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Radiochemistry and Archaeometry

The radiochemistry laboratories at the Atominstitut fullfill a twofold role:

  1.  They offer infrastructure for the handling and chemical manipulation as well as qualitative and quantitate assessment of open and enclosed radioactive materials. As such, they are a vital part of the operation of the TRIGA Mk II reactor at the institute. The chemical infrastructure is available to all groups at the institute, offering a safe, supervised and controlled environment in which to perform simple chemical operations.

  2. They are operated as part of the radiation physics group to carry out individual research into various topics including, but not limited to Neutron Activation Analysis, Tracer Technology development, High Performance Sample and Source Preparation and Environmental Studies . All of these areas are also covered in our instructional offerings as both lab exercises as well as lectures courses.

Research Topics

Neutron Activation Analysis/Archaeometry: By the application of instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis to archaeologically relevant objects like ceramics, obsidian or pumice, a chemical fingerprint can be obtained. Comparing this chemical fingerprint to our own large database of similar objects or to other published data, it is possible to at least find objects that belong to the same chemical group, indicating a common origin of the objects. In many cases, it is possible to identify the geographical origin of the objects. For the comparison of chemical fingerprints, various statistical multivariate methods are used.

High Performance Sample and Source Preparation: Working at extremely low detection limits and with rare and valuable sample material necessitates development of highly individualized sample preparation methods taking into account possible contamination, often specific to the measurement method that to be applied. In our cooperation with colleagues working in mass spectroscopy but also for samples for in-house Neutron Activation Analysis, we have several decades of experience in preparing high quality samples for AMS but also in the preparation of radioactive sources for use in experimental physics.

Tracer Technology: Observation of the movement of a substance through a process offers insight into the details of the process as well as for localisation of reactions within the process. Applications range from medical applications in diagnosis and therapy to the study of industrial processes.

Environmental Studies: The investigation of the occurrence of natural as well as man-made radioisotopes in nature gives insight into natural processes like e.g. weathering but also into the environmental impact humans have on our planet. The combination of analytical methods available in house (gamma- and alpha spectroscopy, liquid scintillation counting, ICP-MS) makes it possible to cover a wide range of interesting environmental samples ranging from soil and biological material to geological material and both salt and freshwater materials.