BIOMAT Collaboration

High-Energy Irradiation Facility for Biophysics and Materials Research

The FAIR accelerator complex at GSI will be a unique facility, where heavy ions with energies up to 10 AGeV can be used for radiobiology and materials research. The BIOMAT proposal presents the technical design of the BIOMAT irradiation facility at the high-energy beam line of FAIR, which is dedicated

  • to biophysical experiments and
  • to experiments for ion-induced changes in solids.
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The BIOMAT laboratory will be located in the High-Energy Cave (Fig. 2), which is shared with the SPARC Collaboration.


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Fig. 2: Schematic layout of the planned High-Energy Cave shared by the SPARC and BIOMAT collaborations.


A key issue for the planned BIOMAT facility is setting up flexible target stations and providing access to a wide range of different beam parameters (such as kinetic energies, ion charge states etc). The High-Energy Cave has thus to be connected to both the SIS18 and the SIS100 synchrotron. To allow high-quality irradiations of larger sample areas, a magnetic beam scanner will be installed. Additionally, a passive scattering system will be provided. The main target station will comprise various flexible set-ups such as a remote-controlled moving belt for positioning of smaller samples and larger devices (e.g. detectors, space devices) together with a robotic system for automatic handling of biological samples. Irradiation experiments on samples exposed to extreme pressure conditions will be performed in a high-pressure device equipped with a large-volume multi-anvil cell. Finally, for basic studies allowing in-situ und on-line monitoring of ion-induced processes, a multi-purpose UHV-chamber is planned. An additional target set-up in close vicinity of the beam dump will allow experiments with extreme beam conditions with respect to fluence and beam energy.


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Fig. 3: Cosmic radiation spectrum Energy spectrum for hydrogen, helium, carbon and iron in the GCR. Energy spectra peak between 0.1 and 1 GeV per nucleon for all ions. Blue bars indicate the energy range reached by the present GSI accelerators, and the dark blue region is the spectrum that will be covered by FAIR.

Biophysical experiments

The biophysics research program will mainly focus on space radiation effects. Radiation represents a significant hazard in all space explorations, especially outside the protective shield of the Earth’s magnetic field. Solar and galactic particle radiation consists primarily of protons and helium ions, but the relatively small number of heavier ions in the galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) can significantly contribute to radiation dose due to their high ionization energy loss. In humans, genetic alterations, cancer, and cataracts may already be induced by low levels of radiation. There is also the potential for damage to space instrumentation, as the high charge locally deposited by energetic heavy ions can produce changes in computer chips and other electronic devices; frequently observed changes of the status of memory units are a prominent example. Because shielding is difficult and costly in space, the effects of the cosmic radiation should be known as accurately as possible in order to optimize the shielding measures and to exploit the shielding properties of materials used for other purposes, such as the spacecraft hull, internal equipment, fuel and supplies.


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Fig. 4: A future moon landing. According to the new vision for Space Exploration (January 2004), NASA plans to return to the moon in the year 2020. The present project anticipates four to six crew members who will complete lunar-surface exploration for 60–180 days. The Earth-moon cruise lasts about 4 days.


Experiments for ion-induced changes in solids

Materials research will primarily focus on Heavy ion-induced modifications of solids that are exposed to extremely high pressures, Analysis of material modifications induced by relativistic heavy ions, and Radiation hardness of materials.

For purpose, the sample to be investigated must be enclosed between anvils causing extreme pressure conditions. In order to irradiate pressurized samples with ions, the beam energy has to be sufficiently high to penetrate through one of the anvils of thickness in the range of mm to cm. When entering the solid, the projectiles deposit an enormous amount of energy within a very short time and in a very small volume (corresponding to very high power densities) and trigger many different processes including phase transitions, thermal spikes and pressure waves. The response of solids under extreme pressure conditions is completely unknown, but may have direct implications in the field of geosciences with respect to geological formation and radioactive decay processes in the crust and upper mantle of the Earth. Subject concerns both short-time processes stimulated by the projectiles and final modifications of structure and other characteristics of the material. The signature of short-time processes comprises the emission of various particles such as electrons, ions, atoms, and molecules, and of electromagnetic radiation (such as X-rays and Cerenkov light). Their properties as for example intensity, energy, development in time, and spatial distribution, provide valuable insight in track formation processes. Furthermore, short and intense ion pulses are expected to stimulate new processes unreachable under standard irradiation conditions.

Studies of subject aim to investigate the stability and specific modifications of different materials exposed to particle beams of high energy and intensity. This will for example allow us to test insulating materials exposed to high-dose environments or to select materials with the most favorable radiation shielding properties.


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Fig. 5: Scheme and technical design drawings (Voggenreiter GmbH, Mainleus, Germany) of a large-volume multi-anvil cell.

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Fig. 6: Example of a multi-anvil cell apparatus (produced by Voggenreiter GmbH) mounted at a synchrotron-radiation beamline at DESY, Hamburg.
(c) 2017 FAIR
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