Skip to main content
Control room Centre for Accelerator Science

Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) is an ultra-sensitive analytical technique based on the use of an ion accelerator as a powerful mass spectrometer.

The element of interest is chemically separated from the original material and loaded as a target in the ion source of the tandem accelerator. The ion beam produced from it is accelerated and isotopically analysed. Selected isotopes are identified and counted individually with ion detectors.

The main capabilities and techniques include radiocarbon dating, actinide and heavy ion isotopic analysis and cosmogenic isotope dating.

Isotopic concentrations at the level of 1 part in 1015 can be measured for long-lived radioisotopes such as 14C, 10Be, 26Al, 129I, 236U and Pu isotopes, which have extensive applications as chronometers and tracers in a wide range of disciplines. Only small quantities of the specific element are needed, often less than 1mg.

The AMS facilities within the Centre for Accelerator Science (CAS) are designed for multi-isotope analysis with high precision and are utilised to analyse the above isotopes in samples from a variety of projects in quaternary science, global climate change, nuclear safeguards and other applications. A number of dedicated chemistry laboratories are available 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.

The Centre provides assistance in sample selection and treatment, data interpretation, radiocarbon calibration and development of new applications of long-lived radioisotopes (in geomorphology, biomedicine and other disciplines).

The sample preparation section is an integral part of the Centre and includes four laboratories for 14C sample processing and target preparation – two pre-treatment laboratories, a carbon dioxide separation and purification laboratory and a graphitisation/target pressing laboratory.

Sample preparation for the cosmogenic isotopes (10Be, 26Al) is performed in a suite of dedicated laboratories and a dedicated custom-designed laboratory is used for the actinide/129I sample preparation.


Australian and international researchers and industry can request access to AMS facilities through ANSTO's Research Portal for users.

Please discuss your proposal with the appropriate ANSTO contact scientist before submitting a proposal as they will assist you in making the correct capability selection.