Argon Facility in RSES

RSES has a long history, beginning in 1960, in the field of K-Argon and then 40Ar/39Ar Dating of which we are very proud. Professor Ian McDougall has been a key scientist that has laid the way for the development of this field of research and prepared the groundwork for the present facilities that we have today.

Professor McDougall has dedicated his life to this research and his scientific publications are witness of this life work. Professor McDougall's early works e.g. McDougall, 1961. Determination of the age of a basic igneous intrusion by the potassium-argon method, Nature, 190, 1184-1186, were of the highest scientific standard and this standard continues with his research today.

Professor Ian McDougall

He has a continuous stream of publications in top rating journals, his more recent papers being on the age of modern humans e.g. McDougall, Brown, Fleagle. 2005. Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia,Nature. For many of us, Ian’s contribution of what can be regarded as the bible for argon geochronology, McDougall & Harrison, 1999. Geochronology and Thermochronology by the40Ar/39Ar Method. 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 269pp, is one of his most appreciated contributions.

I would encourage you to read Ian’s brief history of the ANU laboratories, it not only sets out this history at ANU but also reflects the history of this field of research of which he had a key role.

VG1200 Laboratory

The laboratory was initiated by Professor J C Jaeger, head of the Department of Geophysics, Research School of Physical Sciences (RSPhysS), in 1960, the first K/Ar laboratory in Australia, with the Ar/Ar laboratory a later addition.

The science of argon thermochronology was started by Professor Ian McDougall who set the standards and methods for this field of science here at ANU. The old argon laboratory that was designed by Professor Ian McDougall has now been developed several times by our group with remote access, cold trap and new laser being some of the main updates.

After several developments, the laboratory was utilized to run 24 hours 7 days, there was a list of available facilities and equipments at the laboratory:

  • VG1200 Mass Spectrometer
  • Custom-built ultra-high vacuum extraction line
  • Custom-built double-vacuum resistance furnace for step-heating experiments
  • Diode optic fibre laser
  • Liquid Nitrogen trap
  • Fully automated system including remote access