Towards the Construction of the Most Powerful Microscope Using Particle Accelerators

Prof Bruce Mellado

About 500 physicists gathered in Amsterdam, Holland, in April to discuss the prospects for this new more powerful accelerator. Prof Bruce Mellado was invited to give a plenary talk at the opening day, attended by the Director General of CERN and other leading members of the High Energy Physics community internationally. Prof Mellado discussed the possibility of attaching a small accelerator of electrons for head on collisions with the protons and heavy Ions of the FCC, which is referred to as the FCC-he option.

Russian Visit

The Accelerator Department recently hosted two Ion Source physicists, Dr Sergey Bogomolov and Dr Andrey Efremov, from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, to collaborate on a project aimed at producing lithium ion beam from the external electron cyclotron resonance ion source (ECRIS). During the research visit, lithium ions, produced inside the ECRIS by means of the oven method were extracted, and ran stable for several hours.

New Collaboration In Africa

Mathis Wiedeking and Peane Maleka visited colleagues at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania to finalize discussions on collaborative projects and on a formal agreement between the two institutes.  The physics group at UDSM includes applied nuclear physics and material science and mutual research interests which are aligned with projects that are ongoing at iThemba LABS on environmental radiation, neutron activation and X-ray diffraction were identified. Agreement was also reached for a Memorandum of Understanding between UDSM and iThemba LABS.

Picture from left: Prof Lyimo (Principal (Dean) of the College of Natural and Applied Science), Dr Maleka, Dr Kassim (HoD Physics Department UDSM), Dr Wiedeking

The First Biennial African Conference on Fundamental Physics and Applications and the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications June-July 2018, Windhoek, Namibia

This conference themed “African Conference on Physics, ACP2018” is the first of its kind in Africa! It is an international event including scientists from Europe, USA and Africa. It took place from 28 June to 4 July 2018 at Namibia University of Science and Technology.

iThemba LABS was represented at both the conference and the school, with plenary talks by the Deputy Director, Kobus Lawrie, on “Research at iThemba LABS and Long Range Plan” as well as by Zinhle Buthelezi (Senior Scientist, Department of Subatomic Physics), an invited speaker, who presented a talk titled “Overview of results from heavy-ion collisions at ultra-relativistic energies”.  Siegie Förtsch (Senior Scientist, Department of Subatomic Physics) lectured on “Heavy Ion Experiments” at the school, which was attended by postgraduate students from institutes across Africa, some who are based at iThemba LABS.

A “Peep” at the Recent Activities of the SA-ALICE Team at CERN

The iThemba LABS ALICE team was at CERN in April – June 2018 to participate in the data taking and upgrade related activities. Zinhle Buthelezi (Senior Scientist) served as Run Manager for the ALICE Run Coordination. This is an important role in the experiment since it entails assisting the Run Coordination team with the daily operations of the experiment. Amal Sarkar (Postdoc) and Sibaliso Mhlanga (PhD student) took on-call shifts for the Muon Spectrometer. At the end of May 2018 Siegie Förtsch (Senior Scientist), Rony Kuriakose (electronics, INIT department) and Zinhle Buthelezi participated in the test beams for the upgrade of the ALICE Muon Tracking Chamber front-end electronics and readout at the CERN SPS.

The picture shows R Kuriakose, Z Buthelezi and her MSc student, Christine Monteverdi, during the setup at the SPS.

On 30 May 2018 Z Buthelezi participated in the LHC Physics 2018 event themed “Facebook live on LHC physics season 2018 – What’s up LHC?” It was organized by the CERN Outreach group and streamed live on Facebook. The event is archived at https://www.facebook.com/cern/videos/1715712755182729/ and the article about the event is documented at http://alicematters.web.cern.ch/?q=content/node/1109.


IEEE School and Women in Science Event

Dr Zinhle Buthelezi

A Women in Science event was held at iThemba LABS on Wednesday, July 11th. The event was hosted by an IEEE-sponsored school of instrumentation in Particle Physics. The event was organized and chaired by Professor Cinzia Da Via, from the University of Manchester, in collaboration with Professor Igle Gledhill from the University of the Witwatersrand and Dr Joyce Mwangama from UCT who also chairs the IEEE WIE (Women in Engineering) affinity group in Cape Town. Three prominent speakers addressed the audience: Prof Diane Grayson, from the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr Zinhle Buthelezi, from iThemba LABS and Dr Joyce Mwangama from UCT.

Learners from Thandukulu High School

The event, aimed to encourage the discussion amongst men and women on issues related to biases in scientific working environments, was attended by the participants of the school, iThemba LABS staff members and a selected group of motivated learners and teachers from Thandukulu High-School.

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.