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by Tilo Arnhold
Leipzig, Germany (SPX) Aug 31, 2012
More than 250 international scientists will be meeting in the first week of September in Leipzig to share their experiences on the latest methods and applications using stable isotopes. Stable isotopes are a tool that can be used in a wide range of areas in natural sciences and medicine as, with their help, it is possible to establish the origin of substances, and dynamic processes can be made visible.
For example, it is possible to establish where a red wine really comes from, the cause of water damage, how the concentration of carbon dioxide at the South Pole evolved, whether microorganisms break down pollutants in soil and water or the effects a medication has on the body.
Just like with criminal investigators, stable isotopes help environmental researchers to follow traces and solve mysteries. The research on stable, i.e. non-radioactive, isotopes has been carried out in the Leipzig Science Park for more than half a century and brings together scientists from a range of disciplines.
European isotope researchers visit Leipzig
This year's meeting is being organised by the German Association of Stable Isotope Research (ASI e.V.) and its purpose is to establish closer links with European partner organisations from Austria, France, the United Kingdom, Benelux and Eastern Europe.
Over half a century of research with stable isotopes
Leipzig has a long tradition of research in this area. In the 1960s a special institute for stable isotopes was built on the former research site of the GDR's Academy of Sciences at Permoserstrabe. The 40-metre tower, which can still be seen from far away today, was used for many years to enrich a range of stable isotopes, with 15N the most important. The UFZ today uses research with stable isotopes in a number of fields.
Stable isotopes a kind of "Swiss Army Knife"
Also on the agenda are the identification of the origin of foods, forensics, climate research and the latest analytical techniques. Stable isotopes can be used, for example, to reconstruct the climatic history, better understand the origin of living beings and prove whether contaminants in groundwater or soil are being biodegraded. JESIUM, as a user forum for isotope applications, then passes the ball directly on to young scientists.
Future forensic scientists visit Leipzig
Following the traces of organic pollutants is one of the greatest challenges in environmental sciences today. Chemicals can enter the environment by chance or on purpose. Following their traces is an important prerequisite for effective environmental protection. For example, chemicals from different producers and suppliers are compared to establish who is responsible for causing damage. And this finally leads us to the UFZ's Department of Isotope Biogeochemistry, whose work focuses on this area and is hosting the CSI:ENVIRONMENT training course.
"With stable carbon isotopes we not only want to investigate the degradation of common groundwater contaminants, but further develop the methods so that for example the fate of chloroacetamide herbicides in planted wetlands or the photochemical degradation of the petrol additive MTBE in the atmosphere can be investigated. As these substances can be toxic, it is important to find out whether and how these substances may enter the environment," explains Dr. Ivonne Nijenhuis of the UFZ. The training of young isotope researchers in networks such as 'CSI:ENVIRONMENT' is therefore making an important contribution for the next few decades.
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
Space Technology News - Applications and Research
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