LIBRA: The Ion-Beam Applications Program

INP's activities on Ion-Beam Applications

    The INP group has a long-term expertise (since mid 70's) in the development of analytical techniques based on nuclear methodology and instrumentation often combined with X-Ray spectrometry. These activities are related to cultural heritage, biomedicine, and environmental studies.

    In the field of cultural heritage, the activities of the group include:

  • Development of a novel micro-analytical technique known as 3D Micro-PIXE. This technique was first applied in vacuum in the framework of a joint experiment at the Micro-Analytical Center of Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was then employed under atmospheric pressure in a subsequent experiment (March 2007) using the external proton micro-beam of the AGLAE accelerator at the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration de Museés de France, Paris, France. The latter activity was supported by the FP6/Eu-ARTECH trans-national access program.
  • Development and application of an external ion-beam set-up for non-destructive analyses.
  • Development of an external ion-beam end-station for the combined implementation of the PIXE, RBS and PIGE techniques.
  • Development, evaluation and application of portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instruments for the non-destructive analysis of cultural materials.
  • Development of analytical methodologies and standardization procedures to improve the quality of the analytical information obtained by ion-beam and X-Ray Fluorescence techniques
  • Performance evaluation studies of tagging technologies. These are often applied to ensure the identity of replicas or the authenticity of original objects/artworks using ion-beam technologies.
  • Application of XRF to non-invasive advanced characterization of ancient or historical artifacts/artworks and diagnosis of the state of preservation of artifacts exhibited at the museum showcase or storehouse in order to support conservation treatments.
  • Application of Nuclear Reaction Analysis (NRA) for elemental depth profiling (depth profile of a) sulfur and copper in artificially prepared patina layers and b) hydrogen and sodium in ancient glass).
  • In addition to these activities, the INP group has developed an advanced and unique expertise in surveying in-situ monuments (such as funeral tombs) as well as archaeological collections comprising metallic objects, ceramics, painted plasters, and polychromic marbles. This expertise was demonstrated in different museums and archaeological sites across Greece, including: Ancient Messene, the Nestor "Palace" in Messenia, Ancient Korinth, Archaeological Museum of Nauplio city, National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Delos, Museum of Vergina, Macedonia, Greece etc. The INP group has, furthermore, implemented a state-of-the art trans(portable) micro-XRF spectrometer in surveying ancient or historic metal artefact collections across the Mediterranean region including the Armoury palace in Malta, the Damascus archaeological Museum in Syria, Numismatic Museum at the Yarmouk University and from the Umm Qais site in Jordan and others. Some of these in-citu analyses are shown in figure 3 below. These research activities have also been accompanied by technology transfer to end-users, through the organizations of training courses for conservators and the development of dedicated large-beam mobile XRF spectrometers, notably for the Greek Ministry of Culture (Stone conservation Centre and Archaeological Museum of Volos), the Benaki (private) Museum in Athens, the Institute of Materials Science of NCSR "Demokritos", and others.

In the field of environmental research, the activities of the INP group included:

  • Chemical state analysis of samples employing sub-natural line-width resolution PIXE measurement of the Kα diagram line. The work was performed in the framework of a Greek-Slovenia bilateral collaboration (2001-2003), by implementing PIXE in combination with a high-resolution crystal spectrometer in Johansson geometry. The technique developed enables energy resolution below the natural line-width of the ion-induced Kα diagram lines of the elements. The potential of the analytical methodology developed in chemical speciation studies was demonstrated via the speciation of sulfur in an aerosol filter.
  • A complete systematic study of the concentrations of all inorganic elements contained in Greek lignite and fly ash. This study was performed in the framework of the European program CI1*-CT91-0858 "Trace elements in coal". The analysis of fractionated fly-ash samples and individual fly-ash particles revealed for the first time, interesting information about the distribution of toxic trace elements in fly ash particles of small size.
  • Systematic measurements of the concentrations of about thirty-five inorganic elements in a large number of soil samples from the area of the old (now closed) Athens airport. These measurements were performed on behalf of the Hellenic Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, using XRF and ion-beam analytical methods. They aimed at the assessment of the toxicity level of the area (possibly caused by its earlier use by aircrafts and related services) in view of its future use as a a residential park. In this framework, an analytical technique based on Deuteron Induced Gamma-ray Emission (DIGE) was developed and applied at the Tandem accelerator of INP enabling the determination of beryllium in geological samples.

In the field of biomedicine, the activities of the INP group have, so far, focussed on the development of novel analytical methods aiming at determining trace elements in human tissues or fluids through efficient, precise and accurate application of energy dispersive fluorescence (ED-XRF) and ion beams. The following characteristic examples are, hereby, reported:

  • Determination of uranium in human urine by applying a pre-concentration method resulting in detection limits competitive with alpha spectrometry that is suitable for controlling uranium uptake by human above the normal threshold levels.
  • Determination of low-trace platinum levels in the blood circulation of mice after its administration either via aqueous cis-platin solution or in the form of Pt nano-particles.
  • Trace element metabolic studies in patients being in various stages of renal failure.
  • Development of a database including representative trace element concentrations for blood, serum and plasma of the Greek population.
  • Application of Proton-Induced γ-Ray Emission (PIGE) for fluorine analysis in teeth and beryllium analysis in dental alloys.

Apart from the research activities described above, the INP group has also been collaborating with almost all Greek universities and other research centers. Research groups from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the National University of Athens (UoA), the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), the University of Ioannina (UoI), as well as from the Institute of Materials Science (IMS), the Institute of Microelectronics (IMEL) and the Institute of Nuclear Technology and Radiation Protection (INT-RP) of "Demokritos" and, recently, groups from the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF) and the University of Crete (UoC) are performing joint experiments with the INP group at the INP Tandem accelerator to a) study properties of materials of technological interest subjected to irradiations, b) test the response of detectors, some of which are used in high-energy physics experiments, to high-dose charged-particle and neutron irradiations, c) measure cross sections of charged-particle induced reactions applied in material analysis, d) analyze materials for nuclear waste applications, e) measure neutron-induced reaction cross sections for ADS systems (within the n_TOF collaboration) and f) perform atmospheric-pollution related analyses. These joint activities have been documented by a significant number of collaboration papers. A detailed description of these activities is beyond the scope of the present presentation. [top] [relevant publications] [theses]

Ion-Beam Applications


Dr. Sotirios V. Harissopulos
Tandem Accelerator Laboratory,
Institute of Nuclear Physics,
NCSR "Demokritos",
POB 60228, 153.10 Aghia Paraskevi,
Athens, Greece