PAC for Condensed Matter Physics: NEPTUN Reactor and new projects

News, 16 June 2023

The 57th meeting of the Programme Advisory Committee for Condensed Matter Physics of JINR started yesterday. During the two-day meeting in a mixed format, the participants considered proposals for the opening and extension of projects. The programme of the event includes a meeting with the JINR Directorate and poster presentations by young JINR scientists. The event brought together representatives of scientific centres of Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

The chairman Dénes Lajos Nagy opened the working programme of the event. He informed the participants about the implementation of the recommendations of the previous, 56th PAC meeting. JINR Vice Director Latchesar Kostov presented information on the Resolution of the 133rd session of the JINR Scientific Council (February 2023) and on the decisions of the Committee of Plenipotentiaries of the Governments of the JINR Member States (March 2023). The programme of the current session was designed in accordance with the Committee recommendations of the 56th meeting of the PAC CMP. In particular, one of them is a more detailed presentation of proposals for opening new projects within the themes included into the new Seven-year Plan of JINR.

Director of the Laboratory of Neutron Physics JINR Egor Lychagin presented a report on the opening of the project “Pulsed neutron source and spectrometers” to the participants of the session. “We decided to unite four topics that have been previously developed independently into one large infrastructure project. We hope that such a combination will allow us to improve the way we manage the process of the scientific research, as well as to concentrate our human and material resources on the main tasks that we have within this project. First of all, they include safe operation of our reactor, the development of condensed matter physics using neutron scattering, the creation of a new source that should replace the IBR-2 Reactor in the near future”, Egor Lychagin said.

Following the tradition, one of the key topics of discussions was the status of the IBR-2 Reactor. Egor Lychagin in his speech highlighted that the date of operation resumption of the IBR-2 directly depends on the term of obtaining a licence by Rostekhnadzor for its operation. This will be preceded by the installation of new heat exchangers. The FLNP team is going to install them this summer. The preliminary launch of the reactor is scheduled for next year. Moreover, an agreement has been signed with the Mayak plant for the production of new fuel for IBR-2. It is planned to finish this work in 2027 and start loading fuel into the reactor in 2028.

Head of the FLNP Sector of New Source and Moderators Complex Maxim Bulavin presented a detailed report on the status of the development of a new neutron source project that will replace the IBR-2 Reactor. The new facility will first in the world use neptunium nitride as fuel. This will allow increasing the neutron flux by about ten times compared to the existing reactor. It will also open up new technological opportunities in neutron studies. Now, the Laboratory’s team is carrying out R&D to study the behaviour of the new fuel and fuel rods, as well as to choose the composition of the active zone. The development of the future scientific programme of the facility is underway, too.

Victor Bodnarchuk presented a proposal to open a subproject “Scientific and methodological research and developments for condensed matter investigations with IBR-2 neutron beams” within the framework of the “Pulsed neutron source and spectrometers” project. The main directions of development of the subproject are the construction of a wide-aperture backscattering detector (BSD-A) for the HRFD diffractometer, the development of a vector magnet for research with polarized neutrons, as well as the design and development of infrastructure elements for spectrometers at the IBR-2 Reactor.

Denis Kozlenko made a report with a proposal to open a subproject “Investigations of functional materials and nanosystems using neutron scattering”. The main areas of scientific interests of this subproject are condensed matter physics, materials science, physics of nanosystems and nanoscale phenomena, physics of complex liquids and polymers. In addition, the speaker presented the main scientific results obtained in 2021-2023 in the course of research on the topic.

After the Topical Plan update, there have been changes made in the structure of the projects of the Laboratory of Radiation Biology. Proposals of two new LRB projects have been made at the current PAC meeting, the first being “Molecular, genetic and organismal effects of ionizing radiation with different physical characteristics” presented by Pavel Lobachevsky, Head of the Department of Radiation Biology and Physiology, and the second one called “Radiation biophysics and astrobiology research” presented by Alexey Chizhov, LRB Deputy Director. “The first project is devoted to various aspects of radiobiological research. This includes molecular, cellular, organismal effects of types of radiations that are available at the Institute. These are various programme research related to the study of DNA damages, chromosomal aberrations, organismal effects connected with damage and pathomorphology”, LRB Director Aleksandr Bugay said. He also added that the project includes studies of various effects associated with the action of cosmic types of radiation. This is connected with the most important applications, assessment of radiation risks for astronauts. Besides, there is special research on improvement of new methods in applications in the field of radiation therapy.

The second LRB project is in the areas of physical support and maintenance of experiments, as well as astrobiology. “It is connected with the equipment of channels for research with providing dosimetry of special facilities that biologists require. Data automation plays a special role as well. In this area, we are working not only with experimental laboratories but also with the Laboratory of Information Technologies. A new IT system is being developed. Data automation plays a special role as well. In this area, we are working not only with experimental laboratories but also with the Laboratory of Information Technologies. A new IT system is being developed”, Alexandr Bugay noted. A wide range of works is underway in the field of mathematical computer modeling and structural investigations of organic remains and remains of living organisms in meteorites.

Another new project is “Design and development of a test zone for methodological studies of detectors at the linear electron accelerator in DLNP“. Presenting it, a DLNP senior researcher Abdelshakour El Said Mohammed Abu Elazm noted, “The project that we presented today involves the modernization of the LINAC-200. A wide user programme will be created at it not only for JINR employees, but also for scientists from all the Member States of the Institute. The created accelerator testing zone will allow users to receive all the necessary information about the operation of the facility, like what dose and energy are used, as well as other beam parameters.” He noted that it will be possible to apply for the use of beam time on the website of the new test zone being created with information about the parameters of the accelerator and all available equipment. “The facility has not been launched yet, but there is already a great demand, because there are few accelerators of this type in the world,” Said Abu Elazm highlighted and noted that the Laboratory team recently conducted a test beam run of the LINAC-200.

Mikhail Lyablin brought the project “Precision laser metrology for accelerators and detector complexes (PLI)” to the attention of the PAC members. Grigory Arzumanyan put forward a proposal for the opening of the project “Nanobiophotonics” on research in the field of nanotechnology, life sciences, and methodological developments. Mikhail Zarubin made a proposal for the opening of the project on protection against physical and chemical stresses with tardigrade proteins (TARDISS) in his report. Pavel Apel presented two projects to the committee, “Radiation tolerance of materials to high intensity heavy ion beams impact” and “Nanocomposite and functional track-etched membranes”, the scientific programme of which is based on the use of accelerated heavy ion beams for applied research.

A DLNP leading researcher Georgy Shelkov and Deputy Head of the Accelerator Department of VBLHEP Anatoly Sidorin brought forward proposals for the extension of the projects “Novel semiconductor detectors for fundamental and applied research” and “Development of experimental techniques and applied research with slow monochromatic positron beams (PAS)”.

In addition, consideration of written proposals for the opening and extension of the projects on computational physics, quantum field theory in complex systems, and materials science took place.

On the second day of the meeting, an FLNP senior researcher Tatiana Vershinina will make a report “Neutron-diffraction studies of structural phase transition in alloys”. The programme includes a meeting of the PAC members with the JINR Directorate and a poster session of young scientists. Drafting the PAC recommendations including proposals for the agenda of the next meeting of the committee will conclude the event.

PAC for Condensed Matter Physics: NEPTUN Reactor and new projects