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Today, says Ellam, the teaching and research staff are a mix of different disciplines, including two specialists in biomedical research, four geologists, two physicists and three chemists.The total staff numbers 80 people, including technicians and post-graduate students.In 1963, SURRC was staffed primarily by physicists and nuclear scientists, using the low-power reactor for teaching and research, including academic and commercial applications.
The new device will be used by a range of researchers from different universities, funded by research grants, but it will also be available to oil and gas companies, thus bringing in new revenues to SUERC.The centre also provides a range of highly specialised facilities for the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), including: Radiocarbon Facility (Environment) These facilities are used to support NERC-funded research into major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health and the genetic make-up of life on Earth.All university researchers who qualify for NERC support can use the facilities, which are also available for commercial research, enabling the centre to function with funding from multiple sources.We had to extract tiny samples from the material, whether a bone, piece of soil or a fibre, and burn the samples to turn them into carbon dioxide gas.“We then had to clean up the carbon dioxide, convert it to solid carbon, and measure the carbon-14 on a particle accelerator.
“PIMS is different from every other radiocarbon dating technique available.
“The challenge is to find new opportunities,” says Ellam, “and identify new challenges.