The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) uses a combination of its state-of-the-art nuclear reactor, synchrotron and other particle accelerator based technologies to scan artefacts from the Powerhouse Collection. These world-class facilities are providing insights into how these artefacts were manufactured, and how they be better conserved for future generations, by revealing their atomic- and microscopic-level structures and composition.
This exhibition will illustrate the discoveries of these age-old artefacts made using ANSTO’s scientific instruments by presenting a selection of the original artefacts alongside computer-generated 3D (tomographic) visualisations and other imagery that reveal their structural secrets. Scale models and details of the sophisticated ANSTO facilities will be exhibited to give an appreciation of the achievements of Australia’s diverse scientific and technical talent. To date, collaborative studies have been completed on items such as four Samurai swords spanning the period 1346–1800, a Chinese Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BCE) bronze wine vessel and three Tibetan Buddhist sculptures (1200–1600 CE).
The 3D images of these objects were produced by non-destructively bombarding these artefacts with billions of neutrons, sub-atomic particles found in almost all atoms, produced by the OPAL nuclear reactor located in Sydney, or X-rays produced by the Australian Synchrotron, Australia’s largest particle accelerator, which is located in Melbourne.