Labec overview and history
LABEC is a laboratory in the Sezione di Firenze of INFN, established with the main purpose of performing applications of nuclear techniques in the field of problems related to the Cultural Heritage. Its acronym, indeed (LAboratorio BEni Culturali), recalls just this "mission". However, applications of nuclear techniques also to other fields are currently being performed: studies on environmental problems (mainly, but not only, air quality monitoring), applications to geological studies such as chronological reconstruction of past volcanic eruptions or geochemical modelling of magma evolution, applications to material science in general, and others.
The main equipment of LABEC is a Tandem accelerator, 3 MV terminal voltage, which has been constructed by High Voltage Engineering Europe. The accelerator is equipped with three independent ion sources, one of which (a multiple-sample Cs-sputter source) is dedicated to measurements of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS); the other two sources (a single-sample Cs-sputtering and a Duoplasmatron) are instead used to produce all kinds of beams (from protons to heavy ions) mainly for applications of Ion Beam Analysis (IBA), but also for other purposes such as studies of radiation damage to materials exposed to accurately controlled doses (even very weak), tests of radiation detectors responses, etc.
The high energy side of
the accelerator is equipped with a multi-element detection line for AMS,
designed to perform the detection of the rare isotopes 14C, 10Be,
26Al and 129I (for these measurements, the
multi-sample Cs sputter source is correspondingly used on the low energy
side of the accelerator). As far as AMS is concerned, we are presently
active with just 14C measurements, basically in connection
with problems of dating of archaeological finds; in the future, the
possibility of measuring 129I for environmental monitoring
and 10Be for geological dating will be
the next steps in the development of the AMS potentials of LABEC.
Besides the accelerator, LABEC hosts dedicated laboratories for: sample preparation for AMS; R&D of electronics; ultra-high vacuum tests; detector repair and development. LABEC is hosted in a building expressly constructed by the University of Florence and served by all necessary equipments (including coolant liquids systems, gas handling, compressed air). The overall area of LABEC specific laboratories is of about 1200 m2, plus a number of facilities (50 seats seminar room, two large meeting rooms equipped with teleconference service, storage rooms) shared with other experimental activities of INFN hosted within the same building. Also shared with the other groups of INFN (and in general of those working within the Department of Physics of the University) are the services of a large, well equipped mechanical workshop.
Before LABEC, a well established activity of the group in the field of applied nuclear physics was anyway present in Florence already since the Eighties. This activity was carried out at an accelerator laboratory based on a single-ended 3 MV Van de Graaff, which had been taken to Florence at the beginning of the Seventies after serving for many years as the injector of the electrosynchrotron in the INFN National Laboratories in Frascati. In Florence, this Van de Graaff was fully refurbished and transformed into a positive ion accelerator, to perform first basic nuclear physics experiments, and later, as mentioned, applied nuclear physics.