Nigel Spooner

Professor Nigel Spooner

Professor (Physics)

School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

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


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.

 

From 2015 I have attracted more than $32M in research funding. This included roles as two Chief Investigator on 2 x ARC Research Training Centres, 1x ARC Research Hub, 2 x Cooperative Research Centre and 1 x CRC-P projects and $5M from Defence programs. I have successfully secured research facility funding and fostered collaboration with various industries, including mining and mineral processing, Defence and National Security (CBRN), and health and medical, resulting in successful research programs leading to publications, HDR student graduations and commercialisation endeavours. I am the University of Adelaide lead for the new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre “RadInnovate” (IC230100036), a 5-year Centre partnering ANU & UniSA and commencing in 2024; my role is Pillar Lead for “Radiation Innovation”, one of three Pillars in this ITTC, and Principal/Co-Supervisor of 6-8 ITTC RadInnovate HDR students.

My innovation and research leadership focused on the following three key areas: “Novel Fluorescence (NF)”, Radiation S&T and Luminescence Dosimetry & Geochronology:

Novel Fluorescence: I am the pioneer to use new photonics technology for material detection, identification and quantification using “Upconversion fluorescence” (UF). The Prescott Environmental Luminescence Laboratory” (PELL) has integrated multiple synchronised UV to MIR-tuneable OPO laser excitation systems, with cryogenic-to-elevated temperature sample stages and UV to MWIR detection, now enabling both UF and “conventional” single-photon fluorescence to be analysed in little-studied regimes of wavelength and temperature. Since 2015 this has grown to be the world’s leading facility for these novel approach to fluorescence materials sensing.

Radiation S&T: PELL houses world-leading luminescence detection apparatus for kinetics analysis, TL spectral analysis and Photon-counting Imaging, and developmental technologies in novel radiation sensitive optical fibres for alpha and beta particle detection, drone-borne radiation field intensity sensors, and extensive capability for naturally-source radiopharmaceutical radioisotope extraction, from natural sources such as radioactive mine waste. Spinning-off from the PELL’s leading regional capability, in 2019 I created the industry-focussed Centre for Radiation Research, Education and Innovation (CRREI) as a radiation-focussed centre also delivering radiation education courses targeting a critical skills gap. CRREI is now expanding into radiation biology for health, Defence and Space purposes. 

Luminescence Dosimetry & Geochronology: The PELL’s unique research suite includes the world-leading “3D-TL” Spectrometer and Photon Counting Imaging System (PCIS), along with nine Risoe OSL/TL readers, state of the art beta counters, twelve alpha spectrometers, seven HPGe gamma ray spectrometers, alpha particle detection technology and calibrated alpha, beta and photon irradiation facilities. These support an extensive Single-grain Optical Dating program applied to both academic collaboration and fee-for service SG-OSL dating.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2019 - ongoing Founder, Deputy Director ARC Training Centre for Radiation and Innovation (CRREI)
    2018 - ongoing Professor, Physics University of Adelaide
    2009 - 2018 Adjunct Professor, Luminescence University of Adelaide
    2002 - 2018 Senior Research Scientist Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG)
    1993 - 2002 Head, Luminescence Laboratory Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), Australian National University (ANU)
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2023 Award Secretary's Award for Long Service Australian Public Service Australia -
    2007 Award First DSTG-University Joint Professorship The University of Adelaide Australia -
  • 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
2024-2029 ARC Training Centre for Radiation Innovation M Dasgupta, E Bezak, G Lane, N Spooner, ...I Williams ARC ITTC $4,990,000
2024 Rapid development of new medical treatment compounds from radioactive mine waste D Questiaux, M Thewlis, N Spooner, T Payten, J Builth-William, H Wescombe-Down Australia's Economic Accelerator Seed Grants $196,248
2023-2025 Hand-Portable Real-Time Non-Contact Fluorescence-based Asbestos Sensor N Spooner, M Lumasag, C Singla, E Schartner Business Research and Innovation Initiative – Regulatory Technology Round $969,690
2022-2025 Development of the GenX Betavoltaic Battery Pilot Manufacturing Process N Spooner, C Kalnins, A Chapsky DIIS - CRC-P $949,492
2022-2022

Hand-Portable In-situ Real-Time Non-Contact Asbestos Sensor

N Spooner, M Lumasag, R Loughan, M Vestel, S Gromitsaris  Business Research and Innovation Initiative – Regulatory Technology Round $87,983
2021-2022 Novel fluorescence sensing of materials for Moon to Mars in-situ resource utilisation N Spooner, A Birbeck Moon to Mars: Demonstrator Feasibility Grants $248,404
2021-2021 Natural values assessment and conservation monitoring of Naracoorte Caves E Reed, L Arnold, N Spooner, J Conran, E Fagan-Jeffries Australian Heritage Grants $199,869
2021 Fluorescence for real-time field identification of minerals MinEX CRC Project MinEX CRC Project $95,000
2020-2025 Aboriginal rock art and cultural heritage management in Cape York Peninsula L Wallis, H Burke, N Spooner, N Cole ARC Linkage Project $48,000
2020-2026 ARC Training Centre for Integrated Operations for Complex Resources P Dowd, ..N Spooner ARC ITTC $5,625,664
2020 Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy Facility S Trevor, ...N Spooner, D Abbott ARC LIEF $235,960
2019 Real-time fluorine mineral identification using novel fluorescence technology L Moore, N Spooner, D Ottaway, G Tsiminis, J Moffatt CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction $631,138
2018-2023 Naracoorte Caves: a critical window on faunal extinctions and past climates L Arnold, R Hill, E Reed, A Cooper, J Austin, J Tibby ARC Linkage Project $669,000
2017-2018 A regional optical dating facility for South Australia L Arnold, N Spooner, G Prideaux, R Hill, A Collins ARC LIEF $410,000
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
    2024 Co-Supervisor CSI Superbugs: Unveiling unique fingerprints of antibiotic-resistant microbes through light Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Harriet Jane Cooling
    2023 Principal Supervisor Exploring laser-induced fluorescence of water and aqueous minerals for space applications Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Joshua Grant Rusby
    2023 Principal Supervisor Plastic scintillator design and optimisation for UAV borne gamma radiation surveys Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Aithan Roufos
    2023 Principal Supervisor Quantification of radionuclide geo-sequestration in minerals surrounding nuclear waste storage facilities Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Jason Alexander Charlwood
    2022 Principal Supervisor Material Detection Using Novel Luminescence Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Thomas Michael Slattery
    2022 Co-Supervisor Development and characterisation of novel Ytterbium and Samarium rare-earth doped silica fibre optic dosimeters for high dose rate brachytherapy Master of Philosophy Master Part Time Mr Joshua Raphael Southwell
    2021 Principal Supervisor Drone borne Gamma radiation detection for stand-off high resolution surveying of radionuclide concentrations Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Timothy Doughney
    2021 Co-Supervisor Development and Analysis of Gold Sensing Protein Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Akhil Kumar
    2020 Principal Supervisor Zircon Auto-Regeneration Luminescence (ZARL) dating using single grain imaging. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate 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
    2019 - 2022 Principal Supervisor Real-time Fluorine Mineral Detection using Novel Fluorescence Technology Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Lewis Da Silva Teixeira
    2019 - 2022 Principal Supervisor New Fluorescence Sensors for Critical Materials Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Thomas Bede Payten
    2018 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Advanced Radiation Sensing Techniques Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mr Jarrah Lionel Herbert Mik
    2018 - 2020 Principal Supervisor The Characterisation of NaCl Crystal for a Reusable Radiation Dosimeter Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Alexandra Chapsky
    2018 - 2024 Principal Supervisor A Dual Tuneable-Laser Excitation System for the Discovery of Naturally Occurring Fluorescence Signals Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Thomas Jacob de Prinse
    2015 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Novel Fluorescence Techniques for Real-Time Mineral Identification Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Jillian Elizabeth Moffatt
    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
    2020 - 2024 Member Technical Capability Working Group Australian Radioactive Waste Agency Australia
    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
    2007 - ongoing Member Technical Capability Working Group Australian Radioactive Waste Agency Australia
    2007 - ongoing Member Australian Critical Minerals Research Centre Australian Critical Minerals Research Centre Australia
    2007 - ongoing Member SA EPA Radiation Protection Committee SA EPA Radiation Protection Committee Australia
  • Position: Professor (Physics)
  • Phone: 83134852
  • Email: nigel.spooner@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 83134380
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: The Braggs, floor 2
  • Org Unit: Physics

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