iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences

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iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (iThemba LABS), a National Research Facility managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, recently celebrated in 2017 30 years of operating the Separated Sector Cyclotron (SSC).  This enabled iThemba LABS to establish itself as a major player in nuclear science by studying and understanding the internal structure of atomic nuclei that constitute the core of matter and the fuel of the stars. iThemba LABS through its basic research activities has a significant societal impact by supplying accelerator-based radiopharmaceuticals in South Africa and internationally.

Activities at iThemba LABS are based around a number of sub-atomic particle accelerators. The largest of these, a k-200 separated sector cyclotron, accelerates protons to energies of 200MeV, and heavier particles to higher energies. Smaller accelerators at the Western Cape site consist of two injector cyclotrons, one providing intense beams of light ions, and the other, beams of polarized light or heavy ions.  We also have a 3MV tandem accelerator. Accelerators at the Gauteng site include a 6MV tandem accelerator and two low energy electrostatic accelerators for ion implantation and other surface science studies.

Radioisotope production at iThemba LABS has thus far been an internationally celebrated example of research supporting innovative and societally relevant solutions. In the past 30 years, the SSC has played a pivotal role in entrenching the focus of iThemba LABS in providing scientifically and medically useful radiation through the acceleration of charged particles using the SSC and other appropriate technologies. The SSC has also played a pivotal role in positioning and supporting iThemba LABS’ vision of being the primary centre of expertise in radiation medicine, nuclear science, and technologies to advance the knowledge and health of the people of South Africa.