Laboratori Nazionali del Sud

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About Us

The Laboratori Nazionali del Sud (LNS) are one of the four national laboratories of Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN). Founded in 1976, around 150 people, research scientists, technological scientists, technicians, administratives, PhD students, university students, grant-holders work here. Research activities are mainly oriented towards Nuclear Physics and Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics. The LNS are also an advanced technological pole for development of different types of instrumentation.  

The LNS have two additional separate branches: one, located at the port of Catania, mostly used for assembling and temporary location of systems and apparata of the infrastructure KM3, the other one, located in Portopalo di Capopassero, is the station for acquisition of data traveling from undersea detectors through an electro-optical cable.




At the LNS two accelerators are operating, a Tandem Van de Graaff with maximum terminal voltage of 15 MV, and a K800 Superconducting Cyclotron, a very compact machine with superconductive coils working in Liquid Helium bath at a temperature of 4.2 K, able to generate a magnetic field up to 4.8 Tesla. Ion beams to be injected into the Cyclotron are produced by two ECR sources, named SERSE and CAESAR. The two accelerators allow to produce and accelerate heavy ion beams in a very wide range of mass (from hydrogen to lead) and energy (1-80 MeV per a.m.u.), providing the possibility of investigating on different properties of nuclear matter with several types of reaction.




For more than 10 years radioactive ion beams have been available at energies between 20 and 50 MeV/a.m.u.: they are elements not existing spontaneously but produced in laboratory for a short time through in-flight fragmentation of stable ions accelerated by the Superconducting Cyclotron.  In such fragmentation reactions, several radioactive nuclear species are produced simultaneously with velocities similar to the velocity of the chosen stable projectile. The characteristics of the radioactive nuclei, opportunely tagged, are studied through the well known techniques of nuclear spectroscopy.

Beams produced by the two accelerators can be transported to the LNS experimental halls, which are provided with complex detection systems, scattering chambers, vacuum systems and all the devices necessary to the study of nuclear collisions.   


Nucleus-nucleus collisions at low (below the Coulomb barrier) and higher (the Fermi value) energy are an effective tool of experimental investigation of nuclear structure and reaction mechanisms. Consequently, each experimental detection system is different from the other ones depending upon the type of reaction to be studied, upon the type of reaction products, upon the number of emitted fragments.


At the LNS some of the most advanced detection apparate are operating:





  • the multi-detector CHIMERA, made of 1200 telescopes, an ideal tool for studying the equation of state of nuclear matter through collisions among heavy ions at the Fermi energy





  • the magnetic spectrometer MAGNEX, designed for measurements of the reaction products emitted at small angles with respect to the beam axis; its large acceptance makes it suitable for experiments with radioactive beams too







  • the detection complex made of the multi-detector MEDEA, the solenoid SOLE and the spectrometer MACISTE is an effective tool for studying reaction mechanisms at the Fermi energy





Furthermore, several types of dedicated detectors can be installed in one of the available experimental halls. 

For Astroparticle Physics, a large undersea research infrastructure for neutrinos detection (KM3NeT) is under construction at the LNS branch in Portopalo di Capopassero. It is used for interdisciplinary research activities (Geophysics, Volcanology, Marine Biology, etc.).  



At the LNS an irradiation hall or proton-therapy (CATANA) is operating. The realisation of the CATANA project, as a collaboration among the LNS, the Ophtalmology Institute, the Radiology Institute and the Physics Department of the University of Catania, allows for the use of the Cyclotron beam for the treatment of ocular tumors. The irradiation technique allows for a very precise action to the tumor and a very reduced damage of the surrounding healthy tissues.


At the LNS a laboratory for cultural heritage (LANDIS), a laboratory for environment radioactivity and other laboratories for interdisciplinary activities (photonics, biology, chemistry, etc.) are also operating.




Research activities

At the LNS research activities are carried out in many fields of interest and can be classified as follows:  

Nuclear Physics:

  • study of nuclear structure and nuclear properties
  • study of reaction mechanisms in heavy ions collisions at low (below the Coulomb barrier) and high (the Fermi value) energy  
  • study of the nuclear matter equation of state, both from the theoretical and the experimental point of view
  • development of theoretical models describing the nucleus-nucleus interaction  

Nuclear Astrophysics:

  • study of the nuclear reactions related to stars combustion mechanisms and to synthesis of elements

Particle Astrophysics:

  • the project KM3NET is a research and development program which aims to realize an undersea telescope designed to detect astrophysical neutrinos with very high energy at a depth of 3500 m in the Mediterranean sea. The neutrinos detection will allow to explore unknown regions of space, as well as to study the physics of black holes and astrophysical sources in the universe by means of innovative tools.

Interdisciplinary Research:

The LNS activities span also other research fields through the transfer of know-how, of methodologies and instrumental techniques developed in Nuclear Physics:

  • innovative acceleration systems
  • study of plasma generation by means of laser pulses to produce energetic ions with high charge state  
  • Medicine: the project CATANA has generated a research line that studies the interaction of accelerated ions with living matter, as well as the technological development for measurement of radiation dose  
  • Cultural heritage: in the LANDIS laboratory the instruments development and investigation "in situ" protocol are carried out to make chemical-physical analysis of artifacts, monuments and artwork pieces with non destructive techniques 
  • Environment radioactivity: on-line control systems of radioactive waste, radioactivity monitoring, seismic and geophysical monitoring of undersea regions at abyssal depths 
  • Biology: development of non invasive diagnostic devices in the cancer research and in the control of water pollution and of food quality   
  • Geophysics and oceanography:      the interdisciplinary undersea laboratory allows for the on-line connection with a INGV station for seismic and environmental