The last 2 decades has seen remarkable and consistent technological advances in the area of vibrational spectroscopy, especially in Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopy. An increase in sensitivity in infrared spectroscopy by three orders of magnitude led to the development of infrared microscopy in the 1990's and subsequently application in the medical and biological fields. At the end of the 1990's advances in focal plane array detector technology, arising from military IR imaging, led to the development of IR imaging spectrometers that have produced instrumentation capable of quickly obtaining chemical images. In the first years of the new millennium the growth area in IR will be the application of these imaging and micro-spectrometers to problems in bioscience/biotechnology and the development of techniques and instrumentation based around them.
Recently IR micro-spectrometers have been coupled to synchrotron sources and a number of synchrotron sources in Europe and the US have been reconfigured in order to efficiently obtain mid IR synchrotron radiation and further develop the technology. The new millennium has seen major developments in the use of synchrotron IR micro-spectroscopy in Australia with the opening of the Australian Synchrotron and its IR microscopy beamline.
The field of Raman spectroscopy in the 1990's also saw a great increase in sensitivity with the incorporation of sensitive charge coupled device (CCD) detectors, improved laser sources and holographic notch filters into Raman spectroscopy. This led to the development of sensitive confocal micro-Raman spectrometers and imaging spectrometers that are now being applied and developed in the fields of bioscience and biotechnology.
In the last 10 years in the School of Chemistry , we have built up vibrational spectroscopy equipment through LIEF, ARC, NHMRC and other funds and currently have a broad range of modern state of the art equipment. Concurrently we have built up research links within Monash and Melbourne universities and also overseas institutions that span the disciplines of Chemistry, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, including genetics, microbiology, medicine, oncology, biochemistry, forensic medicine and immunology, with biospectroscopy as the common factor driving the multidisciplinary research. This research is supported by a number of funding bodies (ARC, NHMRC, RWH, RIRDC and Monash University).
We now have a strong platform of staff, equipment and funding underpinned by the Faculty of Science nominated Research strengths of Spectroscopic properties, analytical and instrumental (Chemistry) and Biology & Physiology of Algae (Biological Sciences). Combined with the new interdisciplinary strengths we have developed our research links both here and overseas and we are now taking this forward to an internationally competitive Centre for Biospectroscopy, solving problems at the forefront of bioscience and biotechnology.
With the current initiatives by both State and Federal governments in the bioscience and biotechnology area, the increase in the number of biotechnology companies and the Melbourne-Monash protocol, the opportunities for such a centre to gain funding are considerable and we envisage a growth period for the centre. Furthermore with the opening of the Australian synchrotron source and its placement in the Monash area we have been in a strong position to both drive the development of the mid-IR beamline and to benefit from the strong source of radiation in our research. It is now provides an important part of our spectroscopy resources through the allocations of beamtime that we receive.