That's the Most Powerful Italian Accelerator
It is called SPES, an acronym for the selective production of "exotic species" but it has nothing to do with Darwin. This is the most powerful accelerator of protons existing in Italy and it allows both the study of unstable atomic nuclei, such as those formed in the core of the stars, as well as production of medical radioisotopes
We will study the atomic nuclei produced in the late stages of the evolution of stars and, at the same time, will produce radioisotopes for medicine. This is the dual objective of the project SPES (Selective Production of Exotic Species), whose cyclotron, and the particle accelerator that is at its heart, was inaugurated on December 2 at the National Laboratory of Legnaro (LNL) of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).
"For the SPES aspect, the most intriguing part of nuclear physics is the ability to produce highly unstable nuclei, very different from those that we find on Earth," says Giovanni Fiorentini, director of LNL. "Most of our knowledge about the properties of nuclei was acquired through the study of existing stable nuclei: the SPES beams open a new perspective that will provide knowledge about the properties of nuclei in extreme conditions."
The heart of the SPES project is represented by high intensity cyclotron, a circular accelerator able to produce protons and accelerate at the rate of ten million protons every second. From the Cyclotron two proton beams will be extracted: one dedicated to the studies of nuclear astrophysics, and the other applications, in particular those directed to medicine, but also to the study of the properties of new materials, by means of the irradiation with neutrons.
"SPES is the flagship accelerator for nuclear physics that INFN offers to Italian researchers and those who wish to use it coming from other countries due to its competitiveness," adds the president of INFN Fernando Ferroni. "Its purpose is still beyond that of basic research, because this accelerator will be also used for the production of particular radionuclides for nuclear medicine, which will be useful for the diagnosis and treatment of hear diseases and oncology."
Among the innovative aspects of the project – a total value of around 50 million Euro, of which a dozen for only synchrotron – is also highlighted the funding system. For the SPES operation, it will be crucial that the funds will be derived from production of radioisotopes for medical use, an aspect which guarantees the project a prospect of autonomy and continuity.
SPES is part of the larger European project Eurisol, which today sees the European nuclear physicists engaged in the construction of three infrastructure of radioactive ion beams. In addition to SPES, under construction in France is a machine with similar characteristics, SPIRAL2, and CERN is in the process upgrading the existing equipment ISOLDE. These three machines will form a distributed infrastructure in Europe.
Watch the video service INAF-TV:
Check out the video on the INFN National Laboratories of Legnaro: