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Nuclear and Isotope Science

GNS Science has a long and proud history in nuclear and isotope science and its applications for the benefit of New Zealand. Developing industrial and environmental applications based on nuclear science is part of GNS Science’s core purpose. Presently our nuclear science capability covers four areas: stable isotopes, cosmogenic radionuclides, ion beam technology, and non-invasive scanning. These techniques are applied in many core business areas of GNS Science, including environmental monitoring, energy and resources, understanding geological hazards, food authentication and materials science. We have the world’s longest running radiocarbon laboratory, the world’s most accurate tritium water dating laboratory, a purpose-built state-of-the-art Ice Core Research Centre, a stable isotope laboratory and New Zealand’s only ion beam facility, supporting a wide range of cutting-edge research and development projects undertaken by our scientists and collaborators around the world.

Visit our blog on nuclear science: nuclearsciencenz.blogspot.co.nz

Air Quality Monitoring

Air quality monitoring station

Smaller air particles are a threat to human health. Scientists at GNS Science use a range of nuclear analytical techniques to determine airborne particle elemental composition and to identify and quantify sources of air particulate matter within airsheds, providing crucial information for better management of air quality. Since 1998 GNS Science has analysed more than 40,000 air samples from monitoring stations in New Zealand and overseas. Find out more

Groundwater Resource Monitoring

groundwater bore

Groundwater is a vital resource that presently accounts for about one third of all water usage in New Zealand. The challenge is to access water in sustainable ways, and to protect sources from contamination. Study of isotopic tracers is helping us to understand groundwater resources, and the rivers, streams, springs, lakes wetlands and estuaries fed by groundwater. This knowledge is a powerful tool for effective aquifer management and business risk mitigation. Find out more

Industry Applications

GNS Science Ion Beam Implanter

Based on nuclear analytical techniques, the GNS Science ion beam team has developed non-invasive industrial scanners for the meat and timber industries. We are also exploring coating techniques to create functional surfaces for improved durability, hardness and colour, reduced friction and a range of other improved characteristics, as well as nano-particles with novel electromagnetic properties for making better magnetic sensors. Find out more

Energy and Earth Resources

oil samples for isotope analysis

Our expertise in the isotopic analysis of hydrocarbons is helping to build a comprehensive body of geochemical information about New Zealand’s oil and gas resources and mineral deposits. GNS Science is also using nanotechnology processes to provide a breakthrough in electricity production and greatly enhance thermal and electrical conductivity of power generators. Find out more

Geo-hazards and Climate Change

climate change studies

A range of natural radioactive isotopes in geological and organic materials provide a valuable tool for determining the time when geological events occurred.  Isotopic analysis of ice core also improves our understanding of what drives climate change. Find out more

Food Authentication

Honey authentication studies

Food authentication uses the natural abundance of environmental isotopes and elemental concentrations as tracers to determine the geographic region-of-origin of foods, to differentiate between organic and conventionally grown foods, and to detect food adulteration. Find out more

Human History


Radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis provide objective methods of determining the time ranges and tracing the geographic origin of objects. This knowledge enriches our understanding of human history. Find out more