Laboratori Nazionali del Sud

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Applied Physics

The INFN Commission V, referred as the 'Technological Commission', is the National Institute of Nuclear Physics committee involved in technological and multidisciplinary activities. 

It includes all activities related to the accelerators physics, the development of new detectors and multidisciplinary physics in general (applications of physics to medical, computing, space, environmental, cultural heritage and computing applications).

At Southern National Laboratories, the Commission V has a total of about 50 FTE (Full Time Equivalent). The activities include the study and development of new acceleration techniques (LPA2), the study of new and innovative sources of ions and their diagnostic (IONS), and of new detectors (MEDIPIX4, PRAGUE). The activities within the Commissione V also cover medical physics (NEPTUNE, ISOLPHARM, AIM, MICROBE) and computational physics (INFN-MC).

Here is a list (in alphabetical order) of currently active projects, with a brief description and the relevant link to the official web page.


AIM (Artificial Intelligence in Medicine) Project

Local PI: Dr Giorgio Russo


As part of the AIM project proposed by the INFN CSN5, the IBFM is involved in the working group for the analysis of computed tomography (CT) images for the identification and quantification of lung regions affected by COVID-19. In particular, the team composed of researchers from the IBFM, the Ri.MED of Palermo and the Georgia Institute of Technology of Atlanta has implemented and adapted a deep learning network called Efficient Neural Network (ENet), initially created for self-driving cars.
Our team participated in the COVID-19 LUNG CT LESION SEGMENTATION CHALLENGE (COVID-19-20), organized by the Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention Society. It was an international challenge for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms for the segmentation and quantification of lung lesions caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection from multicenter, multinational, and patients of different age, gender, and disease severity. The challenge committee assessed the performance of the algorithms by comparing their results with actual diagnoses. The algorithm proposed by our group was ranked first in Italy.


ION Source development @ INFN

Local PI: Eng. L. Celona and Dr. G. Castro


The IONS project proposes a research and development program aimed to improving the performance of ECR sources of positive ions through the knowledge and control of plasma parameters. The goal is to develop tools able to modify the EEDF in order to increase the production of the desired charge state by minimizing the ripple and beam emittance. In particular, it plans to:

  • develop beam diagnostics to evaluate as beam properties are influenced by plasma parameters;
  • minimize leakage flows in the plasma chamber, testing different active (multi-segmented chamber) and passive (wall covering) methods able to actively modifying the EEDF;
  • develop optical spectroscopy (OES) as a diagnostic tool to evaluate EEDF in a non-invasive way;
  • design, implement and test a selective radio frequency ion heating system (ICRH) that allows to modify the distribution of charge states (CSD) by perturbing the ionization and recombination processes.



Local PI: Dr. Giorgio Russo


ISOLPHARM is a multidisciplinary project, aiming on one hand to study a new and unconventional method for the production of pure radionuclides based on the ISOL (Isotope Separation On-Line) technique, on the other hand to develop a new generation of radiopharmaceuticals. As one of the applications of the SPES project (Selective Production of Exotic Species), ISOLPHARM will exploit the Radioactive Ion Beams (RIBs) produced in the future ISOL SPES facility at the Legnaro National Laboratories (LNL) of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).
The biological distribution of new radiotracer labelled with 68Ga or 64Cu will be studied on mice model by using the microPET/CT installed at the Catania University. The exams will be performed in collaboration with IBFM-CNR, Cefalù unit, researcher teams. Uptake quantification will be evaluated by semi-automatic home-made IBFM-CNR software and expertise.


Laser-driven Proton Acceleration Applications (LPA2)

Local PI: Dr. GAP Cirrone


The main purpose of the LPA2 (Laser Driven Proton Acceleration Applications) project is to carry out the first radiobiology measurement with proton beams produced by laser-matter interaction at the INO-CNR (Pisa, Italy). The project is composed by four tasks dedicated to the optimization, selection and focusing of low energy proton beams (WP1), realization of a dosimetric system for pulstate beams at very high dose rates (WP2) and quantification of the biological damage induced on in-vitro cell samples (WP3).



PI: Dr. G.A.P. Cirrone

Local PI: Dr. L. Pandola


The MC-INFN project includes all the computing and modelling activities currently present within the CSNV of the INFN. In particular, it is made up of two different groups: the Italian developer group of FLUKA and the Italian developer group of Geant4.
The project activities are therefore mainly linked to the development of the two codes and, consequently, the activity has a very close connection and is intimately integrated, with those carried out within international collaborations.
Details of the activities carried out within MC-INFN can be found on the website of the project and on the Facebook page, which is specifically devoted to dissemination activities.



Local PI: Dr. S. Tudisco


The MEDIPIX4 INFN project is aimed at the exploitation of the family of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) developed by the Medipix4 Collaboration at CERN, that will allow to develop detector systems with performances far beyond the state-of-the-art. Hardware and software tools will be developed in order to use this cutting-edge technology in a wide range of applications, together with the corresponding expertise, and will be made available to the INFN community, with impact on many research fields such as X-ray, gamma-ray and particle imaging, including technology and knowledge transfer opportunities.


Microdosimetry-based assessment of Biological Effectiveness in Ion Therapy - MICROBE_IT

Local PI: Dr. G. Russo


The use of charged particles (like protons and carbon ions) for cancer radiotherapy (RT) has demonstrated to be more efficient in respect to conventional photons and x-ray RT. Such efficiency is due to the physical properties of ions which allow to reach a more precise dose distribution on their targets minimizing the dose released within adjacent tissues. On the contrary, conventional RT is often associated to detrimental side effects involving the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor because dose distribution is less controllable and unavoidable. Although clinical results have been encouraging, numerous treatment uncertainties remain major obstacles to the full exploitation of charged particles. One of the key issues is understanding the link between the energy deposited by radiation and its relative biological effectiveness (RBE).
The physical dose depends on the radiation field quality (particle species and Linear Energy Transfer, LET) while RBE has a complex dependency on both physical and biological parameters of the irradiated system. Dose, LET and RBE represent the main ingredients of treatment planning, and incorrect estimates can lead to both underdosing of the tumor or overdosing normal tissue. These effects can impact the treatment success and become exaggerated in hypofractionation schemes and reirradiation where error tolerances are even more limited. In this context, the Microdosimetry-based assessment of Biological Effectiveness in Ion Therapy (MICROBE_IT) project is aimed at the development of a stochastic kinetic model based on a microdosimetric radiation quality characterization which can allow to predict cell survival and RBE by considering stochastic fluctuations of both the energy imparted and the kinetics of cell inactivation, which lead to the final biological effect. The project will require the activity of research groups belonging to the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) and the National Research Council (CNR), with different backgrounds involved in: microdosimetry, software-based modelling of radiation-induced cell-survival, biological characterization of cell-survival by means of radiobiological experiments in vitro. The model will consider the response of the irradiated tissue, both in single (acute) or fractionated (split-dose) modality to investigate the RBE temporal dependence.
Tumor cell killing is mainly caused by RT-induced DNA damage in cell targets. We can classify DNA damage in single breaks of the double-helix (also known as Single Strand Breaks SSBs) and double breaks of the double-helix (Double Strand Breaks DSBs). Both types of DNA damage trigger a biological response aimed at DNA repair, the DNA Damage Response (DDR). While SSBs can easily be overcome, DSBs are usually non-reparable or mis-repaired. Thus, DSBs are mainly responsible of acute cell killing. DNA damage can be visualized using Immunofluorescence or it can be detected by the analysis of expression of proteins involved in DDR by means of a technique called Western Blotting.
Software-based simulations represent valuable and potent tools to foresee the impact of RT on the living matter, however, prediction models should be corroborated by experimental biological procedures. On these bases, the research group of the Institute of Molecular Bioimaging and Physiology of the National Research Council (IBFM-CNR), sited in Cefalù, will be involved in the biological characterization of DNA double strand damage caused by both protons and carbon ions irradiation in the non-tumorigenic epithelial cell line MCF10A. The experimental approach in vitro will evaluate, on one side, the effects of irradiation in terms of resulting survival fractions by means of clonogenic assay; on the other, it will investigate the expression of proteins involved in the DNA damage response (DDR) by western blotting.


NEPTUNE: Nuclear Process Driven Enhancement of proton therapy unrelieved

PI: Dr. G. Cuttone


NEPTUNE is a call funded by the CSNV for the three-year period 2019-2021. The aim of the project is the study of p-11B and p-19F nuclear reactions for protontherapy applications. Both reactions will be studied from a radiobiological and micorodosimetric point of view in order to establish and quantify the radiobiological damage due to the secondary particles produced on the tumor site. Both, in fact, lead to the emission of high LET and short range alpha particles. The induced damage at nanoscale will be also modeled using Monte Carlo codes. Finally, innovative imaging and quantification techniques to estimate the amount of atoms of 11B and 19F inside the cells will be adopted.


PRAGUE: Proton Range Measure Using Silicon Carbide

PI: Dr.ssa G. Petringa


The main aim of PRAGUE (Proton Range measure using silicon carbide) project is to design, build and characterize a new relative dosimeter based on solid-state detectors. The device will consist of sixty Silicon Carbide detectors placed in a stack configuration so as to be able to reconstruct the depth-dose distributions with incident proton beams having energies ranging from 60 to 150 MeV. The device will be able to operate both in a continuous beam regime, typically available in proton therapy centres, and in a pulsed beam, typical of laser-driven acceleration. The project is currently funded by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship (MSCA-IF) program.

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