough Dr Ross Marceau from IFM at Deakin University, along with collaborators at Monash University, have developed a novel method of strengthening the alloys at room temperature by cyclically stretching and compressing the alloy. This realigns the atomic structure of the material making it less brittle. The technique is faster, cheaper and gives equal or better strengths to heat-treatment.

The change in atomic structure that led to the strengthening of the alloy was observed using atom probe tomography conducted by Dr Marceau and Dr Adam Taylor at Deakin’s Advanced Characterisation Facility.

This new method provides a cheap and extremely quick alternative to traditional precipitate strengthening methods for aluminium alloys overturning a century-old technique.

Full details of the research are reported in Science.