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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War
i The United Kingdom Australia Agreement
ii The ADSS
iii Decline of Imported Work
iv Background Research and Development of the Department of Supply
v Technology in the Armed Services

VI After The Joint Project

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Xerography (continued)

He achieved almost instant success and went on to establish many patents applicable not only to radiography, but to many kinds of image making. His work was taken up in many overseas countries. It permitted advances in radiography such as edge enhancement and variable radiographic sensitivity; its great commercial success was the introduction of colour photocopying. It is a matter for great regret that, although royalty payments flowed to Australia from this work, Australian industry did not take advantage of the opportunities which arose, and the bulk of the profits were made by companies in other countries.

Ammunition Research

In the post-war period, ammunition research suffered from the concentration of the limited available effort on propellant investigations and on work for the guided weapons projects. At the Commonwealth Defence Conference of 1946, Australia was assigned the task of developing a fuse on a new principle. Some means was sought to avoid the use of highly sensitive primary explosives in fuse initiators.[46] It was proposed that the adiabatic compression of a small air pocket in a fuse would generate enough heat to initiate explosion in a relatively insensitive explosive in the fuse chain. The fuse, nicknamed Wandella, was developed satisfactorily but the incorporation of delayed arming components complicated it in such a way as to negate the attractiveness of its conceptual simplicity.

The need for a better resource in explosives and ammunition research was dramatically shown when a crisis arose concerning ammunition for the Australian army. The Australian Army had been equipped, in the early 1960s, with the American 105 mm howitzer, and production of the ammunition was undertaken in Australia. An uncomfortably high level of premature explosions occurred, with some loss of life and equipment. In 1964 Alan Fairhall the responsible Minister ordered an immediate high priority program of research at Materials Research Laboratories in Maribyrnong and in the ammunition factories.

The premature explosions had occurred either in the barrel of the gun or immediately on leaving it. Diagnosis of the cause was clearly a formidable problem, and the researchers were soon convinced that fundamental studies of the explosive, its chemical nature, its crystalline forms, its macroscopic nature, and its thermodynamics were required.

In addition, detailed knowledge of the behaviour of the shell from shot start to free flight would have to be obtained. This was extremely difficult because of the very high accelerations, of the order of 50,000 g, experienced at shot start. Eventually a multi-channel telemetry system was devised to measure strains, temperatures, and other parameters in the shell body. In the state of electronics in 1964, this was a remarkable feat.

The research led to improved manufacturing techniques which solved the problem. More than that, it developed an expert team of explosive and propellant scientists who, under the leadership of W. Connick, have continued to become internationally recognised. The team has continued working up to the present time (1986). Much of its recent work, especially in the fields of explosive syntheses, detonators, sensitivity, shaped charge behaviour and flash radiography, has a high reputation overseas and has provided a sound basis for the design of a number of specialised devices which have been adopted by the Australian Defence Forces.


The Aeronautical Research Laboratories provided assistance to the aircraft industry[47] with wind tunnel studies during the continuing development of Jindivik and Sabre aircraft. The latter was a specific Australian development by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, involving the substitution of a Rolls Royce Avon jet engine for the standard American engine. In both cases development of efficient air intakes for the engines were important tasks.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Aeronautical Research Laboratories; Australia. Department of Supply; Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (C.A.C.)

People in Bright Sparcs - Connick, W.; Metcalfe, K. A.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 946 - 947, Online Edition 2000
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