The A.E. Lalonde AMS Laboratory
The André E. Lalonde Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) Laboratory is designed for the analysis of isotopes at very low concentrations in natural materials and for research into new techniques and applications of this technology. The Lalonde Laboratory is located in uOttawa’s new Advanced Research Complex (ARC), a state-of-the-art, open-concept, research-only building designed to integrate students and researchers from across Canada and the world and to foster innovation and interdisciplinarity in the Geosciences and Photonics.
The cornerstone of the laboratory is a custom-built 3 MV tandem accelerator mass spectrometer manufactured by High Voltage Engineering. It has been designed to analyze an array of isotopes, including 3H, 10Be, 26Al, 36Cl, 129I, 236U and, of course, 14C. In addition, a second injector line, the uOttawa Innovation line, will integrate new AMS technologies, such as the use of low energy ion-gas reaction cells to eliminate interferences from atomic isobars and the use of photonic selection techniques. The spectrometer, located adjacent to the ARC's glazed entrance foyer, is a central feature which highlights the technology of Canada's only AMS to our students – our next generation of researchers.
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Professor Ted Litherland and his group showed, in 1977, that radiocarbon could be analyzed using a tandem accelerator because the abundant isobar 14N did not form negative ions and so did not interfere with 14C. From this discovery, accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) developed and was applied to the analysis of other long-lived isotopes, such as 10Be, 26Al, 36Cl and 129I. Ted went on to establish IsoTrace at the University of Toronto as Canada’s first dedicated AMS facility - eventually it became the only one in Canada. For thirty years, IsoTrace provided radiocarbon and radioiodine analyses to researchers in Canada and abroad, by which time, the equipment needed replacement.
In 2008, the AMS community supported an initiative to acquire a new generation AMS system capable of managing the high volume throughput required by the Canadian research community, the range of radioisotopes in demand and to support the advanced ionization and analysis technologies being developed at IsoTrace. However, more than just a new spectrometer was required. Envisaged was a new building with more space for new sample preparation laboratories, for associated stable isotope and geochemistry laboratories, and room to accommodate students for training and participation in sample analysis. The University of Ottawa, together with the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Fund, supported this vision and so began the establishment of a new Canadian AMS facility, at the University of Ottawa.
The foresight and leadership for the laboratory came from our Vice President of Research, Dr. Mona Nemer and President Allan Rock. However, perhaps the most tireless champion was our Dean of Science, Dr. André E. Lalonde. André worked at all levels on and off campus for the construction of the Advanced Research Complex that hosts our AMS and geoscience laboratories together with the Photonics research labs. Sadly, André passed away in late 2012, just one year short of seeing his vision become reality.