'European enthusiasm and input as a compass'
ISOL@MYRRHA expands research community
What does the user community expect of ISOL@MYRRHA, the facility that will be able to produce radioisotopes from 2027? This was the question SCK CEN posed to 180 experts (potential future users) of the ISOL facility during a workshop. ‘Research is often prepared well in advance, so we can take researchers' needs into account at an early stage in the project,’ it was said. A publication by the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC) also revealed how the facility is making a name for itself in the international research landscape.
Under the name ISOL@MYRRHA, SCK CEN is building an ISOL facility within the scope of the larger MYRRHA project. The aim behind MYRRHA is to commission the first research reactor powered by a particle accelerator by 2036. The Isotope Separation On-Line (ISOL) facility is a benchmark on the way to MYRRHA, and will enable unique research with radioactive ion beams. This research is one of the top priorities in nuclear physics. The facility will also offers opportunities for research into nuclear medicine and materials science.
Users as guides
During 2022, SCK CEN engineers continued their work on building the ISOL installation of ISOL@MYRRHA. "Almost all essential parts have been delivered. In the past few months, we’ve been assembling and test the installation," says SCK CEN researcher Lucia Popescu. "From 2027, we’ll be able to produce radioisotopes, so it’s high time to get some input from our future users. What are their needs and expectations? What do have to take into account when running the research centre?”
Specialist areas to explore
To kick-off the development of a user community, SCK CEN set up an expert group with 7 specialists: 6 externals and Lucia Popescu herself. "The expert group members serve as contacts for international users interested in conducting experiments at our facility. Broadly speaking, their skills straddle three worlds: that of fundamental research, that of medical isotopes and that of materials development. We hope that some exciting research can be carried out in all these domains in the coming years."
In June 2022, SCK CEN organised a workshop in which more than 180 experts, all potential future users of the ISOL facility, participated. Lucia Popescu: “We presented the development of our project, and organised brainstorming sessions about the research these experts were interested in conducting in our facility. By taking their preferences into account at an early stage, we can adapt our way of working together to suit them. Research is often prepared well in advance, so it’s reassuring for a researcher to know which direction a facility wants to take.”
Richer field of work
For medical isotope researchers, it's essential that the research facility offers reliable long-term planning, among other things, as they have to keep a very strict schedule. Researchers of fundamental sciences, on the other hand, might want the flexibility to carry out measurements for an additional half day at unexpected times. The future users also specified how the ISOL facility can maximise additional added value for them compared to existing facilities. “It proved to be a highly instructive experience, as our goal is to foster collaborative partnerships with other institutions and contribute to the enrichment of the international research community in a mutually complementary manner.”
The extent to which the global research world is looking forward to ISOL@MYRRHA was also apparent from a publication by the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC) in 2022. “In the Spring issue of Nuclear Physics News magazine, NuPECC highlighted our future ISOL facility and the broader MYRRHA project,” says Lucia Popescu. “It’s evidence of how far our research centre is already integrated into the landscape of major European facilities. This indirect endorsement by NuPECC increases the confidence of specialists in the area, and provides us with positive publicity to attract new users.”