Subatomic Physics – Introduction

Subatomic Physics research will continue to serve as the backbone of research at iThemba LABS and the research programs are focused on niche areas where the laboratory’s research program will complement the research carried out at cognate laboratories around the world.

The main activities in the Department of Subatomic Physics (DSP) at iThemba LABS are research and training (mainly at post-graduate level) in basic and applied subatomic physics.  The basic research being conducted is aimed at expanding knowledge about hadronic physics, nuclear astrophysics, nuclear reaction mechanisms and nuclear structure. The majority of research utilizes particle beams, supplied by the separated sector cyclotrons (SSC) and experimental facilities managed by our group. The facilities include the K600 magnetic spectrometer, high-energy quasi-mono energetic neutron beams, AFRODITE with Compton-suppressed Clover detectors, ALBA with large-volume LaBr3:Ce detectors, fast-timing array with 8 small-volume LaBr3:Ce detectors, Compton suppressed segmented Clover detector, electron spectrometer, tape station, DSAM setup, scattering chamber, and several auxiliary particle detectors e.g. silicon, CsI, and neutron wall. The scientific programs span a wide array of research such as resonance features at high-excitation energies, nuclear data relevant to elemental formation in the cosmos, nuclear structure on exotic shapes and decay modes.

The applied research is conducted mainly in the Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory (ERL) which is operated by our department. In the ERL research is conducted into natural and anthropogenic radioactivity in the environment (soils, sediment, water, biological material). The main techniques used are in-situ and ex-situ gamma-ray spectrometry.

Scientists in the department are involved in the physics program associated with the ALICE Collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland). One of the aims of this research is to search for evidence of a new state of matter called quark-gluon plasma.