NRCF News in the News!

NRCF News in the News!

NRCF News in the News!

NRCF News in the News!

The PIMS instrument up and running

The Positive Ion Mass Spectrometry (PIMS) program has continued apace in the SUERC AMS laboratory, assisted by research funding from NERC, and in collaboration with the National Electrostatics Corporation (NEC, USA), and Pantechnik (France).


News of the invention and its implications for science has reached the UK media, following BBC articles online, on TV, and on the radio. Professor Stewart Freeman and Dr. Richard Shanks, together with the Head of the NRCF (Environment, Dr. Philippa Ascough, were interviewed to describe the technology, and what it will mean for UK based research funded by NERC and other bodies.

Coverage reached approximately 7.8 million people, and was picked up by news outlets across the country. Links to the BBC articles are given below. (Online on the BBC website) (Listen again on BBC Radio)

Updated: 6th July, 2018

Graduation of SUERC PhD student: Dr. Jessica Bownes

Jess Graduation

‌Jessica’s thesis, ‘Reassessing the Scottish Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition: Questions of Diet and Chronology’ was an in-depth study of dietary change and the implications of Marine Radiocarbon Reservoir Effects upon chronology over this crucial phase in Scottish prehistory.

UoG GraduationThis involved producing a huge dataset of stable isotopic measurements of modern analogue and archaeological materials, in order to use Bayesian statistical analysis to produce a fine-detail picture of human diet. Some of these results are already published in the Journal Radiocarbon (Bownes et al., 2017. Radiocarbon 59, 1275-1294), and Jess has also co-authored publications exploring issues such as Marine 14C Reservoir Effects from the Mesolithic to the Medieval.

We congratulate Jess on her achievements and wish her all the best in her future career!  

 Updated: 6th July, 2018


 “Dynamics of Charcoal Alteration in a Tropical Biome: A Biochar-Based Study” A new paper authored by the NRCF Head, Philippa Ascough

Pyrogenic Carbon (PyC) is one of the most stable forms of organic carbon on Earth, and a ‘missing link’ in the carbon cycle. But a new paper in Frontiers in Earth Science has found that in some soils, carbon can be lost from this material over less than 12 months. This information means that PyC forms an important part of our ‘living’ soil environment, and that it’s possible this long-term carbon sink can become a source, depending on its environment.

Read the full OPEN ACCESS article here:

Ascough P.L, Bird M.I, Meredith W, Snape C, Tilston E, Apperley D, Bernabé A, Shen L. 2018. Dynamics of Charcoal Alteration in a Tropical Biome: A Biochar-Based Study. Frontiers in Earth Science.

 3-D image of charcoal

3-D image of charcoal (PyC) exposed to the environment showing cracking

 Updated: 4th June, 2018


“Fungi respire millennium-old carbon from Antarctic soil”  -  New paper using NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride) molecular sieve sampling methods.

A new study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that discrete taxa of fungi respire ancient carbon locked away in Antarctic soil. The study used the unique molecular sieve carbon dioxide sampling techniques developed at NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride), and may represent the first time that carbon dioxide from an individual taxa of fungi has been radiocarbon-dated.

Newsham KK, Garnett MH, Robinson CH, Cox F (2018) Discrete taxa of saprotrophic fungi respire different ages of carbon from Antarctic soils. Scientific Reports 8(1): 7866

To view the British Antarctic Survey Press release:

To view the paper:

Updated: 30th May, 2018

Grant success!

The NRCF has received notification of a successful Royal Society Grant collaborating with Sunitha Pangala (Open University): ’ The role of lateral and tree transport in methane cycling in pristine and disturbed peatlands’. The work will take place in Indonesia and Brunei, providing exciting opportunities for international fieldwork and collaboration.  The work concerns tropical wetlands, and the role of trees in methane emissions, particularly the impacts of deforestation. Recent research has shown that trees are major conduits for the release of methane from wetlands (to a much greater extent than previously thought – see Pangala et al. 2017. Nature. ‘Large emissions from floodplain trees close the Amazon methane budget').

PIMS arrives at SUERC…a new take on measuring radiocarbon?

Kenny (NEC) and Rich (SUERC), positioning the first PIMS bending magnet (BM1)

Kenny (NEC) and Rich (SUERC), positioning the first PIMS bending magnet (BM1).

The SUERC AMS team have been working hard with NEC and Pantechnik to develop an instrument for Positive Ion Mass Spectrometry (aka PIMS), that can measure radiocarbon, among other cosmogenic isotopes…and the machine has finally arrived from the USA, ready to assemble. 

The end goal is to make an exceptionally simple, compact, efficient system for radiocarbon measurement that requires only gas samples (i.e. of CO2) for measurement, with all the accuracy and precision of traditional graphite, without the need to make solid samples. We are told by the team there’s no accelerator, plus faster and cleaner measurement.

More information on the system can be found at:

The AMS team are aiming to present results at the Radiocarbon Conference this year in Trondheim, so watch this space! Also, follow @SUERC1 on Twitter to get all the updates as the project progresses.

Publicity for our PhD student

Melissa HyPy

Melissa Nikkhah-Eshghi featured with the HyPy.

Melissa Nikkhah-Eshghi was featured in the March Edition of publicity for Environmental Protection Scotland, describing her PhD project ("Developing a new chemical link between composition, abundance, and sources of atmospheric black carbon in a major urban environment’’). The full news story can be found at (‘Melissa Zones in on Black Carbon in Glasgow’).

Melissa is only in the first few months of her NERC PhD and is generating a considerable amount of interest, due to the high profile of air pollution and its health impacts in the news at present. She’s supervised by Philippa Ascough (SUERC), Jaime Toney (GES), and Mat Heal (Edinburgh).