Call for nominations

Continuing a tradition set up by the Australian Synchrotron Research Program (ASRP), ANSTO is seeking submissions for the ANSTO, Australian Synchrotron Thesis Medal, named in honour of Dr Stephen Wilkins.

This medal is awarded annually to the PhD student at an Australian or New Zealand University who is judged to have completed the most outstanding thesis of the past two years whose work was undertaken at and acknowledges the Australian Synchrotron, or the Australian National Beamline Facility (ANBF), or whose work acknowledges and was undertaken under the auspices of the International Synchrotron Access Program (ISAP) or the ASRP.

Nominations are invited for the 2017 ANSTO, Australian Synchrotron Stephen Wilkins Medal, which will be awarded to the candidate producing the most outstanding thesis and whose degree was awarded, but not necessarily conferred, in the period 1 July, 2015 – 30 June, 2017. The awardee will receive a monetary prize of $3,000 funded by a bequest from the Wilkins family and by ANSTO to support career development.

Conditions of the Award

·      Applicants are able to nominate themselves; however, a letter of support for their application is required from their PhD Supervisor(s).

·      To be eligible, applicants must have completed their PhD while enrolled at an Australian or New Zealand University and must have been awarded their PhD within 2 years prior to 30 June of the current year. Applicants may still apply if their PhD has been awarded but not conferred within this time period.

·      Nominations are assessed by a Medal Selection Committee appointed by the Director of the Australian Synchrotron, ANSTO.

·      The award is made to the PhD student at an Australian or New Zealand University who is judged to have completed the most outstanding thesis of the past two years whose work was undertaken at and acknowledges the Australian Synchrotron, or the ANBF, or whose work acknowledges and was undertaken under the auspices of the ISAP or the ASRP.

·      Synchrotron radiation techniques should have made a major contribution to the thesis.

·      If the Medal Selection Committee is unable to identify a thesis of sufficient quality amongst the applications submitted, an award will not be offered.

·      If the Medal Selection Committee identifies a number of high quality applications in addition to the Awardee, they may offer a “Highly Commended” certificate.

·      The Awardee must be available to attend the ANSTO User Meeting to receive their award and present their work in a plenary session.

·      ANSTO may publicise successful candidates.

Application Details

There is no application form.  Applications can be submitted by either printed or electronic versions, and must include the following:

·      Three copies of the thesis along with evidence of the thesis being passed.

·      A cover letter providing an overview of the research undertaken during the PhD candidature of the applicant, their academic achievements and future plans for their research career.

·      Letters of support from the candidate’s PhD supervisor and Head of Department or School describing the significance of the work and the contribution it has made to the relevant field.

·      Copies of the examiners’ reports.

·      A list of publications resulting from the thesis.

·      A copy of the applicant’s CV.

ANSTO will retain one copy of the successful thesis if submitted in hard copy.  All other copies will be returned to the applicants at the end of the selection process.

The Medal will be presented to the chosen candidate at the ANSTO User Meeting 22nd - 24th November 2017.  The winning candidate will be invited to attend the User meeting and present a talk on their research. 

Any queries should be emailed to

Applications should be forwarded to:

Professor Andrew Peele


Australian Synchrotron, ANSTO

800 Blackburn Road

Clayton, Victoria 3168

Application deadline – Close of Business Monday 16th October 2017 

A large collaboration led by researchers from the University of Wollongong has used the Australian Synchrotron to investigate a promising carbon coated cathode material for rechargeable sodium ion batteries that had a very long life.

The research demonstrated that  a new compound, an iron-based pyrophosphate-based sodium composite, could compete with other iron-based cathode materials for large scale applications, such as wind and solar storage, because  its charge retention capacity was close to 90 per cent after 1100 cycles at 5 C.


Low energy density, sluggish sodium kinetics and poor cycling stability have been the main barriers to the widespread use of sodium ion batteries as less costly alternative to lithium batteries.

The synchrotron was used to investigate the electrochemical mechanism at work in a new cathode material, Na3.32Fe 2.34 (P2O7) as reported in Advanced Materials.

The multiple anions of the new compounds give them high structural and thermal stability with only small volume changes in the unit cell.

Qinfen Gu, a senior scientist on the powder diffraction beamline, said it was possible to charge and discharge the battery in real time while sending X-rays through the nanoparticles, which revealed what was happening at a structural level in the cathode material during cycling.

The diffraction data indicated a single phase transition during charge and discharge, which helped explain its superior electrical performance.

A reversible electrochemical reaction, suggested by continuous lattice breathing, also took place in the material.

“The movement of the sodium ions can cause the cathode to expand or contract, which can degrade the material and interfere with the movement of electrons,” said Gu.

In this case the researchers noted that only a small change in lattice parameters and unit cell offered strong support for the stability of the structure during cycling.

The application of a carbon coating on the cathode material improved its thermal and structural stability, enhanced its electrical conductivity and contributed to a high rate capacity. 

The investigators also attributed superior electrochemical performance to a dramatic increase in the transfer rate of electrons across different layers of the material and an acceleration of the transfer of sodium ions by the uniform amorphous carbon layer.

Experiments confirmed that without the carbon coating, the material degrades very quickly and after 500 cycles, charge retention capacity drops.

“The electrolyte attacks the cathode material and the carbon coating slows this down,” explained Gu.

The material would be low cost because it is primarily composed of ample elements, sodium and iron, and offers improved safety.

 Other collaborating institutions included the University of South China, the University of Queensland and Sichuan University (China).

ANSTO has secured $80.2 million in new funding to expand the research capabilities of the Australian Synchrotron. 

The funding boost was made by the New Zealand Synchrotron Group Limited (representing funding from the New Zealand Government and 10 New Zealand universities and research institutions), the Defence Science and Technology Group and 19 universities and medical research institutes across Australia. 

The new funding will expand the number of beamlines at the Synchrotron from 10 to as many as 18, increasing research output at the facility and helping keep up with significant researcher demand for the state-of-the-art facility.

The first stage of the expansion will see the construction of the Micro-computed Tomography (MCT) beamline and the Medium Energy XAS (MEX) beamline: 

•        The MCT beamline will complement the Imaging and Medical Beamline (IMBL), by allowing 3D structures to be studied in close detail, which will enable advanced research in the fields of biological and health sciences.

•        The MEX beamline will enable mapping of lighter elements such as sulphur, phosphorous, chlorine, calcium and potassium, with applications across sectors including aiding in the development of cancer treatment.

These beamlines will be closely followed by a Small Angle X-ray Scattering (BioSAXS) beamline. Supported by the New Zealand Synchrotron Group’s significant $25 million investment, the beamline will allow for detailed protein studies focussed on improving drug design and validation processes. 

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos, welcomed the funding for the beamline expansion, which will be supported by the Australian Government’s significant operational investment made via the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).

The NISA provides $520 million in operational funding to the Australian Synchrotron, which includes operational funding for the new beamlines.

Minister Sinodinos said the scale of the contributions highlighted the extremely significant role the Synchrotron plays in Australia’s science and innovation ecosystem. 

“The Australian Synchrotron is one of our most important pieces of landmark research infrastructure, which on a daily basis delivers practical benefits across a variety of vital areas,” Minister Sinodinos said.

“This is applied science at its best, with applications for medical researchers, the environment and industry.

“The Australian Government welcomes this new investment to expand capacity at the Synchrotron, which will be supported by our significant operational investment made via the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).”

ANSTO CEO, Dr Adi Paterson, said this was the latest ANSTO collaboration that provides new opportunities for industry and researchers. 

“ANSTO has been working to secure more than $100 million in capital funding to ensure the facility remains world-class and continues to meet the needs of researchers and industry,” Dr Paterson said. 

“This is a great first step, and we look forward to continuing to work with industry and government to support the vitally important work of our scientists and researchers.” 

Australian Synchrotron Director, Professor Andrew Peele said the expansion will alleviate demand issues and enable new research opportunities. 

“This expansion will give Australian and New Zealand industry and our best and brightest scientific minds access to even more specialised tools and techniques needed for important research,” said Professor Peele.

“This will enable them to continue to compete on the world-stage and deliver real-life benefits to the community.” 

ANSTO will continue to work with universities and other stakeholders to secure the remainder of the required funding. 

Contributors to the project include:

Australian National University - Charles Sturt University - Curtin University – Deakin University - Macquarie University – Monash University - Queensland University of Technology - RMIT University - Swinburne University - University of Canberra - University of Melbourne - University of New South Wales - University of Queensland - University of the Sunshine Coast - University of Sydney - University of Tasmania - University of Western Australia - University of Wollongong – Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research – ANSTO - Defence Science and Technology Group - New Zealand Synchrotron Group (including contributions from the New Zealand government and 10 universities and research institutions) 

Media enquiries: 

Minister Sinodinos: Nat Openshaw 0409 049 128

ANSTO / Australian Synchrotron: Phil McCall 0438 619 987