Accelerator mass spectrometry: an analytical tool with applications for a sustainable society
Department of Physics and A. E. Lalonde AMS Laboratory, University of Ottawa, K1N 6N5, Ottawa, Canada
Accepted: 16 January 2023
Published online: 24 March 2023
Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) adds the techniques of higher energy charged particle acceleration to the basic principles of Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) to provide extremely low detection capability (below 1 femtogram) of rare isotopes in samples of natural materials as small as 1 mg. Depending on the element selected and the configuration of the equipment, rare isotope sensitivities can reach less than one part in 1015. The advantages of this small sample size and high sensitivity for the detection of rare isotopes include a) the economic benefit of collecting, shipping and preparing much smaller samples, and b) the ability to analyse specific chemical compounds within the sample. For the latter advantage, the pathway taken by that compound through a complex system can be more precisely traced or, in the case of radioactive isotopes, more precise chronological information can be provided. The paper is an amplification of material which was presented at the IAEA International Conference on Accelerators for Research and Sustainable Development: novel concepts and technical innovation. It begins with a basic overview of AMS technology, with an emphasis on how the use of higher energy contributes to this enhanced sensitivity, and then provides several examples of new AMS technologies which reduce the energy and space requirements for such systems. Several examples of applications which contribute to the investigation of sustainability in other areas of environmental concern are then briefly described.
© The Author(s) 2023
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