Originally created 07/05/96

Lottery funds help bringequipment to ecology lab



AIKEN - Though it's nearly as difficult to explain as it is to pronounce, researchers at the Savannah River Ecology Lab are nonetheless grateful to be getting it.

It's called a Fourier transform ion cyclotron mass spectrometer (FTMS) and promises to make detection of contaminants in environmental settings a great deal easier.

The $540,000 mouthful of equipment, expected to arrive at the ecology lab in December, was paid for with Georgia Lottery funds awarded to the University of Georgia, along with matching money from the United States Department of Energy. Researchers at the ecology lab will use the equipment to detect contaminants in soil, water and other naturally occurring substances.

"One of the more difficult problems we face in terms of bio-remediation and overall risk assessment is determining some of the contaminants that are produced through reactions with the environment," said Gary Mills, associate research scientist at the ecology lab.

"Sometimes the (resulting) products are worse than the parent (products) if we don't know how it's being processed in the environment."

Dr. Mills said the equipment will allow researchers to isolate and analyze smaller amounts of contaminants that many modern spectrometers are unable to detect.

Though the FTMS will be ideal for studying conditions around Savannah River Site where reprocessing of the approximately 34 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste left from the Cold War is underway, Dr. Mills also hopes to offer use of the equipment to researchers and scientists around the Southeast.

"This is probably not a tool that would be used in the sense of emergency response," Dr. Mills said. "It is probably more likely to be used to address more complex problems. It has been widely applied in the field of biochemistry biomedical science and pharmaceutical sciences."

The FTMS is the second piece of equipment the SREL has acquired through Georgia Lottery and DOE funds. Last year, the lab also purchased a $350,000 laser spectrometer, which is used to study how heavy metals bond with and react to stream sediments and soil after remediation.

Jane Sanders, SREL spokeswoman, said lottery funds comprised about one-third of each of the two purchases, with the remaining funds coming from DOE.