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Shane Carelse

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iThemba LABS students win awards at conferences

The International Nuclear Physics Conference was held in Glasgow, UK this year and provided an opportunity for young scientists to present their research work to an audience of experts. Two of our PhD students from iThemba LABS, working on the newly commissioned electron spectrometer, presented preliminary results of their work in a poster session at the conference. Mr. Abraham Avaa’s poster titled “Electric monopole (E0) transitions in the study of 70Ge” showcased new results and spectroscopic information. The poster gained special recognition and was awarded the 3rd best poster at the conference.

Furthermore, during the 64th South African Institute of Physics Conference, which was held at the University of Venda, the following students received awards for best contributions: Ms Sinegugu Mthembu, for MSc, Mr Abel Sithole, and Ms Thuthukile Khumalo.


Miss Siphokazi Panya Panya (right), a DST-NRF Innovation Scholarship PhD student based at MRD, was awarded the “Springer-Nature Award” for outstanding research work presented at the Inaugural International Conference on Surfaces, Coatings and Nanostructured Materials (NANOSMAT-AFRICA) conference at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West from 19 to 23 November 2018.

This was the first time a prize of this nature was presented at a conference and it included a trophy, a certificate of recognition and also an access to Nanoscience prestigious database for a period of one year. The full title of Miss Panya Panya’s presentation is: Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) on Geological Samples: Hardness Differentiation.

Mrs Touria Khamliche (left) won the prize of the best poster in the PhD category. The title of her poster presentation is: Thermal Conductivity Enhancement in Laser Liquid Solid Interaction Fabricated Cu Nanoparticles Ethylene Glycol Based Nanofluids.

CPUT Energy Institute meets with Materials Research department

A meeting between Dr Mlungisi Nkosi and a delegation from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)’s Energy Institute (EI) lead by Prof MTE Kahn, Director of the Institute (EI), took place on 16 September 2019 at the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, CPUT. The purpose of the meeting was to explore and discuss projects by the two departments that could potentially share expertise and knowledge.

One of the proposed projects is aimed at fabricating cost effective selective solar absorbers (SSAs) coatings by depositing oxide thin films onto different substrates. The fabricated SSAs will be used to harvest the sunlight and convert it to heat for modular Solar Powered Aquaphonics.

Soapbox Science in South Africa!

On Saturday 28 September, the first South African edition of the Soapbox Science took place at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Inspired by Hyde Park’s famous Speaker’s Corner, this global series of free open-air lectures sees expert female scientists leave their labs and take to the streets in cities all over the world, to share their passion about their research, discuss hyped-up controversies and present amazing discoveries.

The South African edition featured 9 speakers from various South African top Institutions, covering different research areas from nuclear physics to vaccine research. iThemba LABS was one of the main sponsors together with DSI, NRF and SAAO. iThemba LABS was represented by Harshna Jivan as speaker and Luna Pellegri as local organizer. After the great success of this first event a new edition is already planned for 2020.

Galileo Galilei 2019 Award

Prof Maalik Maaza has reported: “We have been the lucky recipient of the GALILEO GALILEI 2019 award of the International Commission of Optics for our contribution in the multidisciplinary field of Nanophotonics. This is not a personal achievement but rather a recognition of the South African (specifically) & the African (in general) excellence and contribution in the field of Photonics to the global knowledge landscape.”

The announcement was made in Carthage-Tunisia during the ICO-IUPAP-SPIE-OSA “OPTISUD” joint event by the ICO President Prof. R. Ramponi.

The award ceremony will be held in Germany in 2019.

Space Summer School in Belgium

In the framework of the bilateral BELSPO/NRF project on “Optimization and validation of a unique ground-based in vitro model to study Space health effects (INVEST)”, two members of the Radiation Biophysics Division of iThemba LABS participated in the space summer school at the Academy for Nuclear Science and Technology of SCKCEN (Belgium). This is a prestigious multidisciplinary and international learning event for PhD students, early-stage researchers and professionals from a diverse range of educational and professional backgrounds, with an interest in life sciences, physical and medical health challenges associated with human space exploration. It combined theoretical classes, practical exercises and technical visits, in several domains related to space research and development. A special section of the school was dedicated to the INVEST project, in which the participating members of iThemba LABS, Dr Charlot Vandevoorde and Dr Randall Fisher, presented the ongoing research activities in radiobiology and the INVEST project at iThemba LABS.

The 22nd International Conference on Cyclotrons and their Applications

The 22nd edition of the International Conference on Cyclotrons and their Applications (CYC2019) was proudly hosted by iThemba LABS at The Westin Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa from 22 to 27 September, 2019.

Cape Town and iThemba LABS have a proud history of hosting the cyclotron conference. In October 1995, the 14th edition of this conference was hosted in Cape Town. At this conference the delegates had the distinguished honour of receiving an opening address by one of the greatest sons of Africa and Father of our Nation, Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

The successful hosting in 1995, was also the first hosting on the African continent. For iThemba LABS it was a great honour to host this prestigious conference, one of the longest running conferences. The conference was attended by approximately 200 delegates.

Gamma-ray Spectrometer

Target chamber (left) and one side of the Soccer ball (right) at the S-line vault

By the end of 2020 the gamma-ray spectrometer pool of iThemba LABS will comprise of 19 clovers/BGO, 10 LEPS, 8 fast-timing and 21 large-volume LaBr3 scintillators. Some of these detectors were part of AFRODITE, and for others funds were allocated to ALBA via NRF funding and through the GAMKA consortium. Detectors were also acquired from internal source and international colleagues. A new detector support structure in the form of an icosahedron shape, better known as a soccer ball, was built to host up to 30 detectors simultaneously, together with a vacuum chamber optimised for low gamma-ray absorption. The machining made almost exclusive use of CNC facilities at SAAO and Stellenbosch University. In addition, up to 100 critical parts were 3D printed at iThemba LABS. A detector arrangement consisting of 13 clovers and 1 LaBr3 detector using this new gamma-ray detector array is being commissioned for experiment PR285 that will receive beam time in October 2019.

GAMKA is supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Strategic Research Equipment Grant Number: 114668), and by contributions from iThemba LABS, Stellenbosch University, University of the Western Cape, University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Zululand.

BrightnESS2 Workshop

The BrightnESS2 Workshop was hosted by iThemba LABS on 12-14 August.

BrightnESS2 ( is an integrated program in support of long-term sustainability of ESS, its community, and the network of neutron sources in Europe.

The European Spallation Source (ESS) under construction in Lund, Sweden, is a partnership of countries committed to the goal of building and operating the world leading facility for research using neutrons. South African interest in contributing in the BrightnESS2 program stems from the fact that it has a long history of research using neutrons provided by the two key national facilities, NRF/iThemba LABS and Necsa. The workshop was aimed at South African based researchers who are interested in exploring the possibility of using the ESS facilities in the future.

World’s largest Nuclear Physics Conference is coming to Cape Town

iThemba LABS was awarded the bid to host the 28th International Nuclear Physics Conference (INPC 2022) in Cape Town, 11-16 September 2022. The conference is held every three years, and is the biggest conference in the world for fundamental nuclear and hadron physics. The program will focus on the latest work and spans across a wide range of topics which are inspiring with innovative ideas and results. Topics highlighted range from the lightest to heaviest nuclei, the role of nuclear physics in astrophysics to applications of nuclear science. The INPC series is overseen by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. The INPC 2022 in Cape Town follows the conferences in Glasgow 2019, Adelaide 2016, Florence 2013 and Vancouver 2010.

INPC 2022 will coincide with the accomplishment of a key milestone of Phase 1 of the SAIF Project, which is the installation of the new 70 MeV Cyclotron for the Radioisotope Isotope Factory (RIF) and the Low-Energy Radioactive Ion Beam facility. It is forecast that the installation of the 70MeV Cyclotron would be well advanced to be showcased to the delegates during the INPC in three years from now.

International Workshop on Photovoltaic and Hydrogen Energy Technologies

Drs Mlungisi Nkosi and Christopher Mtshali attended the International Workshop on Photovoltaic and Hydrogen Energy Technologies which was held at the Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth from 29 to 31 July 2019. Topics covered during the workshop were as follows: hydrogen technologies, materials characterizations, renewable energy prospects, innovation and manufacturing, etc. Dr Mtshali gave a talk on the preparation and characterization of Ti-Pd multilayer thin films for hydrogen storage application. The following institutions who are amongst international leaders in the field of photovoltaic and hydrogen energy technologies were represented: Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel and SkyLark Solutions, all from Germany.

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