The European Network of Small-scale Accelerator Facilities – ENSAF


Low-energy stable-beam facilities will continue to contribute to our understanding of nuclei through research in nuclear structure, reactions and nuclear astrophysics, and will be important in high-level education of students and training of young researchers in nuclear physics. Small-scale national facilities played, and still do so, a crucial role in providing expertise in developing experimental techniques and equipment for the flagship facilities from the ESFRI Roadmap. The role of small-scale national facilities was highlighted in the last NuPECC Long-Range Plan of 2010, where one reads among the recommendations: Fully exploit smaller scale national and university Nuclear Physics laboratories across Europe dedicated to nuclear structure and astrophysics experiments, fundamental interactions and nuclear applications.

ENSAF is in line with NuPECC’s recommendations as its primary objective is to strengthen the role of small-scale facilities in the European Research Area by bringing together scientists from many European small-scale accelerator facilities to:

  • Organise extended data bases of resources available at small-scale accelerator facilities, and increase the community awareness of the capabilities of these facilities and identify niches for scientific research.
  • Develop good practices and exchange know-how related to a) the operation of accelerators and ion sources, b) target preparation and recycling, c) detector and instrumentation maintenance, and d) laboratory management and coordination of users.
  • Develop and coordinate common scientific efforts with emphasis on projects around the Transnational Access facilities of ENSAR2 and furthermore around the upcoming ESFRI infrastructures.
  • Elaborate and formulate action plans aiming at an effective use of small-scale accelerator facilities for training young scientists. This becomes particularly important as our field concentrates top research in large-scale facilities with complex detection and data-acquisition systems accessed through highly competitive research proposals and procedures. In this context, small-scale facilities should complement the early stages of the formation of future generations of experimentalists and serve, when necessary, as introductory laboratories to TA facilities.

Description of work

  • Task 1: Awareness (coordinated by NCSRD)

This task aims at producing a survey of resources available at the ENSAF accelerator facilities (scientific instrumentation, analytical facilities, services provided, etc.). Collaboration with NuPECC, the IAEA and other Integrating Activity projects is envisaged within this task. A workshop dedicated to Task 1 will be organised around project-month 12 with the tentative title “Physics Opportunities and Innovation at European Small-Scale Accelerators” that will result also in a corresponding strategy report.

  • Task 2: Exchange of know-how and best practices (coordinated by USE)

Reliable operation of an accelerator requires specific maintenance works and skills from the operating and scientific personnel. Ion sources, up-charging systems, remote control software, etc. are often causing failures due to numerous technical problems. For addressing these problems and finding solutions, different groups have often applied different approaches, gaining this way valuable experience. In addition, all nuclear-physics experimentalists have to provide independently of the goal of their measurements a “target” to perform an experiment. The production of a target is often a demanding procedure and the personnel performing this acquire with time increased skills and an extended knowledge of physical properties of different target materials and their behaviour. It is of utmost importance to train accordingly the scientific personnel in target-preparation techniques. Moreover, small-scale accelerator laboratories are increasingly receiving beam-time requests for experiments of interdisciplinary character. Hence, groups of users from other disciplines are gradually forming around these laboratories setting specific conditions to their management. Best practices in this respect are not widespread. A review and evaluation of management approaches in small labs would therefore be very useful to perform. To achieve the goals of Task 2, ENSAF foresees some financial support for mobility of experts between the participating laboratories. The corresponding requests will be forwarded to the ENSAF Coordinator and will be evaluated centrally, i.e., by the Facility Coordination Group (FCG) of ENSAR2. For this purpose, the ENSAF Coordinator will participate in the FCG meetings to report on ENSAF progress and present these applications. Within Task 2, an International Workshop of experts in Accelerator Operation and Management will be organised by project month 30 under the auspices of ENSAR2.

  • Task 3: Linking ENSAF and TA facilities (coordinated by NCSRD)

TA facilities within ENSAR2 are expected to provide beam time for forefront research. Hereby, a strong competition between excellent proposals is expected. The preparation of these proposals often requires time demanding preparatory measurements for, e.g., instrument calibration, radiation-hardness tests (especially with secondary neutron beams) or feasibility studies, notably off-beam tests of unique setups. As TA labs are often overloaded by running PAC (programme advisory committee) approved experiments, the time offered for preparatory work is very limited. Small-scale facilities can therefore serve, whenever this is technically feasible, to contribute indirectly to the “access” TA labs offer. Hence, Task 3 aims at partially supporting such activities, i.e. preparatory work at an ENSAF lab with the primary aim to subsequently setup a research proposal to be submitted to the PAC of a TA laboratory, or feasibility studies at a TA facility by ENSAF scientists, in general. Activities to be implemented within Task 3, should be in line with the scientific goals of ENSAR2, i.e. nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics and related applications and will have to be scheduled twice a year (on a six-month cycle) before being presented to the ENSAR2 FCG. As in Task 2, applications for mobility support will be forwarded to the ENSAF Coordinator who will participate in the FCG meetings to report on the ENSAF progress and present these applications. Support will be decided by the FCG.

  • Task 4: Training of students and young researchers at small facilities (coordinated by UCO)

A working group will be setup to discuss and evaluate best ways to use small accelerators and the installed instrumentation for training young researchers at the beginning of their careers. This will be in connection with Task 3 about linking ENSAF and TA facilities, but will be treated with special emphasis on using smaller accelerators for training. Mobility of post-docs will be supported, in line with the procedures set for Task 3. The working group will have two collaboration meetings and will deliver by project month 36 a corresponding strategy report.


  • D7.1: Strategy Report entitled

“Physics Opportunities and Innovation at European Small-Scale Accelerators” (Month 18)

  • D7.2: Electronic Proceedings entitled

“International Workshop on Accelerator Operation and Management” (Month 36)

  • D7.3: Strategy Report entitled

“Training Opportunities at European Small-Scale Accelerators” (Month 36)

  • D7.4: Strategy Report entitled

“Integration of the ENSAF labs with the European TA Accelerator Facilities” (Month 48)