Nigel Spooner

Professor Nigel Spooner


School of Physical Sciences

Faculty of Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Adjunct Professor Nigel Spooner was awarded a DPhil (Physics, Oxon) in 1993, following which he relocated to establish and head the “Luminescence Dating Laboratory” (LDL) at RSES, Australian National University, Australia. Research focussed on environmental dosimetry utilising luminescence induced in artificial and naturally-occurring environmental materials by ionising radiation from natural and man-made sources in the environment. Work included elucidation of the physics and phenomenology of thermoluminescence (TL) and optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) from these materials for dosimetry, the development of Luminescence Dating (TL & Optical Dating) protocols, and the invention of apparatus for environmental dosimetry research and application. Devices included the world’s first commercially-manufactured Optical Dating system, including luminescence readers, automated alpha particle and beta particle irradiators and specialised calibration facilities, in collaboration with Littlemore Scientific Engineering (Elsec), Oxfordshire, UK. Applications included the use of TL and Optical Dating for “retrospective dosimetry” (Dose Reconstruction) in the modern era. A key focus of the LDL was reaching into past times using radiometric dating: Optical Dating in particular had “broken through” to gain recognition as a major new chronological technique. This enabled the team to address major questions in geomorphology, soil science, palaeohydrology, archaeology and palaeontology, leading to numerous publications including cover articles in the journals Nature and Science.

Nigel transferred to DST Group in 2002, from where he initiated the joint DST Group-University of Adelaide Luminescence program from 2004. This was later incorporated as a founding element of the successful Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS), and was renamed the “The Prescott Environmental Luminescence Laboratory” (PELL). The PELL boasts a globally-unique suite of instruments for luminescence analysis, radiation exposure detection and radiometric dating. Activity areas include retrospective dosimetry, radiation detection technology development including a novel class of radiation-sensitive optical fibres and single-sand-grain Optical Dating apparatus, TL research, and environmental radioisotope and dose-rate measurement. The laboratory possesses world-leading technology, hosting the most sensitive TL spectrometer, and the world’s most sensitive radiogenic luminescence imaging technology for spatially-resolved OSL & TL imaging.

Research Activities

The focus of my research is measurement of radiation dose in natural and artificial materials within the environment. Fields of application include Retrospective Dosimetry (population dose reconstruction - measurement of the radiation dose accrued by people following a radiological event such as a nuclear accident), radionuclide concentration measurements, and environmental dosimetry using luminescence for geochronology - Thermoluminescence and Optical Dating. Key technological developments I have pioneered include the development of the world’s most sensitive radiogenic luminescence imaging technology, a novel class of radiation-sensitive optical fibres and single grain analysis technology.

The PELL is currently engaged in multiple collaborative and consultancy projects with Universities, private industry and Australian and international Government agencies. Research areas include retrospective dosimetry (Japan Atomic Energy Agency), mining and mineral processing research (SA EPA, BHPB, OZ Minerals), geochronology (palaeontology, archaeology and landscape evolution) and the creation of novel fluorescence analysis techniques.

Development and applications of Optical Dating: I have made significant and original contributions to fundamental research in radiogenic luminescence and the subsequent apparatus and protocol development that enabled its application to Geochronology. My work has provided physical underpinnings for both the Thermoluminescence (TL) Dating and Optical Dating techniques, the latter of which I was a pioneer both in development and in application. I was one of five physicists originally responsible for establishing Optical Dating as a viable technique. My research has applied optical dating to the fundamental questions of human arrival and colonisation of Australia, and to climate change and megafaunal extinction studies.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2009 Adjunct Professor, Luminescence University of Adelaide
    2002 Senior Research Scientist Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG)
    1993 - 2002 Head, Luminescence Laboratory Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), Australian National University (ANU)
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    English Can read, write, speak, understand spoken and peer review
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2009 University of Melbourne Australia Graduate Certificate in Scientific Leadership (1st class)
    1993 University of Oxford United Kingdom DPhil
    1987 University of Adelaide Australia MSc
    1980 University of Adelaide Australia BSc Hons
  Research Funding
Date Project/ No. Investigators Funding Body Amount
2016-2019 Upconversion Fluorescence for Real-time Mineral Identification N Spooner, D Ottaway Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) $1,300,000
2015-2020 ARC Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation D Losic, E Skafidas, M Majumder, C Fumeaux, N Choudhury, A Nirmalathas, M McLaughlin, J Ma, R Ghomashchi, YL Zhong, M Muzzin, G Anderson, I Neering, N Spooner, H Zhu, K Koziol, A Pollard, A Merkoçi, L Dai, J Liu, R Stewart, S Bohm Australian Research Council (ARC), Industrial Transformation Research Hubs,IH150100003 $2,611,346
2015-2017 A 140,000 year insight into the imprint of climate and humans on Australia J Tibby, P Moss, M Leng, J Shakun, N Spooner Australian Research Council (ARC), Discovery Project, DP150103875 $381,140
2015 Single-Grain Sorter and Loader NA Spooner, B Cazzolato, D Creighton, L Arnold, M Demuro, D Questiaux University of Adelaide, Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS), Pilot Project $16,000
2014 UV to mid-infrared fluorescence spectrometer for use in mineral analysis, radiation dosimetry, and laser materials characterisation DG Lancaster, H Ebendorff-Heidepriem, MJ Withford, SR Grano, NA Spooner Australian Research Council (ARC), Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LEIF), LE140100042 $360,000
2013-2018 The Australian Copper-Uranium Transformation Research Hub S Grano, D Ottaway, Y Ngothai, P Ashman, H Ebendorff-Heidepriem, A Hooker, J Brugger, S Wilson, A Pring, P Hayes, Y Peng, J Vaughan, E Jak, K Ehrig, N Spooner, S Simons Australian Research Council (ARC), Industrial Transformation Research Hub, IH130200033 $2,526,617
2012 Upgrade of “Risø” automated reader for single-grain optical dating & radiation dosimetry research N Spooner University of Adelaide, Research Equipment and Infrastructure Round $20,300
2012 Small optical and lab apparatus for single-grain optical dating and luminescence radiation dosimetry research N Spooner University of Adelaide, Research Equipment and Infrastructure Round $18,250
2012 Low-level K, U, Th and daughter radionuclide measurements for dose rate research N Spooner Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Award, No ALNGRA12125 $15,350
2011-2014 Transformational diagnostics TM Monro, A Cooper, LA Salamonsen, RJ Norman, NA Spooner Australian Research Council (ARC), Super Science Fellowships, FS110200009 $835,200
2009 Risø reader for luminescence imaging & dosimetry N Spooner University of Adelaide, Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS), Equipment Round $175,000
2008 Establishment of Institute of Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) Team led by TM Monro Higher Education Endowment Fund, Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, University of Adelaide, SA State Government and  DST Group $97M
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 Principal Supervisor Real-time Fluorine Mineral Detection using Novel Fluorescence Technology Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Lewis Da Silva Teixeira
    2019 Principal Supervisor Mineral Identification Using Upconversion Fluorescence Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Thomas Bede Payten
    2018 Co-Supervisor Radiation sensing fibres Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Jarrah Lionel Herbert Mik
    2018 Principal Supervisor Analysis of Up-Conversion Fluorescence from Explosives, Molecules and Precursors Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Thomas Jacob De Prinse
    2018 Co-Supervisor Surface and Sub-Surface LiDAR Mapping of Naracoorte Caves Fossil Region Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Craig Robert Williams
    2018 Principal Supervisor The characterization of NaCl as a possible candidate for reusable 3D OSL dosimetry Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Alexandra Chapsky
    2017 Principal Supervisor Zircon auto-regeneration luminescence (Zarl) dating using single-grain imaging Master of Philosophy Master Part Time Miss Kathryn Leah McDonnell
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2014 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Radiation Sensitive Optical Fibres for Radiation Detection and Dosimetry Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Carly Anne Whittaker
    2014 - 2019 Principal Supervisor A Systematic Study of Quartz Thermoluminescence for Forensic and Retrospective Dosimetry Master of Philosophy Master Part Time Mr Peter Geoffrey Hunter
    2011 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Testing the TT-OSL Single-Aliquot Protocol for Quartz Sediment Dating Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Jillian Elizabeth Moffatt
    2010 - 2015 Co-Supervisor Radiation Effects in Glasses for Intrinsic Optical Fibre Radiation Dosimetry Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Chris Kalnins
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2015 - 2018 Member SA Radiation Protection Committee SA Government Australia
    2015 - ongoing Chair Fourth Asia-Pacific Luminescence and ESR Dating Conference (APLED) Australia
    2011 - ongoing Chair Session Chair, 13th International Conference on Luminescence and Electron Spin Resonance Dating Poland
    2010 - ongoing Chair Session Chair, 16th International Conference on Solid State Dosimetry Australia
  • Position: Professor
  • Phone: 83134852
  • Email:
  • Fax: 8313 4380
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: The Braggs, floor 2
  • Room: 2 77
  • Org Unit: Physics

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