The launch of the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) and Acquisition of 70MeV Cyclotron in South Africa


iThemba LABS launched the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) with the procurement of a Cyclone® 70 Cyclotron and associated beam lines from Ion Beam Applications S.A. (IBA) to be used as a high-energy, high-intensity proton cyclotron for isotope production and research.

The SAIF strategy of iThemba LABS, endorsed and approved by the NRF Board as an infrastructure renewal project focusses on the increased use of the existing cyclotron at iThemba LABS for dedicated research and training, whilst supporting the acquisition of a new 70 MeV cyclotron to increase the production of Radio- isotopes in view of a growing local and international market and to create a financially sustainable research enterprise. Subsequently, the South African Government through the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Treasury (NT) endorsed and provided support for the SAIF strategy.

The benefit to South Africa, Science and Society on the investment in the 70 MeV cyclotron will be realised through the:

  • Increase in beam time availability for research (capacity will increase by a factor of three);
  • Development of new research fields and applications including:
    • Research into new and innovative solutions for cancer treatment and early diagnostics;
    • Fundamental research into sub-atomic physics to obtain an understanding of the astrophysical origin of the elements;
    • Radiation hardness testing for the space sciences;
    • Research into the development of nano-materials;
    • Increase of the number of post- graduates supervised and supported by the facility.
  • Increase in number of post graduate students training;
  • Excellent opportunity for young South Africans to acquire technical skills in Accelerator Based Sciences and Technologies;
  • Increased radioisotope production (sales) by five-fold and revenue;
  • Positive impact of South African Current Account through significant increase in export revenue;

The SAIF Phase 1, which consists of the Radio-Isotope Facility (based on the 70 MeV cyclotron) and the LERIB facility, is planned to be completed in 2022 and to coincide with the hosting in Cape Town of the INPC (International Nuclear Physics Conference) which is the most prestigious conference in the physics domain.