European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Transuranium Elements
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The Actinide Research Department (ARD) at ITU is devoted to basic and strategic research on actinide elements and compounds. The scientific programme encompasses both physics and chemistry, and is carried out in collaboration with a number of academic research partners worldwide.
The availability of state-of-the-art instrumentation adapted for measuring spectroscopic, thermodynamic and transport properties of radioactive samples, together with specialised facilities for preparation and caracterisation of high quality samples, makes the Department a centre of excellence in actinide research and one of the leading institutions in this field.
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The ARD supports the European community of scientists who use the ITU facilities for research in physics and chemistry of actinides and related materials.
Access to these facilities is allocated on the basis of scientific merit, following the recommendations of a Review Committee, provided the experiment proposed meets technical feasibility and safety requirements.
The Actinide Research Department hosts 21-26 staff members, divided into five groups, dealing with closely related experimental techniques: Preparation and Characterisation, Nuclear Studies, Solid State-Physics, Surface Science, and High-Pressure Studies. Doctoral, Post-Doctoral and Visiting Scientists are periodically recruited following open calls for applications.
The properties of 5f electrons in actinide elements determine the behaviour of the materials used in the nuclear fuel cycles. Understanding these properties is important to support a safe and secure use of nuclear energy as part of the world energy mix. The exotic and unique properties of actinides are at the origin of novel electronic states of matter, and make these elements at the frontier of the Periodic Table a fascinating subject of research challenging and stimulating theoretical models in solid state physics.
A wide range of actinide compounds are prepared, containing elements from Th to Cm. Polycrystals, single crystals, and thin films are synthesized by a variety of techniques, and conditioned for in-house and out-of-house studies. New classes of material behaviour are investigated by measuring macroscopic properties (such as magnetic susceptibility, electrical conductivity, thermopower and specific heat) under extreme conditions of temperature, pressure and magnetic field and microscopic properties using quantum beam probes (neutrons from nuclear reactors and spallation sources, and photons from synchrotron radiation sources or Mössbauer spectroscopy). By means of thin-film techniques we produce low dimensionality structures, which have also their application in corrosion studies.
Through the “Actinide User Laboratory” programme, our facilities are open to scientists from the European Union that do not have the necessary infrastructure at their home institutions to handle actinide materials.