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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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Background Research and Development of the Department of Supply

Corrosion Chemistry

In the early days of operation of the ADSS, the programme of research and development approved by the Defence Department as being relevant to the wider defence scene reflected the inclinations of scientists rather than any expressed needs of the Services. Thus the Defence Standards Laboratories[42] investigated the general problem of the underwater marine infestation of ships' hulls in tropical and temperate situations. They formulated and developed anti-fouling paints and treatments after many years of painstaking research into the effect of various paint additives, such as cuprous oxide or salts of tin, lead, zinc or mercury, acting as poisons to the marine organisms. An accompanying problem of marine corrosion was controlled by a process of cathodic protection, whereby a small electrical potential was maintained between the steel of the ship's hull and small anodes attached to, but insulated from the hull. Paint treatment of the hull was required, of course, and the relationship between paint film resistance and film breakdown had to be determined. Ultimately coal-tar epoxy resins with aluminium pigments were able to protect underwater surfaces for many years without the need to engage in expensive drydocking for cleaning.

Another, and most surprising manifestation of biological activity was revealed in the attack by micro-organisms on the walls of aircraft fuel tanks,[43] which at that time were lined with organic self-sealing material. Investigations carried out, many years previously of corrosion of ships' fuel tanks had indicated the presence of bacteria which survived in the water layer at the bottom of these tanks. The first action was, therefore, to sample aircraft fuel tanks where it was most difficult to exclude water of condensation. A fungus -Cladosporium resinae was detected here as well as in the slime removed from infected tank linings. While careful housekeeping by aircraft operators alleviated the problem, a satisfactory solution was arrived at only when a treatment, advocated in the United States, of adding fuel icing inhibitor, was carefully investigated. A concentration of about 25 per cent of ethylene glycol monomethyl ether in the minute amount of water present completely inhibited biological action.


Metallurgists, led by L. E. Samuels were interested in the processes of metal removal during the actions of abrasion, cutting and polishing.[44] They found that, contrary to the theory of Beilby, in the latter case, actual removal of metal took place. The disposition of the cutting medium, (an abrasive material such as silicon carbide for example), with respect to the metal surface was studied and optimum angles of attack to form a continuous metal chip were determined. The cutting process operated on a microscopic scale and D.S.L. pioneered the use of the scanning electron microscope in Australia to demonstrate them. These investigations of the behaviour of metals during the removal process clarified the changes in structure which occurred at the metal surface and indicated situations which could lead to damage affecting subsequent behaviour of machined parts.


During the war, MSL had become a centre for industrial radiography, and this work-load continued.[45] The use of silver-halide photographic film was slow, expensive and often did not yield adequate resolution. K. A. Metcalfe, at MSL's Adelaide branch, began to experiment with the ideas of Carlson for making images with dry powders on photosensitive material. (This, it will be recalled, was to spawn the xerographic -i.e. dry process photocopying industry.) Dissatisfied with the results of dry powders, Metcalfe conceived the idea of using photosensitive paper coated with zinc oxide and developing the electrostatic images from suspensions of resins and dyes in organic fluids.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australia. Department of Supply; Australian Defence Scientific Service (A.D.S.S.); Defence Standards Laboratories

People in Bright Sparcs - Metcalfe, K. A.; Samuels, L. E.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 943 - 945, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher