Accelerator Mass Spectrometry 


Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) is an ultra-sensitive method for analysing isotopes. ANSTO's AMS capabilities contribute to national and international research in environmental science, climate variability and archaeology.
STAR accelerator
STAR Accelerator
The AMS team is focused on developing new techniques for AMS and isotope analysis, and in expanding and improving existing sample processing methods.
AMS is able to separate and measure rare isotopes from a more abundant isotope with similar mass, eg 14C can be separated from the much more abundant 12C and measured at high sensitivity.
This abundance sensitivity means that AMS can be used to measure a number of naturally-occurring, long-lived radioisotopes, which makes it a very useful technique for dating purposes.


AMS methods 

AMS Scientist isolating carbon from sample
AMS scientist isolating  carbon from sample
A widely recognised application of AMS is radiocarbon(14C) dating, however, there are also other AMS dating methods using other radioisotopes such as 10Be, 26Al and 36Cl.
AMS can be used to detect very small amounts of man-made isotopes such as 129I and 236U, as well as Pu, and for isotope tracing for nuclear safeguards and nuclear forensics.
The group provides analysis and performs research for a range of scientific studies related to the environment, archaeology, heritage, biology and nuclear safeguards particularly with Australian universities.
This research is based on delivering radiocarbon dating analyses from diverse natural materials such as lake sediments, groundwaters and surface waters, tree-rings, ice-cores, corals, soils and air to better understand our changing environment, landscape and climate.


Dedicated laboratories 

AMS Graphitisation laboratory
AMS Graphitisation laboratory 
To do this, the group uses a number of dedicated chemistry laboratories for processing samples for AMS analysis. Chemical methods are used to isolate and purify very small amounts of the element of interest (e.g. carbon, beryllium, aluminium, iodine, uranium or plutonium), and for preparing the appropriate target material for measurement in the accelerators.
At ANSTO, the AMS team use both the Australian National Tandem for Applied Research (ANTARES), and Small Tandem for Applied Research (STAR) accelerators for radiocarbon and cosmogenic isotope (10Be and 26Al ) dating and isotopic tracing.
Stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen, using an Elemental Analyser- Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (EA-IRMS), is also performed in these laboratories.



Dr Geraldine Jacobsen
Task leader, Accelerator Mass Spectometry
Phone: +61 2 9717 9060