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Experiments with Synchrotron Radiation for Modern Environmental and Industrial Applications

Success story
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Assembly of the ‘mirror chamber’ at the IAEA Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria. (Photo: A.Peeva/IAEA)

Two identical, 7-axis, high-vacuum chambers specialized for X-Ray spectrometry techniques became available to Member States. The flexibility of the end-station allows the synergistic application of various variants of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) techniques, including Grazing Incidence/Exit and Total Reflection XRF in combination with X-Ray Reflectometry (XRR) and X-Ray Absorption Spectrometry (XAS). These techniques provide spatially resolved elemental or chemical information with high chemical sensitivity (parts per million).

As part of a Cooperation Agreement signed with the Elettra Sincrotrone in Trieste, Italy, in 2014, one of the chambers was placed as the end-station at Elettra’s XRF beamline, and during 2015 it entered routine service. This beamline provides an X-Ray beam with an energy range of 3.6–14 keV and flux of 5 × 109 photons per second (at 5.5 keV, 2.4 GeV operational mode). Development of the end-station’s hardware and software, as well as on-going technical support was provided by the IAEA’s Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, where the second “mirror” chamber is located. Under the Cooperation Agreement, 40% of the beam time was granted to IAEA users, and this CRP provided an access mechanism: targeted applications included characterization of modern nano-structured materials with relevance to energy storage and conversion technologies, micro- and nano-electronics, investigation of environmental, biological and medical samples, as well as non-destructive characterization of cultural heritage materials.

The overall objective of this CRP was to increase the quality and the competitiveness of research in the field of development of new materials and investigation of environmental and health related topics by fostering know-how transfer and facilitating access to state-of-the-art synchrotron radiation X-Ray based techniques. Specific objectives included:

  • Provision of beamtime at Elettra for research and development projects;
  • Training of scientists on the operation of synchrotron beam lines and instrumentation as well as draft proposals;
  • Development of new methodologies and tools for characterizing nano-materials, environmental samples from the life science area;
  • Establish networking between scientists in advanced X-Ray spectrometric techniques.

During the four years of its operation, the CRP produced around 50 peer-reviewed publications across the targeted applications, and almost 75 conference contributions. Emphasis was also placed on the training of younger scientists, so that while 45 senior scientists were involved, 48 post-doctoral fellows, PhD and Masters’ students were also engaged in the research undertaken in the 9 Research Agreements and 11 Research Contracts of this CRP.

A further goal was to connect large Member States that already host synchrotron facilities with small but leading research groups in developing countries. While the majority of the research in this CRP was performed at the Elettra XRF beamline, linkages between groups around the world were formed: synchrotron facilities in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Thailand, and the USA were also involved in the research activities of this CRP.

In 2016, IAEA made upgrades to the end-station chamber to broaden the experiments on environmental, and cultural heritage samples, and in 2018, the optics of the beamline were upgraded by Elettra. As a result of the success of this CRP, a new Cooperation Agreement has been signed between Elettra and IAEA that continues support for access to the beamline for experiments and provides for an annual training workshop jointly organized by Elettra and IAEA, with an emphasis on developing countries.

For further information related to this CRP, please see the CRP page.

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