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Applied Chemistry – Plasma group unveiled the 15 kW RF Thermal Plasma System

On 21 June 2017 representatives from the National Research Foundation: Mess S Duma and M R Sibiya were present at the unveiling of the 15 kW RF Thermal Plasma System with Dr. Johann Nel (NRF Grantholder from Necsa; R&D Plasma Technology). In 2015 Dr. Nel was awarded an infrastructure funding (NEP) grant for the purchase of the plasma system from Tekna Plasma Systems Inc. The system was commissioned in January 2017. This system will be used for the spheroidisation of metal and alloy powders.  These powders will be used for relatively new technologies, such as additive manufacturing (AM) to manufacture high quality specialised components not produced in large quantities.  In order to manufacture a high quality component, i.e. an implant, the powder used as feed material should be dense and spherical. Thermal plasmas characterised by their extremely high temperatures and rapid heating rates make them particularly suitable for spheroidisation of almost any metal powders.

CT News Issue 5

Stephan le Roux, NRF intern at the Stellenbosch CT scanner facility, won the regional prize at the South African Spectroscopic Society (SASS) conference. Here he receives his certificate from Dr Johann Fischer, representing SASS.

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Research and Development Annual Report 2012

It is exactly a year ago that iThemba LABS and Necsa – as key players in the nuclear research field in the country – entered into a formal research collaboration, focussing largely on areas of convergence between the two facilities in line with their institutional mandates, as enjoined by the White Paper on Science and Technology and the Nuclear Energy Act respectively. To this end, I was appointed in my capacity as both director of iThemba LABS and GE: R&D to head up this joint research collaboration in
order to map out a long-term trajectory which will, among others, lead to the realisation of an overarching programme that will enable maximal utilisation of small accelerator (and beam line) infrastructure in a wide array of applications, ranging from detector calibration for the space programme to medical sciences and heritage studies. This is indeed a very exciting challenge, which I look forward to with great enthusiasm.

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Corporation launches microfocus X-ray machine

A new microfocus X-ray radiography and tomography machine, for use by South African scientists and researchers, has been launched by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) at its Pelindaba complex, near Hartbeespoort, in the North West.

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Necsa opens up South African research opportunities with microfocus Nikon Metrology X-ray and CT system

A brand new Nikon Metrology inspection system is now in use at the microfocus X-ray radiography/tomography facility (MIXRAD) of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa). It is the first high-precision microfocus X-ray/CT system made available to South African researchers, engineers and students who can use this advanced technology free-of-charge. High-precision 2D radiography and 3D tomography renderings help them investigate diverse natural and industrial samples in a non-destructive fashion. With the microfocus X-ray/CT system readily available and upgraded Neutron and new Gamma radiation radiography/tomography laboratories underway, Necsa offers the edge in non-destructive inspection on micron level. These investments greatly advance research on mineral deposits in South Africa, or help motivate the application for beam time at nano-level Synchrotron facilities abroad if needed.

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iThemba LABS and Necsa to work together for the advancement of Nuclear Sciences in South Africa


The National Research Foundation’s iThemba LABS and the South Africa Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) have reached a consensus to enter into a research consortium agreement to give effect to the development and implementation of a joint strategic research framework in nuclear sciences. During initial discussions last year, the NRF and Necsa signed a memorandum of agreement to investigate ways and modalities of cooperation.

Dr Zeblon Vilakazi has been appointed by the two organisations to head the joint research consortium in his capacity as director of iThemba LABS, with an additional portfolio of head of the research division at Necsa. One of Dr Vilakazi’s immediate tasks will be to write a joint research strategy to put both organisations on a sustainable course of high quality scientific output and provisioning of world class nuclear science platforms.

Radiation Utilisation


At Radiation Utilisation, most of our research is performed in the broad field of Material Science. We use "probes" of various types of radiation to delve into the structure and composition of materials. For example, we can use diffraction to look at the crystal structure of a material and so determine what type of stresses it may have been subjected to. Or we could bombard a chosen material with protons and measure the energy of the x-ray emitted to find out what it is made of. The main techniques we use are diffraction (DIFF), neutron radiography (NRAD), ion beam analysis (IBA), fast neutron science (FNS), and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS).

The radiation "probes" come from 2 main sources: the SAFARI-1 research reactor and the 4 MV Van de Graaff accelerator on the Necsa site. SAFARI-1 provides the thermal (slow) neutrons for neutron radiography, scattering and diffraction. The Van de Graaff accelerator provides protons, alpha particles and a host of other ions for ion beam analysis, as well as high-energy neutrons for fast neutron science.

Other Activities

Furthermore, R & D support is offered in:

  • Accelerator science & technology
  • Radiation detection techniques
  • Electron microscopy
  • Plasma physics