How old is the first Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) facility in Africa? Less than a single day, and we don’t even need to use AMS’ ability to carbon date artefacts to know that – because Wits University just cut the ribbon at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences (iThemba LABS) Guateng.
AMS is a process used mainly in archaeology and the palaeosciences to determine the chronological age of historical artefacts, geological and hydrological samples such as those of rocks and rainwater, or biological material such as bone or tissue.
“This puts South Africa in a position to produce more and more cutting-edge research in critical areas and is a valuable research and knowledge-producing facility for domestic and international users,” Minister for Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said at the launch.
Funded by the Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the AMS facility will provide African researchers with a faster and more efficient method of sample analysis, which previously required shipping of samples to an overseas facility.
“With the launch of the new AMS lab, South Africa again places itself among the world leaders in accelerator-based research. It addresses the need for both the continued development of a dynamic research environment as well as a rich training ground for technicians and next generation researchers,” said Dr Simon Mullins, head of iThemba LABS’s Gauteng facility.