Canada Foundation for Innovation awards $2.6M to André E. Lalonde Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) Laboratory for groundbreaking isotope detection and analysis

Posted on Monday, January 9, 2017

The Canada Foundation for Innovation has awarded a $2.6 million grant to support the André E. Lalonde Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) Laboratory’s world class research in detecting and analyzing very low concentrations of isotopes in natural samples. Applications of this research include determining ocean circulation patterns, monitoring the use and storage of nuclear materials, and radiocarbon dating of the precise period when Indigenous peoples in what is now the Yukon made the transition from spears to bows and arrows.

“Our researchers are world leaders in developing new technologies pushing the limits of AMS applications, and generating new private-sector partnerships and industrial opportunities,” said Mona Nemer, vice-president, research at the University of Ottawa. “The Canada Foundation for Innovation’s investment will help to support our unique research environment, which engages students in hands-on training to develop the next generation of Canadian innovators.”

The Laboratory explores key environmental issues such as the contamination of soil and water from nuclear or oil sands activities. University of Ottawa researchers at the AMS lab provided the data used in a recent Ontario Power Generation report for the proposed nuclear waste bunker at the Bruce nuclear power plant near Kincardine, Ont.

Dr Liam Kieser

Once the natural carbon samples are ready, a minute amount is packed into the grey container in Liam Kieser’s left hand and loaded into the AMS for isotope measurement.

“The quality of our equipment and our staff is unparalleled. One of our graduate students, Matt Herod, detected exceptionally minute traces of the Fukushima radioactive fallout in rainwater collected in Vancouver and the Yukon,” said Dr. Liam Kieser, director of the AMS laboratory. “These are traces that were much, much lower than the naturally occurring, safe levels of radiation in the environment they were collected in, and it really demonstrates the sensitivity we are able to obtain in advancing the field of AMS.”

The grant will provide ongoing support to the AMS Laboratory, which began installing equipment three years ago to the day of today’s announcement.

“Word has spread in the AMS community about the confidence experts in the field have in the quality of the data we produce,” said Dr. Ian Clark, full professor at the Department of Earth Sciences and member of the Laboratory’s executive committee. “We are renowned nationally and internationally as one of the top labs in the world for the kind of work that we do.

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