Prof Keith Fifield visits AMS group

The Accelerator Mass Spectrometry group recently hosted one of the pioneers of AMS, Prof Keith Fifield of the Australian National University.

The AMS detects rare cosmogenic isotopes 14C, 10Be and 26Al at abundances in the order of one atom in 1016. The 14C laboratory has made exceptional progress and Prof Fifield’s visit coincided with the measurement of the 1000th AMS 14C sample. Detection precision is <0.5%, which is in line with international levels, and accuracy has been demonstrated by measuring inter-laboratory comparison samples.

The AMS team is currently working on reducing background contamination and reducing sample graphitization time. Instrument blanks on the AMS are the equivalent of 70 000 years, suggesting that the iThemba LABS AMS radiocarbon facility is going to be comparable with the best in the world. The AMS group secured IAEA funding to procure instrumentation to measure 13C/12C ratios necessary in the production of radiocarbon dates. The capability to prepare and measure 10Be and 26Al is awaiting the completion of lengthy procurement procedures.

The team is also co-supervising a PhD and 9 MSc candidates, hosting students and interns from several institutions, and participating in research partnerships with local and international partners. The in-house research is currently focusing on 236U tracing in the ocean, climate reconstructions, and dating the climate record from the Tswaing meteorite impact crater near Pretoria.

Mandela Legacy Education Week

A Mandela legacy initiative with a focus on education will be held at iThemba LABS from 18-21 July as part of Mandela Day celebrations.  All staff are invited and encouraged to participate.

The week will start with a ”take a girl child to work” initiative on the 18th July 2017 as we endeavour to grow the number of females in the science research space. In a bid to link iThemba LABS to one of the pillars of Mandela’s legacy, a passion for education, 20 learners would be hosted for a three day job shadow programme. All participants will receive official iThemba LABS branded items upon completion of their job-shadow assignment.  Lunch will be included every day.

The “take a girl child to work programme” aligns with the NRF 2020 strategy to encourage more females to follow a career in science, and more specifically in the accelerator based sciences. This initiative also provides an opportunity for female learners to be mentored and informed of challenges and reward milestones on the journey of women in science.

Job shadow week will seek to bring learners to the iThemba LABS research site to highlight the varying career paths and research areas available. The programme will introduce the facility with a broad overview, and then have groups of learners job shadow individuals in the different departments.

Local schools and CIT partner schools will receive invitations to take part in the initiative. iThemba LABS
staff members are also invited to nominate learners to take part in the programme.

Donations Drive

As part of the 67 minutes for Mandela campaign, iThemba LABS will be hosting a donation drive from the beginning of July.  Staff are encouraged make donations.

These items will be donated to The Ark City of refuge (Youth boys Home (Facebook @ ‘The Ark City of Refuge’) on 18 July, Mandela Day.

For more information contact Hilton Tobias at htobias@tlabs.ac.za or Siphokazi Dunge at sdunge@tlabs.ac.za.

Public Lecture – Prof Suprakas Ray

Imagine a sticker, slapped onto a miner’s sleeve that could warn underground workers about the presence of toxic or flammable gases; or a material that could adsorb heavy metal pollutants from mine wastewater without the need for large, expensive and power-hungry purification equipment. Such elegant solutions in the context of local challenges like mine safety, pollution, electricity supply, and providing clean water to communities, would make a big difference and it requires big thinking