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First beam on target At the new Tandetron

First beam on target was achieved at the Nuclear Microprobe line at zero degrees during March 2018.  The scanned image of the beam on a Cu grid with letters (128 x 128 pixels and a maximum area of 2.667 mm) is shown in Fig. 1. Figure 2 shows the full NMP end station including the scanning coils, quadrupoles and scattering chamber ready installed in the zero-degree line.


Fig. 1: Image of the first total x ray scan

Fig. 2: NMP end-station installed at the Zero degree line


The Accelerator Department recently hosted Dr Freddy Poirier of the Cyclotron Facility at ARRONAX (Accelerator for Research in Radiochemistry and Oncology at Nantes Atlantic). One of the prime reasons for the visit was to discuss future collaboration between iThemba LABS and the Cyclotron Facility at ARRONAX. ARRONAX is particularly interested in the beam diagnostics used for high intensity beams, while iThemba LABS could gain from ARRONAX’s operational experience with 70 MeV cyclotrons. ARRONAX has been operating a C70 cyclotron build by IBA and which is used for a range of applications such as production of radionuclides, radiobiology research, and measurement of nuclear data. Dr Poirier also presented a colloquium on the studies and upgrades on the cyclotron C70 ARRONAX.

NRF CEO visits iThemba LABS

The CEO of the NRF, Dr Molapo Qhobela, visited iThemba LABS on Tuesday 6 March 2018 as part of his roadshow to engage in open conversation with the NRF staff at National Research Facilities.

In his address, Dr Qhobela placed emphasis on the concept of a single NRF, where the core values of passion for research excellence, competitive world-class service, respect, integrity and accountability should not only be subscribed to, but lived on daily basis as an integral part of the organizational culture.

He highlighted the unique space occupied by iThemba LABS within the clusters of National Research Facilities administered by the NRF, and went on to present some of iThemba LABS’ recent achievements and future plans. The NRF CEO specifically painted an overwhelmingly positive forecast towards the realization of the SAIF as the future flagship project of iThemba LABS whose full implementation is centered around the acquisition of the 70 MeV cyclotron.

His presentation also made specific references with respect to the recent discussions on the Amendment of the NRF Act, including the extension of the scope to “exercise the powers of the Foundation outside the (SA) Republic”

He concluded his presentation with an open invitation to the NRF staff to continue utilising their various professional expertise in the strengthening of the NRF as a Government agency mandated to contribute towards national development through funding and provision of state of the art research infrastructure as a means to facilitate knowledge generation and innovation in all fields of science and technology.

Global challenge discussions at iThemba LABS

Participants to the ANSTT2018 Workshop

A very successful workshop was held at iThemba LABS in March where over 70 participants from countries including Botswana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Nigeria and the United Kingdom met to discuss collaboration and how to develop capacity building activities in topics and techniques in nuclear structure physics and in nuclear science.
The workshop focused on the application of advanced digital techniques to radiation detection including detailed discussion of techniques for measuring the lifetimes of nuclear levels and of environmental measurements and metrology.  The workshop brought together those who have experience working in these subjects to explore initial ideas for sharing expertise. It concluded with a discussion on how to develop existing collaborations, build new ones and transfer knowledge between the participants.

The workshop was organized and hosted by iThemba LABS and partially funded by the UK STFC’s Global Challenge Research Fund.

iThemba LABS at the Workshop on Modern Aspects in Nuclear Structure

The IVth Topical Workshop on Modern Aspects in Nuclear Structure took place in Bormio, Italy in February and was attended by iTL staff members Drs Pete Jones, Luna Pellegri and Ricky Smit. This workshop with 100 oral contributions over six days was attended 159 scientists from more than 10 countries and hosted by Luna Pellegri’s alma mater, Università degli Studi di Milano.

Drs Pellegri and Smit presented work done on the K600 spectrometer in coincidence with the silicon detector array, CAKE and the gamma array, BAGEL, while Dr Jones introduced the new LaBr3 fast timing array. Data were presented on the suppression of collective states by using the (p,t) reaction with the K600 spectrometer at zero degrees that forms part of the thesis of a PhD student from Stellenbosch University.  These data attracted the attention of theorists from Japan who would like to start calculations to reproduce the preliminary results. Experiments such as these are only possible at the K600 spectrometer at iThemba LABS and the Grand Raiden spectrometer in RCNP, Osaka, Japan.

Tshwane University of Technology at TAMS

About 40 first year Physics Students from Tshwane University of Technology, visited the TAMS department for a tour on 23 February 2018. Seen below, is Dr Sechogela during presentations.

JACoW team meeting

Dr Joele Mira and Dr Garrett de Villiers recently attended a team meeting arranged by the Joint Accelerator Conferences Website (JACoW) Team,  held  in  Beijing,  China.  JACoW is an international collaboration that publishes the proceedings of accelerator conferences held around the world.  During  this  team  meeting the two colleagues  received  training  covering the JACoW methodology for preparation of conference proceedings. This was done in order to facilitate the upcoming 22nd International Conference  on  Cyclotrons  and  their Applications which is due to be held in in Cape Town in September 2019. During this meeting Joele also presented a poster to  advertise the conference.

Brief overview of the 2018 iThemba LABS Summer School

iThemba LABS, through the NRF hosted the 2018 Summer School for 25 postgraduate students from various universities. The school was intended for all students who plan to register at any South African or African University, for one of the following postgraduate science degrees: Honours; Masters; or Doctoral. The school comprised of a three-week training program (22 Jan–09 Feb. 2018), aligned with the ongoing SA-JINR (South Africa-Joint Institute for Nuclear Research) student practice programme. The primary focus of the school was on introductory theory lectures on instrumentation and hands-on experience on the equipment available at iThemba LABS.


The AFRODITE array of Clover detectors received a new complement of detectors in mid-January. Three new Compton suppression shields, together with two new Clover detectors (with a third to arrive soon,) were delivered, and initial tests are underway. This increases the complement of detectors from 9 to 12 and will further increase the limit of observation for the spectrometer. This has been a large investment by iThemba LABS to increase the capabilities of the AFRODITE facility and the complexity (and also number) of experiments undertaken by the Department of Subatomic Physics.

Figure: The two new Clover detectors, unpacked and undergoing the initial cool-down procedure with liquid nitrogen.

Tunisian Delegation

iThemba LABS hosted a Tunisian delegation from Monday 19 to Wednesday 22 February. The delegation attended the South Africa – Tunisia Joint Researchers’ Workshop and consisted of officials from the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and researchers, who reported on research projects.

South Africa and Tunisia agreed on a joint Research and Innovation Programme under the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Agreement which both parties signed in 2010. The programme sought to promote the co-generation of knowledge, knowledge and skills transfer, capacity development and the strengthening of the cooperation networks to address common developmental challenges. The programme is also a directed effort toward promoting Africa’s Indigenous Knowledge systems with the aim of contributing to the global Sustainable Developmental Goals.

Since the signing of the STI agreement between the two countries as well as the inception of the Joint Research and Innovation Programme, South Africa and Tunisia have been able to implement a Joint Research Programme successfully. The partners are now looking to pursue a Technology and Innovation programme to improve respective Innovation and Technological Capacities.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) has led the development and management of the Joint Research, Technology and Innovation Programme on behalf of South Africa as mandated by the DST. With the expansion of the scope of the of the programme in the new implementation plan, the inclusion of the Technology and Innovation Agency (TIA) is meant to strategically assist the countries in developing a Technology and Innovation call that will support research commercialisation.


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