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Dalton Nuclear Institute

Dalton Cumbrian Facility viewed from field outside on a sunny day

Cumbria facilities

Our dedicated research base, the Dalton Cumbrian Facility, provides academia and industry the opportunity to carry out high-end research in radiation science and nuclear engineering decommissioning.

Our facilities allow scientists to simulate several decades of in-service exposure in an operating environment, providing important data for lifetime behaviour predictions and models.

Visiting researchers have support from our experimental team as well as access to analytical and inspection laboratories, meeting rooms and hot desks in our research office.

We are part of:

  • The National Nuclear User Facility, part of the government's Nuclear Industrial Strategy enabling greater accessibility to highly innovative technologies as a collaborative effort.
  • The EPSRC UK National Ion Beam Centre, providing a single point of access for the UK research community to ion beam modification and analysis infrastructure and expertise.
  • The Henry Royce Institute, the UK National Centre for Research and Innovation of Advanced Materials.

Our equipment

The Dalton Cumbrian Facility hosts a variety of industry-leading equipment vital to UK nuclear research. Details of this equipment are listed below:

Accelerators and Beamlines

DCF houses two accelerators, a 5-MV tandem and a 2.5-MV Pelletron, configured to provide a range of ion irradiation and analysis capabilities across eight beam lines. Ion beam irradiation allows rapid achievement of materials damage levels accumulated during many years of in-service exposure and provides data on the effects of radiation under very specific conditions of temperature, radiation dose rate and radiation dose.
Set-up allows for tightly controlled in-situ interrogation of materials properties during irradiation, providing data to develop and validate predictive radiation effects models.

The ion beam facilities are used primarily for radiation damage studies of materials or radiation chemistry studies of processes that are of interest to the nuclear energy industry. However, the facilities can also suitable for research in a variety of other areas, for example radiobiology and space missions.

Dual ion beam capability, currently under development with an estimated completion date of Autumn 2022, allows for creation of damage effects (from heavy ion bombardment) whilst simultaneously maintaining a radiation rich field.

The 5-MV tandem (model 15SDH-4 from NEC) has two sources:

  • Toroidal volume ion source (TORVIS) can generate up to 100 μA of proton current (up to 10 MeV), or 1 μA of He ion (α) current (up to 15 MeV)
  • Multi-cathode source of negative ions by caesium sputtering (MC-SNICS) for the production of heavy ion beams (up to 35 MeV), provides up to 50 hours of continuous beam at constant current with 20 cathodes per wheel for quick changeover.

Four standalone end-stations, plus two shared with the 2.5-MV accelerator, each with unique capability:

  • Line 1 terminates into a lead shielded hot cell so that high damage studies (utilising protons up to 100 μA at 10 MeV) can be performed and samples can be irradiated up to 1200oC
  • Line 2 incorporates fast reaction valves (35 ms response) for direct coupling to liquid or gas filled enclosures relevant to in-situ corrosion studies, or simulation of radiation chemistry in deep-space ice cores
  • Line 3 is dedicated to low dose rate (few nA), high energy irradiations for radiation chemistry. A collimator and exit window allow for ex-vacuum studies on liquid or biological samples.
  • Line 7 is dedicated to ion beam analysis. An NEC RC43 end-station incorporates PIXE (Particle Induced X-ray Emission), RBS (Rutherford Backscattering Spectroscopy), ERD (Elastic Recoil Detection) and NRA (Nuclear Reaction Analysis).

The 2.5-MV Pelletron (model 7.5SH-2 from NEC) is a source of high current (100 μA) proton or helium ion beams, and other noble gas ion beams e.g. krypton and xenon. It shares its two end-stations with two from the larger accelerator:

  • Line 5/A: Single or dual beam radiation damage, using either in-house sample stages, or users own special stage
  • Line 6/B: Single or dual beam radiation damage with built in Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (SIMS) and Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (EELS) analysis.

A bespoke fluid recirculation loop that operates at high temperature and pressure can be coupled to an end station, allowing for extreme conditions relevant to nuclear reactor coolant to be probed.

Gamma and X-Ray Irradiators

Our high dose rate gamma irradiator is designed and operated to support a wide range of research applications, with the aim of developing understanding of the mechanistic effects of gamma radiation on materials, systems and components. The instrument is capable of delivering dose rates from around 25 kGy/h to less than 100 Gy/h. Current maximum dose rate of 14 kGy/hour (April 2022).
For experiments where lower energy photons are more applicable, our Precision X-Ray Multi-Rad 350 irradiator is capable of dose rates up to 140 Gy/min (unfiltered beam).

Example research areas are:

  • effects of gamma radiation on nuclear waste forms and waste storage media;
  • graphite management (long term radiation effects on graphite, development of moderators for future reactor designs);
  • polymers - irradiation can enhance or deteriorate mechanical characteristics; eg irradiated polyethylene can be 60% thinner than un-irradiated films with identical mechanical performance;
  • biomedical materials – e.g. artificial hip prostheses are radiation sterilised to reduce the risk of postoperative complications.

Gamma irradiator (Foss Therapy Services Model 812):

  • Currently loaded with three source rods (60Co) with activity evenly distributed along each rod, supplying a planar radiation field
  • Two turntable positions centred at 10 or 15cm from the source with central dose rates of ~71 and ~42 Gy/min respectively (April 2022)
  • Irradiation chamber measures 25cm wide by 27cm high, providing 9L capacity – can be extended to 30cm height for planar irradiations, if turntable mechanism removed
  • Two 19mm diameter shielded service ports for feed through of instrument cables or carrier lines for liquid/gas for in-situ monitoring of samples or electronics
  • Attenuators provide up to ×32 reduction in dose rates and dose rates can be further reduced by raising only 1 or 2 sources
  • Dewar available for low temperature measurements in liquid nitrogen, dry ice or other cooling bath mixture
  • A bespoke fluid recirculation loop that operates at high temperature and pressure can be fed through the gamma irradiator service ports and coupled to an autoclave (can withstand up to 350 °C and 220 bar), allowing for extreme conditions relevant to nuclear reactor coolant to be probed.

X-ray irradiator (model MR350 cabinet irradiator manufactured by Precision X-Ray Irradiation):

  • Maximum dose rate 24 Gy/min
  • Broad X-ray energy spectrum provided by Bremsstrahlung, after accelerating an electron beam onto a tungsten plate
  • Peak x-ray energies are approximately 10 – 115 keV (electron acceleration voltage 30 – 350 keV)
  • Electron current of 0.1 – 30 mA (maximum total power is 4 kW)
  • Irradiation chamber measures 41cm wide by 88cm deep and 58cm high
  • Automatic dose rate sensing, a range of apertures, and a turntable to improve dose homogeneity
  • Insertion chambers can be used to change the gas atmosphere (e.g. CO2 or hypoxic)
  • Access ports allow for connection to external instruments

Analysis and Characterisation

We provide fully equipped analytical and characterisation laboratories for a wide range of material examination, including pre- and post-irradiation. Our equipment can be used to measure gases, solutions, solids, thin films and powders. The characterisation suite can accommodate biological, organic and inorganic samples and technical expertise is also available.

Equipment available includes:

  • Scanning electron microscopy (Quanta 250 FEG ESEM) with EBSD, EDX, WDS detectors
  • Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) system (vacuum, Ar, N, atmosphere, up to 100MPa and 2000oC) is available for custom pellet preparation
  • Panalytical Empyrean K-alpha X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) system with Pixcel 3D detector (reflection/transmission mode; 2D XRD; powder, thin film, microbeam, texture analysis, non-ambient, capillary stage available)
  • Helium pycnometery for volume and density measurements
  • FT-IR & FT-Raman - Bruker Vertex series FTIR coupled with Ram II for macro Raman of liquids solids or powders
  • Dispersive Raman microscope with a choice of 3 lasers (532, 633 or 785 nm) and the Ramanscope attachment enables FT Raman microscopy when coupled to the Ram II liquid nitrogen-cooled detector
  • Setaram LabsysTM Evo for Thermogravimetric (TGA) / Calorimetric (DSC) analysis coupled with a Hiden EGA Mass Spectrometer - an advanced analytical system capable of delivering both qualitative and quantitative information about thermal effects in materials in correlation with their structure and composition. Temperature range: up to 1600ºC
  • Gas chromatography with flame ionisation, thermal conductivity and electron capture detectors. A PAL3 autosampler allows rapid analysis from samples in crimp-cap vials
  • Ion Chromatography - The ICS1600 is a cation separating chromatograph and the ICS2100 is an anion separating chromatograph, the attached autosampler can inject into either chromatograph or both in sequential mode
  • High performance liquid chromatography (Agilent 1260 with UV/Vis absorption detector)
  • UV/Visible/Near Infrared absorbance spectrometer with diffuse reflectance accessory for solids and powders (wavelengths from 175 to 3300 nm)
  • Fluorescence spectrometer with liquid, powder and monolith sample holders (wavelengths from 190 to 900 nm)
  • X-ray imaging: Ultrafocus 100 (Faxitron) provides energies from 10 – 100 kV for imaging a range of low density materials. Imaging area up to 23 by 29cm and spatial resolution of 5 µm at 10 times magnification
  • EPR X-band spectrometer for studying paramagnetic molecules such as free radicals and transition metal ions with variable temperature unit for 100 – 373 K measurements, finger Dewar for 77 K measurements directly in liquid nitrogen, and in situ UV irradiation capability with Hg Arc lamp
  • Microplate reader for absorbance, fluorescence, fluorescence polarisation or luminescence measurements of up to 96 well plates, in the range 220-1000nm.
  • A range of 3D Printers
  • A range of high quality and high precision equipment to do sample preparation pre and post-irradiation


Accessing our facilities

We welcome academic and commercial users from the UK and overseas. Information about the booking processes for our equipment is detailed below:

Facility booking process

Accelerators & Beamlines
Calls for beamtime proposals are usually published in early April, August and December. We currently allocate slots on a 4 monthly basis (June to Sep, Oct to Jan, Feb to May).

If you would like your name added to the Accelerator Users list to be notified of calls for proposals, please contact and request for your email address to be added.

Proposals are panel-assessed and for the best chance of a successful application we would expect you to contact us for an informal discussion prior to submitting a proposal.

Proposals should be submitted on our most up-to-date proposal form which is emailed out when we issue calls.

The following process applies:

  1. User contacts Dalton Cumbrian Facility for informal discussion prior to proposal submission.
  2. Experimental activity is outlined and agreed informally, subject to final confirmations.
  3. User submits proposal form to in response to a call.
  4. Proposal undergoes technical evaluation at Dalton Cumbrian Facility.
  5. Proposal undergoes scientific review and prioritisation.
  6. Facility time is allocated, subject to availability.
  7. Experimental activity is scheduled and confirmation email is issued to user.

Gamma & X-Ray Irradiators
Calls for irradiation slots are usually published in early April, August and December. We currently allocate slots on a 4 monthly basis (June to Sep, Oct to Jan, Feb to May).

We reserve a fixed percentage of time each month for commercial work with the remainder for academic projects. Occasionally there may be short notice slots available.

If you would like your name to be added to our Irradiator Users list to be notified of scheduling deadlines and availability, please email and request for your email address to be added.

Analytical Equipment
Please contact with details of your experiment and the equipment you would like to be book and we will contact you to discuss dates/feasibility.