GREAT60 Amplifiers and Controllers
The two high field superconducting magnets in the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) lab at Victoria University serve as workhorses for Paul Callaghan’s world renowned Soft Matter and Porous Media Group. Although one of the magnets already had GREAT60’s, the purchase of a second set brings the whole lab up to a consistent world-class standard. “What all this means,” says Paul, “is that we don’t lack for anything that we really want to have and I think that puts pressure on everyone to deliver. We’re incredibly lucky.” The group wouldn’t have been able to acquire the equipment without MacDiarmid Institute funding.
About the Equipment:
“Basically the GREAT60 amp is a higher specification of what we already had so everything that we could do before we can do better!” says Mark Hunter from the NMR group. The GREAT60’s supply currents of up to 60Amps (50% more than the old amplifiers), which create very steep magnetic field gradients across the sample. This allows you to probe much smaller length scales, which means better displacement resolution for diffusion measurements and better spatial resolution for images. They are completely computer controlled, which makes them very reliable and they also have a blanking function to completely cut the current to the magnets – an important feature for spin relaxation measurements.
The NMR group are famous for their work with diffusion in soft materials and porous media. The GREAT60’s enhance their productivity and allow them to take this research deeper. “It’s very important,” says Mark Hunter “if you want to look at the structure of small things or if you want to see how very slow particles are moving – like in emulsions, if you have big droplet sizes they diffuse very slowly – you need strong current amplifiers to measure those very short distances.” Better quality data will mean better quality publications, which is important for maintaining the group’s international reputation. The GREAT60’s are also playing an important role in commercialisation. Magritek, the group’s spin-off company, are using them to test their new portable NMR machine for use in the oil industry – potentially a multi-million dollar earner. Paul emphasises the importance of having world class equipment for doing this: “It means that you can ensure that what you’re actually developing … has the best possible measurements backing it up,” he says. “We’ve got the best NMR facilities in the world for doing that so in my experience with our little company it’s a huge factor.”
The NMR lab enjoys a steady stream of visiting professors, post-doctoral fellows and research students from around the world, most recently from Slovenia, Israel, USA, UK, Portugal, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, France, Japan and Korea. In 2010 Gary Leal, the editor of ‘Physics and Fluids’ and one of the top chemical engineers in the world, came to visit. The group is highly respected among this worldwide network of collaborators and friends and the GREAT60’s will allow them to charge forward and contribute research of even higher quality and insight. The NMR lab is also a hub within the Institute. Since the purchase of the second set of GREAT60’s the group has been able to make 50% of one of the NMR machines available for other MacDiarmid Institute researchers. A trained technician is provided to help outside users and it’s a no obligations arrangement: “You don’t have to collaborate with us,” says Paul. “It’s your work, your data. You publish it. Don’t even thank us, just put it out there.” As there is limited time available, the no obligations offer is only open to MacDiarmid researchers but the group is happy to hear from outside research groups interested in collaborating.