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Nuclear Science & Applied Physics

Introduction

KACST aims to achieve technology transfer, and development of nuclear sciences and applied physics, and create a scientific research infrastructure that serves the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

 

Introduction

KACST has several research interests in nuclear technology (and its peaceful usage) and various physics fields. The aim is to localize these technologies and build national expertise that will help to achieve the national strategic plan.

Research activities in this sector focus on executing projects in agriculture, industry, and medicine through specialized personnel in diverse engineering fields, nuclear sciences, and physics. The availability of equipment, advanced scientific laboratories, and expertise, contribute to supporting the ongoing development plan to realize Vision 2030.

This sector also supports the national fundamental requirements of radiation monitoring and measurements; e.g., radiological baseline studies of the environment in areas involved with industrial and mining activities. Another field in this sector is irradiation technology which involves research in improving the properties of materials and products through irradiation, for the benefits of industry, medicine, and food sectors.

One of the fundamental fields in this sector is the technology transfer of nuclear accelerators and radiation detectors through localization, development, manufacturing, and reinforcement of the infrastructure for these technologies.

KACST has recently finished designing the first nuclear research reactor in the Kingdom, which involves participation from Saudi engineers and was done in collaboration with international companies in this field, and has just started the construction activities of the reactor. Such a reactor will help transfer and localize these technologies with the highest level of international nuclear safety and security.

Projects

This project aims to design, develop and build RF compact accelerator with enhanced features that will have different use-cases in a wide range of applications such as medical applications for imaging, security applications for scanning prohibited materials, and industrial applications for Non Destructive Testing (NDT). The compact accelerator prototype will be installed at KACST so that different research areas, such as biomedical physics researchers, can use it to achieve their development goals.

This project is a collaboration with advanced international institutes such as the Linear Accelerator Laboratory LAL at Paris-Sud University, France. In the current stage, the initial design with all the required features is almost complete. The simulations were performed for several cavities to identify the appropriate measurement methods. The project deliverables will benefit a number of organizations in the security, surveillance, medical and industrial sectors.

Radioisotopes are one of the essential cornerstones of modern medicine. They can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The current project will entail the development and manufacture of a low cost 12 MeV compact high field-superconducting cyclotron for the local supply of PET Imaging Isotopes that will have the potential to make advanced medical imaging available in any hospital in KSA. In addition, the project will transfer the particle accelerator technologies to the Kingdom and will raise hospital capabilities in using advanced imaging techniques for diagnosis. The project will focus on the production of FDG (F18 isotopes) to be used in the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, which has wide applications such as early detection of cancer. This project will include full transfer technology that will provide the capability to produce unavailable isotopes such as C-11 or O-15. This project deliverables will benefit a number of private and public medical entities.

Due to the limitation of radioactive source applications, nuclear accelerator are considered one of the most powerful technologies nowadays. This project aims to establish a modern state-of-the-art facility to fulfil the high technology requirements for analysis and studies of geological and materials science using a nuclear accelerator technology (Tandetron Accelerator).

This technology is one of the most advanced tools in the world, and has a wide range of modern applications such as medical applications (diagnostic and treatment), industrial applications (improving and modifying industrial materials), carbon dating, which is an important tool for archaeological sciences (determining the age of antique materials), and security applications (forensic science).

This facility is considered as an essential instrument in many other areas of research such as structures in chemistry and biology studies or preformed sensitive trace element analysis in environmental studies. In addition, it will be available for the researchers in the Kingdom to use it in advanced research and applications.

Ultra-High Temperature Materials (UHTM) are considered to be highly important for many applications, such as spacecraft and wall protection shield in nuclear reactors. These materials can operate in temperatures ranging from 1000 to 3000°C; with high chemical, mechanical and thermal stability. The significance of UHTM applications and their high demand has initiated an increase in research and development activities to manufacture UHTM in various ways.

This project aims to create composite materials with high stability at UHT and deposit them on substrates such as Graphite and Silicon Wafers. These materials have a capability to be UHT without affecting their chemical, mechanical and thermal properties; and to maintain their shape without oxidation or corrosion. In order to achieve this goal, modern laboratory techniques are used to prepare these materials such as thermal spray coating and Photolithography. In addition, many types of materials such as polymers, metals and ceramics will be used in order to achieve the best possible results.

Based on the fact that KACST has recently begun constructing the first low power research reactor in the Kingdom, it is committed to sustain its responsibilities regarding the nuclear and radiological safety and security by conducting best practices that fulfill national requirements and instructions in accordance with international standards. Therefore, KACST has prepared and implemented an effective and comprehensive internal regulatory program including all policies and procedures regarding the use of radioactive sources, and how to ensure the safety of the practices and workers. In the year of the report, an inventory of radioactive in-use or stored, have been listed and verified, and an initial draft of safety instructions and materials accountancy procedures have been prepared. Also, radiological workers, practices, and facilities have been determined, described, and characterized, and personal dosimetry has been assessed. The functions and basic requirements of a radiation safety management database system were identified. Finally, nuclear and radiological security measures have been strengthen by finalizing the installation of radiation Portal Monitors (RPM) to detect any crossing of radioactive material or any other item contaminated by radiation.

A backscattered-based X-ray can overcome the limitation of the of the current X-ray inspection systems. The backscatter mobile scanner system (BMS) allows the inspection and screening of moving or stationary objects with a variety of sizes such as sea containers, vehicles, luggage, and people.

The current transmission imaging systems require that the tested object reside in-between the source and the detector, making it difficult to inspect moving objects in many cases. In contrast, the backscatter imaging systems place the source and the detector on one side of the object, providing more flexibility to the users.

Imaging using the BMS system is performed by scanning beam of x-rays over a target. At each position of the scanning pencil beam, scattered x-rays are collected by large detectors. The collected signals are then processed using a suitable algorithm to build the scanning images. The produced images of BMS can highlight the materials of the scanned objects according to the atomic number.

The aim of this project is to build the first nuclear research reactor (LPRR) in Saudi Arabia. This multipurpose facility will support training and human resources development, facilitate nuclear scientific research, and develop and transfer nuclear technology to the Kingdom.

KACST specialists, in collaboration with international experts, have developed the specifications of the LPRR and the design of its components that include reactor core, reactor fuel, and the control and quality assurance systems. These developed specifications adhere to the highest  national and international safety standards as recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The first phase of the project was concluded by analyzing the essential requirements, and preparing the final design and engineering drawings. This includes also acquiring the necessary licenses from the nuclear regulatory entity in Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabian Atomic Regulatory Authority of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy) for the construction of the reactor building and manufacturing of all the nuclear components, e.g., reactor fuel and reactor pool.

To emphasize the importance of nuclear technology transfer to Saudi Arabia as part of Vision 2030, some national companies were enlisted to manufacture several of the highly-safe nuclear components, e.g., the manufacturing of the reactor pool and the preparation of high density heavy concrete used for reactor core shielding. This was achieved by inviting these companies and qualifying them to the highest requirements of the nuclear industry under direct supervision of international experts. The civil work construction of the reactor building was awarded to a local company after ensuring its ability to fulfill the highest standards applied in nuclear projects. The entire process of constructing and operating the reactor will be under direct supervision and inspection by the regulatory body of Saudi Arabia to fulfill the country’s obligations towards the international treaties and agreements concerning nuclear materials. The project culminates with the training of reactor personnel to ensure safe operation, maintenance and optimum utilization of the reactor.

This project, which was conducted in cooperation with Texas A&M University (TAMU), aims to theoretically and experimentally study some physical systems under the umbrella of quantum optics and informatics. This field involves interactions between matter and light which can be limited due to the small size of the atom compared to the wavelength of light. This interaction creates the so-called quantum interference, which is one of the most mysterious features of quantum mechanics. Based on the above, emphasis has been placed on quantum lithography, quantum state weak measurement, and direct quantum communication. The collaboration resulted in many joint research workshops, several published research papers, and five patents. Most importantly, the project involved training Masters and PhD students at TAMU, and more than five of them are close to completing their PhD degrees. Also, some of the published work has been internationally recognized. The outputs of this project can benefit: research centers, communication centers, and encryption agencies in the country.

The main objective of this project is to study the pion-nucleon scattering using instant forms of relativistic quantum mechanics, leading to a better understand of nuclear forces. The reason is that in order to explore the details of the pN interaction, it is necessary that the wavelength of the two particles in the barycentric system be relatively small. By the uncertainty principle, the position of a particle is indeterminate by the amount of the order of its wavelength. It is evident that if the pN interaction is to be explored at distances which are a small fraction of the pion the barycentric system, the particle can be used to probe details of the interaction Compton wavelength, and experiments must be performed at energies of several hundreds of MeV and beyond. Moreover, exploring the interaction puts an upper limit on the relative angular momentum. The maximum angular momentum will occur when its lever arm is equal to the range of the interaction.

The objective of this project is to transfer and implement the technology of Technetium-99 (Tc-99) production for medical imaging applications using cyclotron. Tc-99 is the most widely used radioisotope in the medical imaging field. Currently, the Kingdom imports Tc-99 from international suppliers, resulting in a notable shortage due to issues associated with transportation, importing, and activity decay of Tc-99 prior to their delivery to end-users. The new rout of producing Tc-99 is to utilize the stable molybdenum-100 (Mo-100) as a starting material. Mo-100 will be irradiated using cyclotron with irradiation parameters finely tuned. By carefully monitoring various production aspects, the final Tc-99 product will be available with all international criteria being satisfied.

Currently, 80% of cyclotron’s structural design and technical specifications are completed in collaboration with international experts. Initial testing of Tc-99 production will take place in the second quarter of 2019 and the final production will be in the third quarter of 2019. KACST’s objective of this project is to guarantee continuous production of Tc-99 for local hospitals.

The aim of this project is to develop a high resolution mass selection technique known as quadrupole mass filter. The apparatus is used to accumulate ions and cool them by collisions before injecting them as packets into the electrostatic storage ring. The system consists of an ion source, a quadrupole mass filter, a special pulsed gate valve (aerodynamic chopper) and an hexapole trap. Various electrostatic lenses are inserted between the elements. This technique allows users to conduct experiments with large molecules used in medicine and medical diagnostics as well as atomic and molecular physics. Moreover, the apparatus provides research opportunities for KACST research centers, universities, and the R&D units at the industrial entities. It will also serve as an ongoing complement to the Storage Ring program and as a training platform for future young researchers. The design and manufacturing of the system, as well as the control system, have been completed in the year of the report. The installation and initial testing is expected to begin next year.