The Environmental Isotopes Laboratory (EIL) is an essential cross-disciplinary analytical facility, providing rapid and necessary analytical services to a wide range of private and academic entities. Its commercial analysis activities are a valuable source of income from both institutional and private entities, which also assists in supplementing government funding. The EIL offers excellent exposure for technical and diploma students to the activities of a busy laboratory employing cutting-edge technology, in keeping with the aims and objectives of the NRF. There will be close co-operation with the AMS facility, and these two high-volume analysis facilities will enhance the growth and development of each other. This will result in greatly increased throughput and training of students.
Current Functions and services of EIL with particular relevance to South Africa:
The EIL is an essential research unit in isotope hydrology, especially since other research entities in Gauteng have closed down (Council for Geosciences) or severely curtailed their activities in this field. Activities of the EIL include water resourcesmanagement, recharge estimates, groundwater / surface water interrelationships, urban hydrology, pollution tracing, dam leakage and safety and wetland studies. The EIL also addresses fundamental issues such as the interpretation of 14C in groundwater, and the processes producing harmful dissolved species such as nitrates and fluorides. Environmental isotopes analysis assists in setting up conceptual hydrological models and providing quantitive data.
Services to Corporate and Institutional Clients
A growing number of clients from the private sector and the public service use the EIL’s analytical services on a commercial basis, generating income both for the client and the EIL.This allows, at the least, for a recovery of the running costs for the EIL, and has major potential for significant income generation for TAMS. In addition, the data generated can, in some instances, be utilised for student projects.
The EIL contributes to international programmes like the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP) and the Global Network of Isotopes in Rivers (GNIR) initiated by the IAEA and WMO (World Meteorological Organisation). In addition, it regularly participates in international intercomparisons for quality analysis. It contributes to IHAN (International Hydrological Analytical Network), as well as regional programmes, such as resources assessment, which generate local and regional academic and government linkages.
Academia and Research Collaboration
Analytical services and expertise are rendered to researchers and students from universities, technikons, and other institutes, assisting and partially co-supervising post-graduate students in achieving their higher degrees.
Envisaged Co-operative Research and Student Development over the next 5 years
The EIL will in the future assist the AMS facility by providing 13C data and employ it in isotope hydrology projects. Environmental isotope studies are generally used in conjunction with other analytical techniques. It is often the case that environmental isotope analyses are only carried out once a project is well developed, as they are employed to, for example, validate models.
Environmental isotope studies have been applied in the Earth, Life, and Medical sciences, and the growth potential of this cross-discipline work is being enhanced.