Physics & Engineering

New machine to boost paleoscience, climate change & drug discovery research

Accelerator mass spectrometer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Accelerator mass spectrometer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

With AMS scientists can determine how old a fossil is much more accurately and quickly, without having to cut it up and destroying it.

In a large, grey, nondescript building on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road in Johannesburg – just metres away from one of the city’s busiest intersections – particles are being accelerated at up to a million kilometres an hour.

Launched on July 7, the Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy (AMS) laboratory at iThemba Labs is the first of its kind on the continent.

You may ask: “Why is everyone getting so excited by a piece of scientific equipment?” Well, aside from the fact that it accelerates particles at up to a million kilometres an hour, it has become an indispensable scientific tool, especially in South Africa, with our focus on palaeoscience, climate change and drug discovery.

AMS means we can date our own fossils instead of sending them overseas, determine how drugs effect different organs of the body, and calculate how our climate has changed over time and continues to change…Lus for more of this story? Go get seconds at the Mail & Guardian‘s website.

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