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A large portion of the South African lives in townships and informal settlements under severe poor conditions. One of the major energy sources used for cooking and heating is wood burning which leads to massive smog and air pollution. Using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) facility one can distinguish between different anthropogenic contributions to CO2 pollution, namely fossil fuel and wood burning. This is achieved by measuring the 14 C/ 12 C isotopic ratios of aerosol particulate matter. The absence of 14 C in fossil carbon material and the known 14 C/ 12 C ratio levels in contemporary carbon material allows us to distinguish between contemporary carbon and fossil carbon and quantify their different contributions.

Furthermore, the AMS technique can be combined with PIXE (Proton Induced X-ray Emission) in the same accelerator laboratory. PIXE analysis can determine the elemental composition of particulate matter at the parts per million level (ppm), such as Ca, Ti, Mn, Fe, Zn and Pb. This is of particular importance for Johannesburg where most of the heavy industry including the mining is concentrated resulting in heavy metal pollution.

Figure of AMS and a nuclear reactor

Soweto - Photo Credits: Romina Facchi

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