A group of about 20 staff, postdoctoral and postgraduate students from the Materials Research Department will attend the 9th African Materials Research Society (AMRS2017) conference to be held in Gaborone, Botswana from 11 to 15 December 2017. The expected attendance is approximately 500 delegates from across the world. At its heart the AMRS series of conferences allows the scientific and research communities to build knowledge, foster relationships and promote action for further understanding and collaborations in the broad fields associated with materials science and technology. The iThemba LABS delegates will be led by Prof Malik Maaza who is one of the keynote speakers at the conference. Amongst the delegates from iThemba LABS, 6 are postdoctoral fellows and 13 are postgraduate students whose submitted abstracts were accepted for oral contributions.
The Materials Research Department had the privilege and honor to host Dr Avesh Kumar Tyagi, Head of Solid State Chemistry, Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Mumbai in India.
Dr Tyagi specializes in the fields of chemistry of functional materials, nanomaterials and nuclear materials. Dr Tyagi’s visit was in the framework of the UNESCO UNISA African Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, a field in which he is considered to be the world expert. During his week-long visit Dr Tyagi presented a series of lecture to the postgraduate students in the field of materials chemistry. Dr Tyagi also met with the directorate with the aim to establishing collaboration with iThemba LABS.
Research development work is ongoing to study the biological damage of Auger electrons emitted by iodine-123 for use in radiation therapy. These particles travel only in the nanometre range – a distance comparable to the diameter of a DNA molecule. Recently an organic compound was successfully synthesised as a pre-cursor for radiolabelling that will ensure the up-take of iodine-123 into the DNA of cells. For this a tributyl tin group was attached to a DNA building block derivative with excellent purity. This is needed to ensure high radiolabelling efficiency. The structure of the pre-cursor was confirmed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
During November heavy Krypton and Xenon beams will be used in the AFRODITE vault. These massive beams bombard Deuterium, an isotope of the lightest element, Hydrogen.
The use of these heavy beams allows for the study of interesting nuclear physics properties that can help in our understanding of how elements are produced in the universe. The experiments take place in the AFRODITE vault and utilize four different type of detectors, including the first three ALBA detectors.
A summer school has been organized by iThemba LABS, the University of Oslo and Stellenbosch University and runs from 8 to 22 November. The courses are taught by top scientists in the field and are aimed at advanced MSc and PhD students and provide the students with an understanding of the main astrophysical processes to produce elements in the cosmos. In particular, the connection of nuclear physics data to astrophysics is covered, which includes hands-on experience with the state-of-the-art theoretical models.
On Monday 20 November a MoU was signed between iThemba LABS and the University of Oslo. The event was attended by Ms Trin Skymoen, the Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Prof Finn-Eirik Johansen, the Dean of the University of Oslo and Dr Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director, International Relations and Cooperation, NRF.
Gold Nano particles (AuNP’s) are used by postgraduates from the University of the Western Cape in radiation biology studies performed at iThemba LABS. These small particles enhance the radiation dose absorbed by cancer cells. To date the interaction with AuNP’s and X-rays has been noted that result in more radiation damage compared to cells irradiated without AuNP’s. Currently studies are conducted to test the influence of AuNP’s in cells treated with protons and neutrons.
iThemba LABS was represented at the “Physics Opportunities using CAGRA and RCNP tracking Germanium detector workshop” held at Osaka University, Japan from 10-12 October. Similar to the AFRODITE array, the CAGRA project consists of a gamma-ray array of 16 detectors on loan from Japan, US, and China. The CAGRA campaign experiments were performed by combining the CAGRA array with the low-energy radioactive ion beam line, the muon detector MuSiC, and the high-resolution spectrometer Grand Raiden at the Research Center for Nuclear Physics, Osaka) which is similar to the K600 spectrometer. The latest developments on ALBA and AFRODITE as well as the SAIF project was presented.
The XXIV Nuclear Physics Workshop was organized by the Department of Theoretical Physics, Maria Curie-
Skłodowska University in Lublin in collaboration with Heavy Ion Laboratory, University of Warsaw. The general subject of the Workshop was: „Spontaneous symmetry breaking in nuclear physics”. Research on chiral symmetry carried out at iThemba LABS was presented.
A delegation from South Africa attended the NUSTAR meeting in Slovenia in the last week of September to investigate and discuss possible contributions iThemba
LABS can make to this large collaboration. The NUSTAR collaboration consists of more than 700 scientists from more than 170 institutions, devoted to the study of Nuclear Astrophysics, Reactions and Structure through the development of instrumentation and methods for future experiments at the FAIR facility. With the construction of FAIR only started recently, the NUSTAR collaboration is currently busy preparing for Phase 0 experiments that will use the existing GSI accelerator infrastructure. These experiments, which will commence in 2018, have the dual purpose of testing numerous new detector systems as well as provide opportunities for new physics measurements. Projects within NUSTAR are at the cutting edge of science and technology. With a suitable model defining the collaboration iThemba LABS and South Africa could benefit enormously from potential technology and knowledge transfer.