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New developments in accelerator mass spectrometry

English title New developments in accelerator mass spectrometry
Applicant Suter Martin
Number 113507
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Labor für Ionenstrahlphysik ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Nuclear Physics
Start/End 01.10.2006 - 30.09.2008
Approved amount 191'326.00
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Keywords (9)

Accelerator mass spectrometry; radiocarbon dating; long-lived radionuclides; Accelerator-SIMS; trace elements; isotopes; micro-analysis; extraterrestrial matter; presolar grains

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) is presently one of the most sensitive techniques for detection of long-lived radioisotopes and trace elements at very low abundance. The main fields of application are climate history and environmental processes where radionuclides act as natural tracers. In earth sciences and archaeology AMS provides valuable dating tools. In material sciences, geology and live sciences it is applied to tracer and stable trace element research. The strong international competition in this field requires a continuous improvement and adaptation of instrumentation. The research within this grant is focused on the investigation of basic processes and underlying physics involved in AMS analysis, the improvement of experimental methods, the development of novel techniques and the exploration of new fields of application. Within this project 2 main topics are being investigated:

1) The novel compact 600 kV AMS facility, originally built for radiocarbon dating in collaboration with National Electrostatic Corp. (NEC), is being used to explore the applicability of the low energy AMS technique to other radionuclides such as Be-10, Al-26, Ca-41, I-129, and Pu-239,240,242,244. During the past year we succeeded to reach competitive performance for Be-10 and achieved measurements of Protactinium-231, a radioisotope not analysed by AMS before.
We have also demonstrated, that even smaller table size instruments with a terminal voltage of only 200 kV provide high performance radiocarbon dating. Two such systems have been built in-house. Presently, the direct introduction of CO2 gas into the ion source is beeing investigated, a technique that allows to measure much smaller samples and greatly simplifies sample preparation. Another system is being optimized for the mesurement of biomedical samples.

2) In the past decade we have developed and implemented the so-called Accelerator-SIMS technique a combination of SIMS (Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry) with AMS. It allows for stable trace element analysis at ultra-low levels (ppb to ppt) with imaging capability in the micrometer range. We applied this method to the field of trace element analysis in ultrapure materials and in minerals. We also achieved a further refinement of this instrument permitting isotope ratio measurements for heavy elements by a beam bouncing technique. This technique has now been applied to the measurement of isotope ratios in presolar grains. This allows to estimate stellar and supernova contributions to nucleosynthesis. We are also exploring the possibility to combine the existing SIMS instrument with a low energy AMS system.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
105339 New developments in accelerator mass spectrometry 01.10.2004 Project funding (Div. I-III)
122113 New developments in Accelerator Mass spectrometry 01.10.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)