iThemba LABS operates the only cyclotron facilities in the African continent and the separated sector cyclotron is the largest accelerator facility in the Southern Hemisphere. The k-200 separated sector cyclotron can accelerate protons to energies of 200MeV, and heavier particles to much higher energies. Smaller accelerators at the Western Cape site are two injector cyclotrons, one providing intense beams of light ions, and the other, beams of polarized light ions or heavy ions; a 3MV Tandetron used mainly for research utilising ion beam analysis techniques; and a k=11 cyclotron for the production of the radioisotope Flourine-18 for supplying to local nuclear medicine facilities for imaging purposes. Accelerators at the Gauteng site include a 6MV tandem accelerator with a specialised high energy analysis system for Atomic Mass Spectrometry (AMS), and two low energy electrostatic accelerators for ion implantation and other surface science studies.
The accelerators are used to accelerate charged particles for basic nuclear physics research, radioisotope production, radiobiology research related to particle therapy, and applications such as radiation hardness testing of electronic components used in satellites and detector calibrations.
iThemba LABS have various collaboration agreements and joint training programmes with Higher Education Institutions and research laboratories around the world as a means to contribute to the human capital development mandate of the NRF. The laboratory also provides a platform for SA based researchers and postgraduate students to access global research facilities such as CERN, JINR and GSI/FAIR.
To maintain and increase the excellence of the research and training activities, as well as respond to the demands from the research and isotope supply, iThemba LABS has developed a globally competitive research strategy and a related research infrastructure acquisition plan, based on the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) project, which has two components: The ACE-Isotopes and the ACE-Beams. The first phase consists of the acquisition of the C70 cyclotron and the Low Energy Radioactive Beam (LERIB) project which will make iThemba LABS internationally competitive by expanding the nuclear astrophysics research and the study of neutron-rich nuclei, and materials research using rare isotopes.