The iThemba LABS Materials Research Department (MRD) seeks to create a diverse, collaborative and supportive environment that advances in the science and engineering of materials by developing fundamental understanding, providing training and service expertise in accelerator-based sciences and enabling technological innovations.
The activities of the department focus on research, modification and characterisation of materials using low energy ion beams, and other instrumental techniques for surface characterisation. The MRD has an extensive network of collaborators at national, African and international level.
The MRD has developed strong areas of expertise in ion-beam microprobe applications, specialised in biological applications in which they have become world leaders. This is closely coupled with the simultaneous development of specialised specimen preparation using cryo-techniques. The cryo-preparation laboratory has developed into a unique national facility. While the micro-probe facility is widely known and has a broad base of users and applications, the relatively younger cryo-preparation facility is not yet widely known.
Materials studies have been extended by facilities for XRD measurements. These techniques are complementary to ion-beam techniques and are appropriate for a research group that has as a strategic aim materials characterisation rather than purely ion beam applications. These techniques have their own specialised instruments and requirements. The machines are fully utilized.