MRD staff and students to attend AMRS2017

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.

Visit by Dr AK Tyagi

Dr Tyagi, in the yellow shirt with MRD staff and students after one of his lectures

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.

Auger electrons emitted by iodine-123

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.

Krypton and Xenon beam experiments

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.

Nuclear Astrophysics Summer School

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.

MoU signed between IThemba LABS and the University of Oslo.

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.

Delegates to the Signing of MoU

Dr Azaiez and Prof Johansen signing MoU

Radionuclide Production Department Infrastructure Upgrades

Over the past year the Department installed, commissioned and trained staff on the PinAAcle 900Z Series Atomic Absorption Spectrometer (AA) and the Optima 8300 Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometer (ICP). This state-of-the-art equipment is used in the quality control (metal analysis) of the radiopharmaceuticals which gives us the capabilities to perform a specific metal ion detection limit of less 0.01 µg/L in analysis volumes of 1-10 μL with the AA and 0.1 – 100 µg/L in larger analysis volumes (ml) with the ICP, in other words detecting metals in samples at very low levels of 10-6 to 10-9 grams. The completion of this project formed part of the continuous maintenance and upgrade plan of the facility to ensure Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliance.


Inductively Coupled PLASMA Spectrometer (ICP)

Atomic Absorption Spectrometer (AA)


The second two weekends in September were very successful at the AFRODITE facility with the Investigation of the Classic Shape-coexistence and Transitional Nuclei of 148Sm and 150Gd by researchers at the

University of the Western Cape (JF Sharpey-Shafer) and University of Zululand (S Ntshangase) This continues the systematic study of the region of Segrè chart where many of the spins and parities states remain uncertain. The AFRODITE facility, recently upgraded to include the new fast-timing array, was used to detect the gamma-rays from the nuclear states and to reveal more about the structure of these nuclei.

New Data Acquisition System at the 6mv Tandem Accelerator

Light heavy-ion coincidence scattering experiments on the “C” line at the iThemba LABS AMS Department in Gauteng have just received a considerable shot-in-the-arm due to the implementation of  a new CAMAC-based data acquisition (DAQ) system.  The system is controlled by the ROOT and MIDAS software on a Linux platform developed by iThemba LABS staff. This new DAQ will service the needs for ongoing basic nuclear physics experimentation on the Tandem C-line in the years to come.

One of the top AMS experts worldwide will visit the AMS Department in October, namely Professor Keith Fifield, from the Australian National University (ANU).

Applied Radiation Biology Training

Postgraduates from the Centre of Applied Radiation Sciences & Technologies (CARST) of the MMabatho campus of North West University spent 18-22 September 2017 at iThemba LABS for training in applied radiation biology.

The 11 postgraduates received lectures and did practical work to assess cellular radiation damage using cytogenetic methods. They also participated in an experiment with DNA uptake of 123-I labelled deoxyuridine – a compound used to study the biological damage of very short range Auger electrons.

They also participated in an experiment with DNA uptake of 123-I labelled deoxyuridine – a compound used to study the biological damage of very short range Auger electrons.