The IER radioanalytical laboratories perform low and medium level radioactivity measurements and tritium.
Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Centre (ERMC)
The Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Centre (ERMC) offers low level radioactivity measurement capabilities. The new state of the art centre was officially opened in April 2012 by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Chris Evans.
The centre comprises a radiochemical laboratory dedicated for processing environmental samples for the measurement of a wide range of radionuclides.
Radioactivity measurement detectors are housed in dedicated instrument laboratories within the centre.
To ensure low background radiation, the gamma spectrometers are housed in the basement built from a special concrete. The concrete consisted of locally sourced materials (sand, cement, gravel) characterised as having the lowest possible levels of natural radioactivity.
Alpha Spectrometry - The ERMC team has developed sensitive methods for separating and measuring low activity levels of radionuclides such as polonium-210, radium-226, plutonium-239, 240 as well as uranium and thorium radioisotopes by alpha spectrometry. The chemical separation methods typically involve a combination of dissolution, ion exchange, preferential precipitation, filtering, micro-precipitation, auto-deposition and / or electro-deposition. Alpha particle emissions are measured from the sample sources in one of the 40 alpha spectrometers available.
Gamma Spectrometry - The centre is equipped with three Compton Suppression Gamma-ray Spectrometers. Each system comprises of an active NaI(Tl) suppression annulus, a NaI(Tl) plug detector and a reverse electrode germanium (REGe) detector all housed within an inert lead shield. These systems are capable of measuring gamma emitting radionuclides at low levels.
Common radionuclides measured include: beryllium-7, caesium-137, potassium-40, lead-210, radium-226, radium-228 and thorium-228. In addition, two ultra-low background HPGe gamma spectrometers are also available in the laboratory. Soon a HPGe well detector will complement the existing five gamma spectrometry systems, enabling small size sample measurements.
Itrax-XRF core scanner - The centre also houses an Itrax X-ray Fluoresence (XRF) core scanner, a non-destructive analytical instrument, providing optical and radiographic images as well as XRF spectrometry elemental profiles, all at high resolution and in a relatively short time.
The Itrax can accommodate a variety of sample types including sediment and rock cores, speleothems, corals and wood (providing they are the right shape). A sediment core splitter and a high-tech wood milling/saw machine are available at the centre for preparing the best samples for analysis by the Itrax scanner. Dedicated fridges and a freezer are available for short term storage of sediment cores to be analysed by the Itrax scanner.
Geochronology Capabilities - The ERMC team has developed expertise in lead-210/caesium-137 and uranium/thorium dating methods. The team has extensive experience in the collection and analysis of sediments, floodplain deposits and soils for lead-210/caesium-137 dating as well as the radiochemical separation and counting required for uranium/thorium dating.
Laser particle analyser - The centre houses a Malvern Mastersizer 2000 laser diffraction spectrophotometer for determining grain size distribution in the range of 0.01 to 2000 µm. The instrument uses the technique of laser diffraction to measure the size of particles. In comparison to the traditional method of sieving, the laser diffraction method is a much faster method for determining grain size distribution.
Light-microscopy facility - An Olympus BX50 microscope is available in the centre. The microscope is suitable for studying pollen slides and is fitted with 10x, 20x, 40x and 100x objectives. A Leica DC200 digital camera with a dedicated computer running Leica Image Manager is fitted and allows for immediate manipulation and management of images.
Contact: Henk Heijnis
Medium Level Radiochemistry Laboratory
The Medium Level Radiochemistry laboratory provides measurement of gamma emitting radionuclides by gamma-ray spectrometry in various types and geometries of samples. The laboratory is equipped with 11 HPGe gamma-ray spectrometers. The most commonly used HPGe gamma-ray spectrometers in the laboratory are:
- P-type HPGe coaxial detectors for its high resolution and useful energy range of 40 keV to 10 MeV.
- N-type HPGe coaxial detectors with improved low energy response and energy range of 20 keV to 10 MeV.
The facility provides ANSTO projects, industry and commercial clients in the determination of natural radioactivity in environmental samples such as soil, sand, coal, vegetation and water, as well as fission product such as caesium-137, iodine-131 and sodium-24.
Contact: Lida Mokhber-Shahin
Low level and ultra-low level tritium quantification is also performed within the Environmental Isotope Labs (EIL); this supports studies into surface and ground water dynamics, environmental monitoring and health screening. The laboratory is equipped with large and small volume distillation apparatus, 32 electrolysis units and 3 Quantulus ultra-low background liquid scintillation counters (LSC).
Samples are electrolytically concentrated 67 fold, prior to being counted for 3+ weeks.
Contact: Robert Chisari