Professor Mugera Gitari visited Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) on 20-26 July 2019 on invitation by Professor Alexander Nechaeff who is an expert in applied nuclear sciences and heads the sector: Center for Applied Physics Laboratory. The visit was funded by NRF ‘travel for researchers grants’ support tool.

Professor Mugera Gitari with his host Dr Alexander Nechaeff at Flerov Laboratory Building

The JINR is an independent, multinational research agency located in Dubna, the Russian Federation that conducts both theoretical and practical research, mainly in the fields of elementary particle physics, nuclear physics and condensed matter physics. South Africa is an associate member of JINR. The main objectives for South Africa’s membership to JINR is to provide the South African research community with access to world-class facilities, research and networking opportunities with the JINR scientific community. NRF awards travel grants to South African researchers travelling to JINR laboratories, funds are also available to researchers in South Africa to host JINR research experts for short periods of up to three weeks, in order to enrich local expertise in their field (http://www.nrf.ac.za/joint-institute-nuclear-research-jinr). There are several thematic areas in which researchers can apply for this funding:

• Accelerator technology
• Focal Areas of the Heavy-Ion Physics Research Theme under the SA-JINR agreement
• Applied Nuclear Theme
• Theoretical Physics and Computing
• Education

Under these thematic areas of research, there are specialized Laboratories where experiments are executed (www.jinr.ru). Prof Mugera Gitari was able to establish collaborations with two laboratories at JINR through which students and staff at UNIVEN could exploit in future. These include:

Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (FLNR)-Center for Applied Physics (CAP)

Main research activities in this center include:
• Track etched membranes, nano and microporous material
• Interaction between heavy ions and matter-modification of physical properties of irradiated materials
• High purity isotopes and radioanalytical studies

Their laboratories are equipped with the state-of-the-art equipment such as Raman, HR-SEM, AFM, Zetasizer, contact angle, bubble point and magnetron sputtering.
This collaboration with Prof Alexander will involve development of polymer electrospun nano fibres functionalized with ligands or selective membranes for selective recovery of precious rare earth elements from industrial waste streams. This is a multi-country and multi-institutional project under the BRICS programme and will involve research teams from China, South Africa, Russia and India. This project will entail training of students from Environmental Remediation and Nano Sciences Research (EnViReN) group headed by Prof Gitari on fabrication of polymer electrospun nano fibre adsorbents and track etching in addition to training on use of state-of-the-art material characterization equipment at FLEROV laboratory.

HR-SEM showing the pore created by heavy ion beam to create an ion etched membrane at Flerov Laboratory

Frank Laboratory of Neutron Physics (FLNP)-Neutron Activation Analysis and Applied Research:
This sector of Neutron Activation Analysis and Applied Research (NAAiPI) headed by Prof Marina V. Frontasyeva who was the host for this laboratory visit. This sector carries out analytical studies using the instrumental neutron activation analysis method, is a participant in international and Russian scientific programmes. Prof Marina V. Frontasyeva is an expert in the field of Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). She lectures on nuclear methods and her research interests include studying the environment and more specifically biomonitoring of heavy metals, trace elements deposition on select plants. She has over 300 publications.

“Our collaboration with Prof Marina V. Frontasyeva will involve joint proposals and publications in application of Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) in elemental analysis of mine tailings in South Africa. We will seek to identify the existence of rare earth elements (REE) and radionuclides in the mine tailings which could provide a route for their extraction and recovery,” said Prof Gitari. He continued to highlight that, this will provide an opportunity for students from Environmental Remediation and Nano Sciences Research (EnViReN) group headed by himself (Prof Gitari) to travel to FLNP laboratory for training on application of INAA and subsequent data processing techniques.

Professor Marina V. Frontasyeva (left), Professor Leslie Petrik (center, UWC-South Africa), Professor Mugera Gitari (right) at Professors Marina’s office in JINR, Dubna, Russia

Other laboratories and research sectors at JINR that could be of interest to researchers at UNIVEN include:
• Laboratory of Radiation Biology (LRB)
• Dzhelepov Laboratory for Nuclear Problems (DNLP)

For more detailed information check JINR website www.jinr.ru

Issued by:
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 22 August 2019