alexa Grand Accélérateur National d'Ions Lourds

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Grand Accélérateur National d'Ions Lourds

The Grand Accélérateur National d’Ions Lourds (GANIL), or Large Heavy Ion National Accelerator, is a French national nuclear physics research center in Caen. The facility consists primarily of two serialised synchrocyclotrons.

The atom's nucleus still raises many questions for scientists. A real trip into the unknown, this so-called "fundamental research" carried out at GANIL since its creation in 1976, has contributed to advances in our current theoretical understanding of the nucleus. GANIL is also used for multidisciplinary research in fields as diverse as: Atomic physics, Condensed matter physics, Chemistry under irradiation and Radiobiology.

This is the role played by the CIRIL laboratory (Multidisciplinary Center for Ions-Laser Research) installed near the GANIL. The management of radioactive waste, and the aging of nuclear power plants are studied in this laboratory. Other studied topics include the resistance to cosmic rays of electronic components onboard satellites, as well as the principles of radiotherapy using heavy particles. Moreover, thanks to GANIL and its industrial applications service, it has been possible to create specialized companies in such diverse areas as the production of micro-porous membranes (filters), the development of new electronic modules, and the marketing of ion sources. The GANIL contributed towards the creation of a high-tech startup incubator, known as "Normandie Incubation".

The EURISOL project is the continuation of SPIRAL2, which explains why GANIL has a leading position in this project. However, EURISOL will require a Research and Development Phase, since present knowledge would not allow all of its elements, as they are currently planned, to be created. Thus, SPIRAL2 can be considered as an intermediate step towards a completely new generation of accelerators. It is already operating with a neutron beam, large volume targets intended for the separation of isotopes, and an on-line accelerator line. This will also enable the constraints imposed by a strongly radioactive environment to be tested. These characteristics are also those of the EURISOL project.

To develop these methods, a second generation of radioactive beam accelerators now needs to be constructed. The United States have thus focused on a single project, using both methods. Europe, for its part, has chosen to develop two complementary machines: FAIR, in Germany, to develop the high-energy facility, and EURISOL, based on the ISOL method. GANIL, together with CERN, which is located on the French-Swiss border, is one of the best candidates for this second facility.

EURISOL will thus be one of a new generation of accelerators, with which the "terra incognita" of the chart of nuclides will be explored. Indeed, there are different scenarios, according to which type of matter can be created. Most of them point to the important role played by exotic nuclei during the Big Bang, but also to their influence after the explosion. EURISOL could contribute towards research on new isotopes for medical applications, and towards the study of the material properties. This project is supported by the European nuclear physics expert Committee NuPECC.