Environmental physics research

There are several areas of Environmental Physics Research at RSPhysSE.

Accelerator Mass Spectrometry is a highly sensitive technique for identifying and quantifying minute traces of isotopes. At RSPhysSE we have adapted this technique to study the propagation of plutonium in the environment following accidents and past bad practice at various nuclear plants around the world. The advantage of AMS is that it is able to determine isotope ratios in samples with extremely small concentrations of plutonium. By knowing the isotope ratios it is possible to identify not only the nuclear plant responsible for contaminations but also in many cases how radioactive release into the environment took place. This is important both for policing and also in recommendation of the most appropriate strategy for clean up.

Atmospheric Physics. In order to properly understand the processes related to ozone formation and depletion, it is necessary have a good understanding of how ultraviolet light interacts with oxygen molecules. Atmospheric physics research at RSPhysSE focuses on the development and application of widely tuneable coherent sources of vacuum ultraviolet light and their application to the study of photo-dissociation dynamics. There are also close analogies between magnetically confined plasmas and planetary atmospheres, where the Coriolis force plays the role of the magnetic field. The Energetically Open Systems Group is engaged in a formal collaboration with CSIRO Atmospheric Research to further increase our understanding of the complex dynamics of both turbulent plasmas and atmospheres.

Potential student research projects

You could be doing your own research into fusion and environment physics. Below are some examples of student physics research projects available in our school.

Electron and positron scattering from hydroxide, water and hydrogen peroxide

Electron and positron scattering processes are both complex and important in a range of processes. This project will use the R-Matrix technique to perform ab initio calculations of positron and electron scattering from OH, H2O and H2O2.

A/Prof. James Sullivan, Dr Edward Simpson

Surface forces and the behaviour of colloidal systems

We measure the basic forces that operate between molecules that are manifest at interfaces. These forces control the stability of colloidal systems from blood to toothpaste. We use very sensitive techniques that are able to measure tiny forces with sub nanometer distance resolution. Understanding these forces enables us to predict how a huge variety of colloidal systems will behave.

Professor Vincent Craig


Nanobubbles are simply nanosized bubbles. What makes them interesting? Theory tells us they should dissolve in less than a second but they are in some cases stable for days.

Professor Vincent Craig

Total recall – memory effects in negative ion sources

This project investigates contamination effects in negative ion sources used for accelerator mass spectrometry particularly relevant for the measurement of ultra-trace amounts of the long-lived radionuclides Chlorine-36 and Iodine-129 in environmental samples.

Dr Stefan Pavetich, Emeritus Professor Keith Fifield

Please browse our full list of available physics research projects to find a student research project that interests you.