The University of Wollongong (UOW) cosmogenic isotope facility is a feeder laboratory to ANSTO’s AMS facility and produces Be-10 and Al-26 AMS targets from raw geological samples. The facility also prepares samples for the UOW/ANSTO in-situ C-14 extraction laboratory – a $160k facility jointly funded by UOW and ANSTO.

Together, the UOW and ANSTO cosmogenic radionuclide facilities consist of Be-10, Al-26, C-14, and Cl-36 preparation laboratories, and three accelerator mass spectrometers, two of which were recently commissioned. This setup is only matched in capability and quality by a handful of major facilities at Top 1% global universities and national laboratories from Europe and the United States.

The facility consists of four laboratories, each dedicated to specific stages of the sample preparation work, namely:

  • 41.G59a – sieving; washing; drying; magnetic separation;

  • 41.343b – aqua regia wash; removal of aluminosilicates via froth floatation, phosphoric acid treatment, and/or heavy liquid separation; hydrofluoric acid leaching;

  • 41.343c – dissolution of pure quartz powder; column chromatography; Be and Al hydroxide precipitation;

  • 41.GS4c – conversion to Be and Al oxide, pressing into AMS cathodes. 

Sample handling and quartz purification (41.G59a & 41.343b)

The Mineral Separation Laboratory is equipped with a Frantz Magnetic Barrier Separator, an Endecotts sieve shaker and a drying oven. The Geochemistry Sample Preparation Laboratory is equipped with two fume cupboards, a Milli-Q Integral water purification system with 100L tank providing both ELIX and Milli-Q water, a froth-floatation system, and hot-dog rollers for hydrofluoric acid leaching. The laboratory also has numerous ovens for sample drying and equipment for performing heavy-liquid separation and phosphoric acid removal of aluminosilicates.

Metal-Free Clean Laboratory (41.343c)

The layout and built-in services of the new Metal-Free Clean Laboratory have been specially designed to allow for a large number of concurrent users and the sharing of space by methods that would otherwise require separate rooms, due to the high-risk of contamination. To this end the clean laboratory is equiped with two custom-built high-capacity fume cupboards suitable for the fuming of multi-litre volumes of hydrofluoric acid and perchloric acid, and two custom-built evaporation stations, each with six independent evaporation chambers. The laboratory is also equipped with two ductless fume cupboards and four ductless vertical laminar flow cabinets. Purified water is supplied by a Milli-Q Advantage system combined with a Q-POD Element unit. ELIX water is available on tap, fed by the Milli-Q Integral system located in 41.343b via a reticulated network.

AMS Target Pressing Laboratory (41.GS4c)

The laboratory is also a clean room and is equipped with a glove-box and NEC cathode press for pressing Be and Al oxides into AMS cathodes and a Carbolite-Gero ashing furnace with a chamber constructed from fused quartz material for calcining hydroxide gels obtained in 41.343c. The room is also equipped with a four-digit analytical balance, a stereo microscope for inspecting cathodes, and a computer.