As an analytical chemistry and forensics researcher, it’s Associate Professor Claire Lenehan’s skill in working with micro materials that enables her research to be applied to so many fields.
In her work with the Defence Science Technology Organisation, Associate Professor Lenehan works on explosive propellant materials, with a particular focus on better understanding the degradation of the propellant in ammunition such as bullets and rockets, in order to develop better ways to preserve the longevity of munitions.
“We are studying the stabilising materials to ensure they will remain stable for a long period of time. We want to avoid magazines of explosives going off when we don’t want them to – for obvious reasons,” Associate Professor Lenehan said.
On days when she is not examining the minutiae of lethal explosives, Associate Professor Lenehan can frequently be found amongst the flowers in farms in the Adelaide Hills. The other side of her work involves plant extracts for a cosmetics company that prides itself on using only the best quality natural ingredients.
“I think the inspiration for me is working on something that’s a little bit challenging,” Associate Professor Lenehan said.
“It doesn’t matter whether I am working on explosives or plants – the outcomes for each are important but the techniques we use are the same and the challenges remain consistent.
“I just have an intrinsic desire to know what chemicals are in each sample; there’s always that bit of excitement about the challenge of finding out what the elements do.”