Radiobiology and Dosimetry experiments

During the last weekend in March and the first weekend in April, research teams from iThemba LABS and the University of Wollongong in Australia, SCK-CEN in Belgium, and MSc students from UWC and CPUT jointly completed several Radiobiology and Dosimetry experiments using the SSC and the clinical proton beam. The main goal was to investigate out-of-field radiation dose and DNA damage in pediatric proton therapy, acute response of cancer cells, variation of relative biological effectiveness (RBE) and rise of linear energy transfer (LET) along the spread-out-Bragg peak and to conduct micro-dosimetric survey of neutron contamination in the treatment room. The results will help us to improve secondary cancer risk estimations in pediatric proton therapy and to develop biology motivated proton treatment planning.

Experimental team from SCK-CEN, University of Wollongong, UWC, CPUT and part of the participating staff of iTL

State-of-the-art detectors at iThemba LABS

The Department of Subatomic physics completed the installation and started commissioning of its latest measurement instrument “Facility for Low Spin Structure Studies of Exotic States and Nuclei”. The facility comprises of 8 LaBr3 scintillation detectors and electronics and was funded through a NRF NEP grant and iThemba LABS. The state-of-the-art detectors will be used to study sub-nanosecond lifetimes in nuclear states, and will be combined with other instruments in the laboratory. Current measurements are underway measuring radioisotopes produced at the lab, and environmental samples.

Left to right: Dr Pete Jones, Mr Lumkile Msebi (iThemba/UWC), Mr Abraham Avaa (iThemba/WITS), Ms Bashir Munirat (US), Mr Vetle Ingeberg (iThemba/Oslo), Dr Faiçal Azaiez, Dr Rudolph Nchodu

iThemba LABS and the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) sign MoU

The Vice Chancellor of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Prof Totolo, led a delegation from BIUST on the visit to iThemba LABS. The purpose of the visit was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between iThemba LABS and BIUST. The VC was accompanied by the deputy vice chancellor for research and innovation, Prof Norris, the director of international linkages and partnerships, Mr Paya, the head of the department of Physics and Astronomy, Prof Hillhouse, and Dr Batlokwa, a senior lecturer in analytical chemistry.

The main objectives of the agreement are to

  1. Establish collaborations between iThemba LABS and BIUST researchers;
  2. Promote a conducive environment for exchange of technical expertise between iThemba LABS and BIUST professionals; and
  3. Provide training opportunities for BIUST students by iThemba LABS staff and their collaborators.

Design a logo for the SAIF project

All staff members are invited to submit a proposal for a new logo design for the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) Project for consideration by the Communication Team. Please submit your logo design ideas to by no later than 28 April. There will be a prize for the selected design!

Read more on the proposed project here.

From the Director’s Board (18/04/2017)

We are almost at the end of the Long Range Plan for the research road map and priorities for the coming 5 to 10 years. I would like at this stage to remind all of us that the process was long in order to have time for discussions and brainstorming within the research departments. In some cases, expert’s committee participated in dedicated workshops to provide outside views and advices. I hope that by the time the documents are finalized, all research actors at iThemba LABS would have exercised their chance to engage, shape and endorse the long term vision of our research activity.

The next step is going to be the discussion with the ‘support’ departments (i.e. HR, Finance and Accelerators and engineering) in order to plan how best to support the research priorities spelt out on the core departmental Long Range Plans; while simultaneously optimizing our human capital and financial resources. We will also have to determine how those ‘support’ structures should themselves evolve in the future both in terms of expertise and infrastructure in order to be the most efficient in delivering on our research objectives.

One important aspect of the Long Range Plan, certainly the most important for iThemba LABS and the country as a whole, is our contribution to the training of young generation of South African researchers and our capacity to generate high level scientists and engineers to take over from the relatively more experienced but retiring generation. I would like to assure our young   colleagues that we are not at all overlooking this national priority, and that soon the process is to be commenced of discussing and defining the best means of sharpening our training tools and methods to better achieve efficient expertise knowledge transfer and succession to the younger South African generation.

Student Matters (03/04/2017)

Sipokazi Panya panya an MSc (Physics) UNISA student, based at iThemba LABS (MRD) under the supervision of Prof M Maaza, Prof B M Mothudi, and Dr A H Galmed, visited the National Institute of Laser Enhanced Sciences (NILES), Cairo University, Egypt. During her stay (24 February to 24 March 2017) she performed her experiments with Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). Her research topic title is “Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) on Geological Samples: Compositional Differentiation and Relative Hardness Quantification”.

Sipokazi Panya (Panya, second from the right, back row) at the National Institute of Laser Enhanced Sciences (NILES), Cairo University, Egypt

IAEA Coordinated Research Project

The neutron physics group of iThemba LABS is currently participating in an IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Coordinated Research Project (CRP) that was approved on October 30th, 2012. The title of the CRP is “Testing and Improving the IAEA International Dosimetry Library for Fission and Fusion (IRDFF)”. The main aim of this CRP is to improve, test and validate the International Reactor Dosimetry and Fusion File (IRDFF) with proper decay data and documentation (more information is available at

3rd Research Coordination Meeting Group, 20-24 March 2017, IAEA Headquarters, Vienna, Austria

At the first Research Coordination Meeting (RCM) in July 2013, it was agreed that the contribution from iThemba LABS will be to measure neutron activation cross sections in the energy range 40 to 200 MeV. In addition, the measurements at iThemba LABS must include 90 MeV and 140 MeV neutron energies, in order to compare with the results from the University of Kyoto, conducted at the Research Center for Nuclear Physics (RCNP) cyclotron facility of Osaka University. During the third CRM, (20-24 March 2017, Zina Ndlovu gave a presentation on the “Cross-section measurements for neutron-induced reactions in Co, Au, Bi and Tm at neutron energy of 90 and 140 MeV”. For more information, visit

New data on nuclear molecular state in Oxygen-16

The best candidate for a molecular state configuration in 16O was investigated using the K600 spectrometer and the CAKE silicon detector array. This state is interpreted by various models as a good candidate for a dilute cluster of 4 alpha-particles. Even though the new data provides a much clearer picture of a very elusive state, the landscape in the excitation energy just above the 4-alpha break-up threshold appears more intricate than thought before.  K.C.W Li presented the findings at the International Nuclear Physics Conference in Adelaide (Australia) and published a high impact factor publication in Physical Review C Rapid Communications.

The 14-Carbon puzzle

The nucleus 14-Carbon presents a long standing mystery for nuclear physics. Some of its properties cannot be explained even with the most sophisticated models which may be due to new underlying physics. Complicating things further is the difficulty in measuring 14-Carbon in the laboratory and only recently technology has advanced enough to attempt the measurement. The first three months of this year PhD student Christiaan Brits spent at the Florida State University where 14-Carbon beams can be accelerated. During this time he prepared the software and experimental setup consisting of 4 different types of detectors. These efforts culminated in a three week experimental run and, although it is too early to speculate on the results, the collected data are expected to solve the 14-Carbon puzzle.

iThemba LABS in the media (03/04/2017)

CITI VISION, ran a story on Thursday 2 March about the teacher workshops organized by iThemba LABS on 4 and 18 February.

Ambrose Yaga spoke briefly on the national Radio Station, Umblobo Wenene on iThemba LABS’ presence at Scifest Africa.  This snippet aired at 21h30 on 12 March.

From the Director’s Office

A New Year brings new opportunities to share a vision, build collaborations and shape the future.

Read more

Corporate Profile

Corporate profile of iThemba LABS in February issue of Leadership Magazine p. 68-69

Read more p. 68-69

SA-CERN Collaboration

Big data science in South Africa reaching new funding highs through the South African CERN collaboration

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ATLAS upgrade workshop

News Archive