Taking LANDTEM™ to the world
Dr Foley’s research in advanced superconducting technologies enabled the development of LANDTEM™, a highly sensitive magnetic detection device capable of detecting deep and highly conducting ore bodies. LANDTEM™ has been responsible for discovery of ore deposits valued at more than $6 billion globally, returning over $4 billion to Australia.
Dr Foley and Mr Keith Leslie led a team that developed and commercialised LANDTEM™, rewriting approaches to using superconductivity in mineral exploration, enabling discovery of mineral ore deposits that could not previously be discovered by then existing methods.
Dr Foley discovered a method for making the detection sensors using a high-temperature superconductor then led the initial development and commercialisation of LANDTEM™ by Outer Rim developments in collaboration with BHP Billiton and the Canadian mining company, Falconbridge.
Dr Foley has been involved in research for this project since its inception in 1989.
Her key technical contribution was on the development of the then newly discovered high temperature superconducting (HTS) material YBCO to form on demand a single 1 nm wide grain boundary that created a structure that is sensitive to magnet fields. Her goal was to create this “Josephson junction” that, when embedded in a superconducting ring, could achieve the most sensitive detection of magnetic fields. Josephson junctions consist of two superconductors coupled by a weak link which enables a supercurrent – a current that flows indefinitely without any voltage applied. In this case the weak link is the single grain boundary.
Dr Foley eliminated the factors which contributed to the poor junction performance, and was able to engineer a Josephson junction that had the ideal parameters for a very broad range of applications. For over twenty years, the research group optimised junction performance and increased yield and reproducibility through detailed studies of macroscopic quantum conduction processes. She and the team developed these devices into fully integrated systems for a range of business and government customers.
Mr Leslie is an engineer with an international reputation in sensor system development. His contribution underpinned the translation of Dr Cathy Foley’s LANDTEM™ research into commercial reality. It was his engineering and systems integration expertise, coupled with his industry connections, which allowed the rapid development, trialing and commercial exploitation of LANDTEM™.
He was instrumental in the final development and successful technology transfer of LANDTEM™, and in the maintenance of the ongoing relationship with the manufacturer, Outer Rim Developments, contributing significantly to the commercial success.
From December 2000, he led a small team of four which transformed the existing radio frequency SQUID electronics from a manually-tuned system (that required skilled technicians to operate and was housed in fragile casings) to a robust, auto-tunable system that could be operated by typically semi-skilled, exploration field crews.
As well as team leadership, Mr Leslie was responsible for the system control electronics and for resolving the engineering problems associated with the system having to operate in extreme environments while still being portable and easy to use.
In 2001, Mr Leslie trialed a prototype LANDTEM™ system at Xstrata’s remote Canadian Raglan prospect for a two week trial. The ultimate success of this trial led to Xstrata embracing the SQUID technology and mounting a long-term campaign of ground-based exploration over their Raglan lease using LANDTEM™.
He has continued to provide expert engineering leadership through further trials and commercial development, taking an active role in promoting LANDTEM™ to the exploration industry and providing consulting services to users in the field. He continues to lead the further development of LANDTEM™ and related technologies in CSIRO.