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Accelerator research

Irradiation is a very powerful tool to modify the atomic structure of materials. Generally, disorder or damage is produced in the process, although in some specific cases, useful structural rearrangements can be produced. During an irradiation, energetic particles collide with target atoms, inducing electronic excitations and producing local excited states. By different processes, these excited states relax to atomic defects. By controlling the irradiation parameters (nature, energy and fluence of the incident particles), it is possible to control the creation of damage. It is also possible to follow as a function of the defect concentration or the phase transformation, the evolution of mechanical, optical and conductivity properties.
At low energies, ions can be implanted in order to modify the chemical concentration and produce, for example, a metastable phase. These implantations are commonly used in the semiconductor industry to dope silicon.
Presently, accelerators are mainly used to simulate the ageing of materials under radiation. In particular, controlling irradiation parameters allows to study the evolution of material properties and, by adjusting the flux of particles, to explore the long-term stability of nuclear materials.
Accelerators are involved in the following researches:

  • control of ageing of the nuclear materials and optimization of nuclear plant lifetime, new materials for the next generation of nuclear plants, materials for nuclear waste management…)
  • production of new materials
  • control by irradiation of the nano-structure of the materials