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Electrical and Computer Engineering facilities

25 January 2024

As part of the $142 million Canterbury Engineering the Future project, the new Electrical and Computer Engineering wing opened in 2016. The building is designed to enhance processes, techniques and teaching, starting with a cluster of complex research laboratories located at the main entrance. Technical and non-technical spaces encourage interaction and engagement while informal, flexible areas at the centre of the wing on both levels revolve around double-height spaces which allow an abundance of natural light to enter.

Students can enter from the Core, Engineering's flagship building which combines offices, CAD suites, lecture theatres and meeting rooms with attractive lounge areas, study cubicles and casual seating. Students now have further options for study and socialising, right next door to the new Electrical and Computer Engineering building.

Research labs

The Communications Laboratory is primarily engaged in research into advanced digital wireless systems. The work encompasses theoretical, simulation and DSP-based hardware prototyping and the projects underway include:

  • Development of advanced adaptive receiver structures for fading dispersive channels. This includes work on near optimum, reduced complexity receivers.
  • Various studies of advanced coded modulation systems for use in the wireless environment.
  • The development, including a hardware prototype, of adaptive wireless systems to allow the experimental study of array performance and the investigation of multiuser detection and decoding algorithms.

The High Voltage Laboratory is a graduate research and undergraduate teaching laboratory. It specialises in the measurement and testing of equipment and components of Electric Power Engineering.


Equipment in the laboratory

The High Voltage Laboratory testing facilities are based around two major pieces of equipment, namely an impulse generator and a HVac testing transformer. These allow controlled testing of equipment and material insulation, such as under dry and wet conditions. While testing can be undertaken according to standards requirements, staff specialize in developing testing requirements for specific customer requirements and more explorative research.

Research is geared towards understanding the electric field and high voltage phenomena, developing innovative equipment for the electrical industry and new technologies which use high voltage concepts in their design.

Teaching laboratories include studying the breakdown of air under varying atmospheric conditions, especially moisture, varying supply voltage and frequency and under multiple insulation arrangements. They are particularly geared towards the use of live-line techniques for transmission and distribution system maintenance. Transformer insulation condition measurement is also a set laboratory exercise.

Lectures in high voltage are embodied into specific courses associated with Electrical Engineering.

In electrotechnology, electric fields, insulation materials and the physics of the breakdown of gases, liquids and solids is presented, along with applications from micro-electronics to power engineering. A practical laboratory exercise involves studying the breakdown of air under varying atmospheric conditions, especially moisture, varying supply voltage and frequency and under multiple insulation arrangements. They are particularly geared towards the use of live-line techniques for transmission and distribution system maintenance.

In power systems engineering, various methods of measuring the breakdown of insulation are presented. The equipment required to undertake these tests and the apparatus required to measure insulation characteristics is also presented. The laboratory exercise involves the measurement of transformer insulation condition using a high voltage capacitance and dissipation factor test set.

For a full list of the equipment see High Voltage Equipment page

The Electrical and Computer Engineering's (ECE) Nanofabrication Laboratory contains facilities for semiconductor material processing, nanofabrication, sensor and microfluidic device development. This is the main fabrication facility for the inter-departmental Nanostructure Engineering, Science and Technology research group, as well as the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Biomolecular Interaction Centre. The facility is also used as an undergraduate teaching laboratory for ENEL 491 Nano Engineered Devices and ENEL 400 Electrical and Computer Engineering Research Project.

The equipment in the Nanofabrication Laboratory covers most aspects of semiconductor device fabrication, from materials growth and characterisation to device packaging. The principal tools are: 

  • Two-Photon Polimerization 3D Printer (Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT2)
  • Electron Beam Lithography (Raith 150)
  • Deep Reactive Ion Etching (PlasmaPro 100 Cobra)
  • Optical Microscopy (Olympus BX30 with digital image capture)
  • Atomic Force Microscope (Digital Instruments Dimension 3100)
  • Plasma Ashing (Tergeo plasma cleaner)
  • Optical Lithography (Suss MA-6)
  • Nanoimprint Lithography (EVG)
  • Interference Lithography
  • Spin-coating (Laurell WS-650 and Headway PWM32-PS-R790)
  • Thin-Film Deposition (Edwards AUTO 500, Temescal FC-1800 and Mist CVD)
  • Semiconductor Device Characterisation (HP 4155A Parameter Analyser)
  • Optical Profilometer (Filmetrics Profilm3D)
  • Stylus Profilometer (Taylor-Hobson Intra-Touch)
  • Wire Bonding (Kulicke & Soffa 4500)
  • Micromilling (CNC Mini- Mill/GX)

Access to Equipment Booking (Requires a current user account)

These are accessible to outside organisations on a contract or collaborative basis. For more information contact Prof. Martin AllenA/Prof. Volker Nock or Emeritus Professor Maan Alkaisi.

The Electrical and Computer Engineering's (ECE) Biological Applications Laboratory contains facilities for PC-2 Biological Containment and is certified for live cell and micro-organism experiments. This is a research facility for the inter-departmental Nanostructure Engineering, Science and Technology research group, as well as the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Biomolecular Interaction Centre.

The equipment in the Biological Applications Laboratory covers most aspects of cell culture, biological imaging and microfluidic device testing. The principal tools are: 

  • Class 2 Biological Laminar Flow Hood
  • Harvard PHD2000 Syringe Pump
  • Elveflow OB1 MK3 - 4 channel flow controller
  • Elveflow MUX Quake Valve - microfluidic flow switch matrix
  • Nikon Eclipse 80i Fluorescence Microscope (B-3A, FITC, TxRed, DAPI, Special Red, RTDP, MitoXpress)
  • Nikon Eclipse Ti Inverted Fluorescence Microscope
  • Hamamatsu ORCA Flash 4 V2 digital imaging system
  • Nikon Eclipse TS100 F Inverted Microscope
  • Thermo Fisher Cell-Culture Incubator
  • Contherm Mitre 4000 Cell-Culture Incubator
  • Heraeus Labofuge 300
  • PreSens Microx 4 trace fiber optic oxygen sensor

[Equipment Booking] (current login required)

These are accessible to outside organisations on a contract or collaborative basis. For more information contact A/Prof. Volker Nock or Professor Maan Alkaisi.

The Power Research Lab (situated alongside the Power Electronics Lab) is a postgraduate research laboratory specialising in higher power applications. Here you will find projects and equipment associated with renewable and sustainable energy electrical systems, electric vehicles and utility power quality.

The Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering has an extensively equipped Optics Laboratory located on the 2nd Floor of the ECE Link block. This Laboratory is managed by Dr. Steve Weddell and is unique in that it specialises in Adaptive Optics (AO) research.

Specialised equipment includes an optical table, spatial light modulator, a bimorph mirror, 4 computers and various optical assemblies, including both gas and semiconductor 3B and 3R class lasers and several high-speed CCD and CMOS cameras. Safety equipment, such as special glasses and emergency lighting, in addition to signage warning that laser-based experiments are conducted within the facility, are clearly shown over the front door to the lab and in strategic areas within the laboratory. New users are given personal instruction by the laboratory manager, and this is supplemented with course notes in the safe use of lasers before they are allowed to use any equipment.  

Currently, the Optics Lab is being used to configure adaptive optics experiments, specifically, wavefront sensors, for on-sky testing, and to confirm simulated results. The laboratory may be used for either astronomical and ophthalmological applications, or as mentioned, for measuring LED lighting emissions.

Teaching labs

This laboratory is used for many undergraduate courses for laboratory experiments and projects. It contains 28 workbenches, each equipped with a PC, a dual-channel 100 MHz oscilloscope, a DC power supply, multimeters and a multipurpose waveform generator. Each bench can seat up to three students.

A wide range of specialised instrumentation is also kept in this laboratory to support final year projects and research conducted by staff and postgraduate students. Some of the specialised equipment includes: RF and microwave spectrum analysers, a microwave vector network analyser, microwave power meter, RF and microwave signal sources and pulse generators.

Most academic staff teach in this laboratory.

The Machines Laboratory is one of the main teaching laboratories in the department. It is used for First and Second Professional Year laboratories as well as Third Professional Year Projects and postgraduate projects.

It is used for the undergraduate teaching of:

  • Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering
  • Electromagnetism
  • Transformers
  • AC Machines
  • DC Machines
  • Power Electronics

The Control Laboratory is used for the teaching of the Control Systems 1 and Control Systems 2 courses within the department. In addition it is used to house a number of third professional projects each year. 

It is also used for ENMT 201 Mechatronics Design for PLC laboratories, and ENEL 482 Robotics for automated vehicle robotics labs.

Information on the Digital Systems Technical Library relates to digital systems, development tools, PCB design and soldering.

The Power Electronics Lab (situated alongside the Power Research Lab) is used for some undergraduate labs (involving solar-electric cars and electric go-kart speed control) and for postgraduate research specialising in the fast growing field of power electronics. This field is very wide, ranging from small power supplies of just a few watts (as you would find in a smartphone) to high voltage static convertors (1.2GW). Power electronics is critical for the efficient distribution and use of electric power and as such plays a key role in reducing the environmental impact of electric energy use.

Workshops, computers and safety information


Fully enclosed footwear must be worn. Safety glasses and hearing protection must be worn as appropriate.


Department Mechanical and Electronic Workshops
  • The department's mechanical and electronic workshops are located in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Wing.
  • The purpose of these workshops is to provide technical support for research and teaching within the department. This includes assistance with Third Professional Year projects and other design courses.
  • Do not enter the Mechanical Workshop area. Wait at the entrance in the green area marked on the floor.
  • Nothing is to be taken out of the workshops without permission. All borrowed equipment must be recorded in the loan book.
  • Workshop users must clean up and return tools after any work is completed.


Student Mechanical Workshop
  • The student mechanical workshop is situated on the ground floor off the Main Mechanical Workshop.
  • A maximum of four students are permitted to use the workshop at any time.
  • Students must check with the supervising technician, David Healy, that their proposed activity is safe and that they obey all mandatory directives such as the use of safety glasses.
  • Mr Healy is the person to see if you need help or have any questions. Please report any damage or missing tools to him.
  • The tools and machinery provided must not be taken out of the workshop.
  • Anyone using the workshop must take responsibility for cleaning down the benches and machines, and putting away tools.
  • The student workshop is restricted to those students who have completed the specified mechanical workshop training course.


Student Electronic Workshop
  • The student electronic workshop is open 24 hours a day.
  • Three instrument benches are equipped with an oscilloscope, signal generator, multimeter, power supply and soldering iron.
  • Do not remove any equipment from this room.
  • In this workshop you can work on your practical assignments or any hobby construction providing there are no exposed conductors that have voltages exceeding 50V DC or 32V rms AC. The Electrical Act prohibits the University from allowing any unregistered person having unsupervised access to higher voltages.
  • You are expected to provide your own hand tools, components, wire and solder.

It is important that everything you do in laboratories is done safely. If you are unsure about any safety matter, ask the appropriate laboratory supervisor for instruction.

  • The lecturer responsible for each laboratory class has complete charge during the class.
  • Except when otherwise directed by the lecturer in charge, no experimental circuit is to be made live until the lecturer, or one of the demonstrators has checked the circuit and ensured that all earth connections have been made.
  • If any faults with equipment are suspected, the laboratory supervisor should be notified immediately.
  • No live experimental circuit is to be left unattended.
  • No student is to do any practical work using live equipment, or power and machine tools, whilst alone in a laboratory or workshop.
  • It is highly desirable that shoes with insulating and non-slip soles and heels are worn. Bare feet, jandals or loose sandals will not be permitted in laboratories.
  • Smoking, eating or drinking in the laboratories is forbidden.
  • After completion of an experiment students must tidy up and stow away.


Machines and Power Electronics Laboratories
  • When taking part in experiments on rotating machines, ensure loose clothing or long hair that might entangle with equipment are restrained.
  • The main switchboard is not to be operated by students, except under the direct supervision of a staff member.
  • Be aware of the location of the emergency stop and trip buttons.
  • After wiring the bench equipment, the supervisor must check the circuit before the supply is switched on.
  • No leads are to be removed until the supply has been disconnected and any associated machinery has stopped rotating.
  • Beware of energy storage devices.


High Voltage Laboratory

Use of the laboratory and operation of controls is permitted only under the direct supervision of an authorised person. Authorisation is obtained from Mr Jac Woudberg.



The outputs of permanent high voltage equipment are to be temporarily earthed when not in use. Any modification to the structure of these supplies should only be undertaken isolated from their permanent supplies. Any equipment to be energised must have all exposed metal connected to earth unless the metal forms part of the energised circuit. Any potentially live part of equipment under test and HV supply outputs will be earthed with temporary earths before personnel touch the equipment on non-earthed surfaces. Capacitors should be discharged to earth before touching. Any unused capacitors should be short-circuited. Take care discharging capacitors - for example use appropriately sized discharge resistors.


Equipment Operation

Equipment is to be energised only by or under the direct supervision of an authorised user. A minimum of two people must be present in the laboratory when high voltage equipment is to be energised. When equipment is to be energised, all personnel are to be outside the test enclosure except when demonstrations, research or laboratories require personnel to interact with energised equipment (such as live-line maintenance). Movement is only permitted under the strict direction of authorised user. Where more than one set of high voltage equipment is in use at the same time, the areas required for each task will be clearly defined and, at least, roped off to prevent wandering into restricted areas.


HV Supply Equipment Modification

No HV supply equipment will be modified unless undertaken by an authorised user or under the direction of an authorised user.



Flashovers can be noisy. Earmuffs MUST be used to prevent hearing damage. Consideration and warning should be given to other laboratory users.


Electromagnetic Interference

Flashovers can be a source of electromagnetic interference. Equipment susceptible to this interference should be shielded. Consideration of the effect of any experiment should be given to other laboratory users and appropriate action taken to reduce or eliminate electromagnetic interference.


Computer Laboratory

Occupation Overuse Syndrome (OOS) is surprisingly common in frequent users of computer workstations. Students should be aware that they can minimise the risk of injury by:

  • Ensuring that the chair, work surface, monitor and keyboard are in the correct position.
  • Taking frequent breaks.
  • Maintaining a straight-wrist position.
  • Using the whole arm to move the mouse not just the wrist.

Once again if you are unsure of what is appropriate for you, check with the laboratory supervisor.

Overall philosophy

When an emergency trip button is pressed, all the power is turned off to the wall sockets in that area except for the lights. Beware of stored energy eg capacitors, uninterruptable power supplies or batteries will still carry charge.

All the trip buttons are of the latching type therefore remain in the activated state (ie tripped) until they are unlatched.

To restore power, two intentional actions are required.

  • First the activated trip button must be unlatched.
  • Secondly a reset button must be pressed to energise the contactor suppling power to that area. Pressing the reset button before the trip button is unlatched will not restore power to the affected area.

Power should only be restored by experienced (authorised) personnel. These are the Technician or Academic Staff Member assigned to the area that has been isolated.

Laboratories requiring an Electrical trip system:

Not all Laboratories in the Department require an emergency electrical trip system. Laboratories that do have an emergency electrical trip system have electrical interconnections with the Electrical Machines Laboratory and deal with voltages above the Extra Low Voltage level as defined in the Electrical Regulations 1997, ie above 32volts AC or 115volts DC.

The Laboratories with an emergency electrical trip system are:

  • Electrical Machines ( room A113 )
  • High Voltage
  • Power Applications and Utility ( room A115 )
  • Power Electronics ( room A109 )

The central role of the Electrical Machines Laboratory:

The Electrical Machines Laboratory is central to the emergency electrical trip system. This is because the patch panel that allows electrical interconnection between laboratories is located in the Power Distribution Room ( A113c) at the east end of the Electrical Machines Laboratory. On this panel is also a series of RED lights identifying which laboratory has had an emergency trip activated.


The Patch Panel

The patch panel allows several different power sources to be connected to the different student benches in the Machines Laboratory as well as different laboratories.

Generally the power source is supplied from the Machines Laboratory to the other Laboratories. However it is possible to have power supplied from other laboratories.

The wiring, particularly the control wiring, behind this panel has voltage supplied from several different laboratories. It should never be assumed all power is turned off to this panel.


Voltage supplies in each laboratory

The power for 230v sockets and three phase sockets are generally supplied from the local distribution board. But power may also be supplied from another laboratory or supplied to another laboratory via the patch panel in the Machines Laboratory. In all cases, power outlets and supplies will be de-energised and isolated in the area an emergency trip button is pressed.

The High Voltage Laboratory also has a third supply into the laboratory. This is for the High Voltage Transformer and the Motor Speed Controller and/or the three phase Experimental Distribution Board. This is controlled by the use of three "Dorman and Smith" fuse switches located below the local standard distribution board.


Areas affected in an emergency trip situation

Activating an emergency trip in any laboratory will isolate power in that laboratory but may also affect other laboratories depending on the electrical interconnections in place at that time.


Machines Laboratory

When an emergency trip is activated in the Machines Laboratory the trip contactor in the local distribution board (in machines lab next to eastern hall doors) is de-energised and the main circuit breaker on the Patch Panel is opened. The circuit breaker on the patch panel supplies the power to all the different voltage supplies available on the patch panel such as the DC supply, the two MG sets etc. Therefore any other lab connected and using voltage supplied from the patch panel will have that voltage disrupted ie turned off.

Before the main circuit breaker of the patch panel is turned on a check must be made with any laboratories connected that it is safe to turn ON the various voltage sources.


Other laboratories

When an emergency trip is activated in any of the other labs three sets of isolating contactors drop out (are de-energised).

  1. The local distribution board isolating contactor which supplies any 230v sockets and three phase supplies.
  2. The isolating contactors behind the patch panel, which connect the cable from the lab to the patch panel. These contactors are rated to break AC supply.
  3. The DC control contactor behind the patch panel, which trips out the DC supply and the two motor generator sets when de-energised. The DC supply contactor is used to break any DC voltage supplied to the laboratories because the isolating contactors in 2 above are not rated to break a DC voltage supply.

Only laboratories connected to the DC supply or the motor generator sets will be affected when a trip button is activated in any of the other laboratories.


Emergency trip in the High Voltage Laboratory

When an emergency trip is activated in the High Voltage Laboratory the same three groups of isolating contactors are de-energised as described in "Other Laboratories" above. In addition there are isolating contactors below the two Dorman and Smith use switches which isolate the supply to the main High Voltage Transformer and to the Motor Speed Controller and/or three phase Experimental Distribution Board.

Also there is an alarm activated in the mechanical workshop.


Summary of affected areas


Machines Laboratory

  • Local 230v and 3 phase supply
  • Patch panel
  • Any laboratories supplied from the patch panel


High Voltage Laboratory

  • Local 230v and 3 phase supply
  • Contactors connecting cable from laboratory to patch panel
  • DC supply and Motor Generator sets in Power Distribution Room (and laboratories connected to these)
  • HV transformer supply
  • Motor speed controller and/or 3 phase distribution board
  • Alarm in mechanical workshop


Other laboratories

  • Local 230v and 3 phase supply
  • Contactors connecting cable from laboratory to patch panel
  • DC supply and Motor Generator sets in Power Distribution Room (and laboratories connected to these).

Computing Facilities

For many years the department has recognised the importance of excellent computing facilities to support research and teaching. The principal research resource is a AMD Opteron-based Linux Beowulf cluster. There are currently a total of 188 cores with 1TB RAM in this cluster. Some of these computers are connected with high speed, low latency Infiniband network cards for distributed parallel processing computations. This cluster is funded by the department and research groups.

A suite of 66 machines is provided to Second and Third Professional Year students for teaching use and over 200 additional machines are networked to various research groups. A further suite of 100 PCs is shared with the other departments within the College of Engineering. The computers in the undergraduate labs have dual boot to run Microsoft Windows and also a Linux operating system.

The department resources, maintained by four support staff, include an extensive range of languages, electrical design and simulation packages, drawing and drafting packages, office products and others. A variety of software which is not maintained within the department, such as database programs and symbolic language processors, is accessible from a central resource over the campus network.


Computer-Aided Engineering Laboratory: CAE (ECE Wing 209)

The laboratory is equipped with PC workstations and printers for use by ECE Second and Third Professional students. (Postgraduate students should not use CAE during the teaching year and First Professional students should use the central College CAD facility). The workstations run dual boot, windows 7 and Linux give access to a wide range of software packages for applications such as electronic design, circuit simulation, drawing, project planning, report writing and computer programming. Examples of such packages are Matlab, Excel, Microsoft Word, Altium Designer and C Compilers.

Permission to use the facilities for purposes other than class assignment work must be obtained from Mr Florin Predan (209a) who is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of this laboratory.


Embedded Systems Laboratory: ESL (ECE Wing 204)

The Digital Systems Laboratories currently provide 25 workstations, each supporting a PC, instrumentation, and a variety of development systems. Third Professional students and postgraduates use these laboratories for project and coursework. Rules that govern the use of these laboratories are posted on the noticeboard inside. Permission to use these laboratories for any other purpose should be obtained from Mr Steve Weddell. Mr Philipp Hof (204a) is responsible for the day-to-day operation of these laboratories.


EngCAD laboratories (First Professional Students)

PC workstations for First Professional students are available in the EngCAD laboratories, Engineering Core. Note: These laboratories are shared by all Engineering departments and are available to all Engineering students, not just ECE First Professional. Instructions for accessing EngCAD computer facilities, including access passwords are included in enrolment handouts. Mr Joost Stenfert-Kroese is responsible for the day-to-day operation of these laboratories.


Department computer regulations

Use of all computing facilities on campus is governed by regulations and codes of practice. You are advised to read and understand these rules, included below. Any breach of the regulations is taken seriously and may lead to suspension of your use of the computers.

Access to reliable computing is vital to your course. Because of this, and to comply with the computing regulations

  • No student is to modify any computer setup without approval from a staff member. Any incidents must be reported to the computing staff.
  • Unless approved by a staff member, no programs other than those specifically associated with your coursework are to be installed or run on computers. In particular, but not exclusively, this rule applies to computer games.
  • No student is to leave any computer in a non-functioning state without notifying the computer staff. If problems occur out of hours then staff must be advised at the first opportunity during normal hours.

Computer use: policy


Printing & Photocopying

See the ITS pages for information about print, internet and copy charges.

Lab Supervisors
Biological Applications TechnologyVolker Nock or Helen Devereux
CAE/Desktop SupportFlorin Predan or Mike Shurety
AutomationEdsel Villa
Digital SystemsSteve Weddell or Philipp Hof
ElectronicsMaan Alkaisi or Randy Hampton
High VoltageAndrew Lapthorn or Paul Agger
Image ProcessingRick Millane
MachinesNeville Watson or Ken Smart
NanofabricationMaan Alkaisi, Gary Turner or Helen Devereux
OpticsSteve Weddell
Power ElectronicsAlan Wood or Edsel Villa
Surface MountPhilipp Hof
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