2011 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Mr Bruce Candy - Metal Detection
The metal detection technology and products designed by Bruce Candy over the past 25 years have won him recognition as the leading scientist worldwide in his field. His work has positioned Minelab Electronics Pty Ltd and Australia as world leaders in the provision of high-performance, affordable and practical hand-held metal detectors for the detection of landmines, gold nuggets and general coin, treasure and relic items. Bruce is thought to be the only person worldwide with his level of theoretical and practical understanding of the fundamental concepts, mathematics and complexities of detecting metal in any ground or soil conditions by means of a hand-held detector. His work in this field has led to huge advances in the technology of metal detection. Before1985, commercially available metal detectors were not able to detect metal reliably in even mildly mineralised soils where the mineralisation itself screened the metal that may have been present in the ground. It was at this time that Bruce, then a PhD student at Adelaide University with exceptional skill in electronics and the application of physics principles to electronic design, was asked by an entrepreneurial businessman to invent a metal detector that could punch through mineralised soils. Over the next 10 years, as the principal scientist at Minelab, Bruce set out to improve the performance of existing machines that were unable to operate effectively in mineralised soils. In 1996 Minelab launched a new significant product in metal detection based on Bruce’s design that was to become the backbone of the company. Typically, the electronics had been the limiting factor to performance but Bruce was able to design critical electronic sections of the metal detectors, in particular the transmitter and sensitive receiver elements, in a way that was innovative and tolerant to mass production. Bruce’s products stand alone in the metal detection industry and provide real benefit to the gold prospectors who have generated wealth both here in Australia and worldwide; the archaeological community which benefits from the many finds by detectorists who search for old coins, treasure and relic antiquities; and mine-clearance operatives who are lessening the landmine menace worldwide. Land mines are cleared in 40 different countries using Minelab detectors and in Cambodia alone more than 500,000 mines have been recovered using Minelab equipment. Over 25 years, Bruce has managed to solve fundamental problems in metal detection in theory but has also been able to design and manufacture practical machines for the purpose. He continues to work for Minelab under contract and is still developing fundamental technological improvements in metal detection techniques. From the outset Bruce instilled Minelab with a culture of innovation and he continues to spend significant time with Minelab’s more than 30 engineers and scientists, passing on his knowledge to the next generation of designers while improving the understanding of, and designs for, Minelab’s metal detectors.