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Ore slurry probes
X-ray probes for analysing ore slurries

A slurry is a mixture of ore and water. When processing huge quantities of ore, you need to know the changing metal content in the slurry as it moves through the process, to check whether you are getting enough metal out. Taking samples from the production stream and analysing them in a lab is slow and expensive. A radioactive slurry probe greatly speeds up the analysis.

The radioactive probe sits in the slurry and emits known amounts of X-rays or gamma rays. Metal in the slurry absorbs some of the rays, and a detector records the amount of radiation that escapes. The difference between radiation in and radiation out is related to its metal content.

The process was developed by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (later called the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) in partnership with mining companies and manufacturers.

Probes and associated equipment are made in Adelaide and exported to 30 countries. This research also led to the development of Coalscan, a system for analysing coal, which won the Australia Prize for Science in 1995 for its inventors.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Australian Mineral Development Laboratories Ltd : research

Australian Atomic Energy Commission : research

Philips (Aust) Ltd : manufacture
Key People
John Watt : research team leader
D Glenn : team leader at Philips

Further Reading
Research to reality
Michael Southern (ed)
AIRG, Melbourne, 1980, pp 72-73.

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Australian Mineral Development Laboratories (1959-1990s)

Related Innovations
Coalscan coal analysis

Checking the operation of an ore slurry probe in a moving ore slurry. Courtesy Amdel Ltd.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum