Academy of Science medals for Department of Material Physics

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Two members of the Materials Physics Department have won prestigious medals in the 2022 Australian Academy of Science Honorific Awards.

Director of the Research School of Physics, Professor Tim Senden has been awarded the Ian Wark Medal and Lecture, and Professor Dick Henley has won the Haddon Forrester King Medal.

Professor Senden’s award of the Ian Wark Medal “recognises research that contributes to the prosperity of Australia, where that prosperity is attained through the advancement of scientific knowledge or its application, or both” – in particular the successful commercialisation of X-Ray Micro CT technology in the company, Lithicon.

Professor Senden said the Research School’s strength in fundamental science was an essential precursor for successful commercialisation.

“The spin-offs only come if the fundamentals are there,” he said.

Professor Henley also has studied fundamental science which has led to significant prosperity, in the form of economically viable ore bodies. He has modelled the movement of high temperature gas in volcanoes to understand how ore bodies are created – so-called porphyry deposits. This has led directly to the discovery of major ore bodies, such as the giant Ladolam gold deposit on Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea, and the Onto copper and gold deposits in Hu’u, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia. He is now focused on the application of X-ray micro CT scanning to understanding water-rock interaction chemistry and the properties of rock materials.

“The issue is how to quantify things – you have to understand them right back to the fundamentals. There are traps in building mental models,” Professor Henley said.

Full Citation for Professor Tim Senden

Professor Tim Senden is a physical chemist whose pioneering research has provided new understanding of surface phenomena at the nanoscale, developing methods to quantify colloidal and molecular forces. For two decades, he was involved in the development of novel applications of radioactive nanoparticles for clinical use, which received strong commercial sponsorship leading to clinical trials. From the 2000s, Professor Senden was part of a major translational activity that continues to develop a novel imaging and analysis platform based on X-ray microtomography, leading to new insights into complex granular and porous materials. This activity has greatly enhanced applications in topics spanning papermaking, carbon sequestration, composites, and mineral and hydrocarbon extraction. Following an industry consortium of 23 energy companies, Lithicon was spun-off and became one of the most successful ANU companies.

Full citation for Professor Richard Henley

For over 50 years, Professor Richard Henley has been a leader in the development of understanding of how economic deposits of metals, especially copper and gold, were formed within large-scale hydrothermal systems in volcanoes and mountain belts. The fundamentals that he derived have provided the basis of exploration for epithermal through to orogenic gold deposits, the practical chemistry of fluids in active geothermal systems and many follow-up research programs around the world. He has been acknowledged for his direct contribution to a number of major discoveries including the giant Ladolam Au (Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea) and the Onto Cu-Au (Hu’u, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia) deposits. In the last few years, he has led the recognition of high temperature magmatic gas reactions with rock forming minerals as the principal control on the generation of porphyry copper deposits. He is currently focused on application of X-ray micro CT scanning to derive new and detailed understanding of water-rock interaction chemistry and the properties of rock materials.

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