As part of the Comenius University and the Slovak Technical University project "Advancing University Capacity and Competence in Research, Development, and Innovation (ACCORD)", co-financed by the European Union, a unique High-energy ion analyzer for accelerator mass spectrometry of isotopes (AMS) was put into operation in the Center for Nuclear and Accelerator Technologies (CENTA) at the Department of Nuclear Physics and Biophysics (KJFB) of the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of the Comenius University.

27. 02. 2023 18.44 hod.
By: Pavol Povinec

 AMS technology will significantly expand radioisotope research from tritium through beryllium-10, carbon-14, aluminum-26, chlorine-36, calcium-41, iron-55, strontium-90, iodine-129, cesium-135,137, lead-210, radium-226, protactinium-231, isotopes of thorium, uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium up to isotopes of curium, as it represents a revolution in the analysis of isotopes because it allows to carry out research that was not possible before either because of the low sensitivity of the analytical equipment or because of the necessity to use too large samples that were not available.

A target, prepared from the investigated sample is placed in the ion source, from which a beam of studied ions is forwarded to tandem accelerator, and then after acceleration and focusation is forwarded to the ion analyzer. The analyzer directly analyzes radioactive nuclei as if they were stable, so there is no need to wait for their radioactive decay because the mass of the ions is analyzed directly, not the radiation that arises during the radioactive decay of nuclei (e.g., beta-radiation), which because of their long half-lives is serious problem. By using accelerated ions, the background is substantially reduced, so it is possible to determine even a few tens of investigated radioactive atoms in the sample, compared to tens to hundreds of millions of atoms, needed in traditional analyses.

The built accelerator center, including AMS and IBA technologies, supplied by National Electrostatic Corp. (USA) and KVANT, s.r.o., together with low-background gamma-spectrometry, which has been a traditional research program at DNPB for about fifty years, will belong to the important world laboratories engaged in ion technologies and in radioactivity studies of terrestrial and extraterrestrial objects.

A view of the High energy ion analyzer for accelerator mass spectrometry together with CENTA team (in the background from the right: electromagnetic analyzer, electrostatic analyzers and the-end-of-the-line ion detector). 

Pavel Povinec
Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of the Comenius University