Research projects

Research projects

  • Biological methods for precautionary radiation protection against radionuclide contamination (BioVeStRa)
    The root system of plants are continuously absorbing radionuclides from radioactively contaminated soils. This causes the risk of an incorporation of radioactive substances via the human food chain (ingestion pathway).Therefore, the mechanism of radionuclide transfer from soil to plants are of great interest for radioecology. The BioVeStRa project investigates the influence of the targeted use of saprophytic, soil-living fungal cultures on the transport of radionuclides into plants. While the potential of fungi for the accumulation and fixation of cesium is already comparatively well investigated, many questions regarding other dose-relevant nuclides are still unknown. In particular, strontium-90 should be mentioned, which is highly relevant for radiation protection due to its physical and biological properties. Therefore, it plays an important role in the investigations of the project.
    Team: Prof. Dr. Clemens Walther, Prof. Dr. Georg Steinhauser, Dr. Dharmendra Gupta, Wolfgang Schulz
    Year: 2016
    Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - Förderkennzeichen: 02S9276D
    Duration: 01.05.2016 - 30.04.2019
  • Transport and Transfer Behavior of Long-lived Radionuclides along the Pathway Groundwater - Soil - Surface - Plant in Consideration of Long-term Climatic Changes (TRANS-LARA)
    In view of the long-term safety of a final repository for nuclear waste, potential release, migration to the far-field and accumulation of radionuclides have to be taken into account. This project is expected to contribute to a deeper understanding of the complex mechanisms of radionuclide transport from the groundwater and the vadose zone to agricultural crops, and thus to an improved risk assessment regarding long-term exposure of the general public. Elucidating uptake mechanisms of radionuclides into crop plants on a molecular level represents substantial progress, leading to a concept, which exceeds the significance of transfer factors. Different fractions of chemically well-defined Iodine, technetium, plutonium, and americium tracers are analyzed in column and extraction experiments with regard to changes in concentration and speciation. In pot experiments transfer factors for radionuclide uptake by roots will be determined for four agricultural crops and four reference soils. Additionally, impact of chemical form and oxidation state of the concerning radionuclides on plant uptake will be investigated.
    Led by: Dr. Beate Riebe
    Team: Annika Gust, Simon Pottgießer, Marcus Mandel
    Year: 2017
    Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - Förderkennzeichen: 02 NUK 051A
    Duration: 01.09.2017 - 28.02.2021
  • Augmented Concepts In Nuclear and Radio Chemistry (A-CINCH)
    Augmented CINCH (A-CINCH) is already the fourth project in the series of CINCH (Coorperation In Nuclear and radio CHemistry) projects funded by the EU under Euratom FP7 and H2020. During the projects, many modern and digital methods and tools have been developed to promote radiochemistry education and to attract new talents, this includes a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), remote controlled experiments (RoboLabs) and interactive screen experiments (IBE).
    Led by: Vivien Pottgießer
    Team: Prof. Clemens Walther; Dr. Jan-Willem Vahlbruch; Paul Hanemann, Anna Kogiomtzidis, Tobias Weissenborn
    Year: 2017
    Funding: Europäische Union – H2020 Förderkennzeichen: 945301
    Duration: 10.2020 - 30.09.2023
  • Investigation of the transfer behavior of americium species in crop plants using radiochemical and mass spectrometric methods
    Americium-241 with its half-life of 432.2 a represents an environmentally relevant radionuclide in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Due to being a decay product of Plutonium-241 with a shorter half-life of 14.35 a, Americium-241 represents the dominating alpha emitter in the contaminated areas. Via the contaminated soil, crop plants could take up the radiotoxic nuclide, which is a potential pathway into the human nutrition chain. Therefore, gaining knowledge and insight into the soil-plant transfer processes and its impact factors are highly relevant.
    Team: Dr. Michael Steppert, Julia Stadler
    Year: 2018
    Funding: Siebold-Sasse-Stiftung (
    Duration: 01.03.2018 – 28.02.2021
  • LISA
    LISA aims to train the next generation of atomic, nuclear and laser scientists by conducting research to increase our understanding of the atomic and nuclear properties of the chemical elements known as the actinides. Of long-standing interest to the fields of fundamental atomic and nuclear physics, this effort is an essential prerequisite for unravelling the structure of the superheavy elements at the end of Mendeleev’s table. This knowledge is required for the effective production, identification and handling of these elements, and is thus a necessary foundation for our goals of understanding and exploiting the potential for practical applications of the actinides in the fields of medical physics, nuclear applications and environmental monitoring.
    Year: 2019
    Funding: ITN: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks
    Duration: 01.11.2019-31.10.2023
  • Transdisciplinary research on the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Germany (TRANSENS)
    TRANSENS ( is a joint project of 13 institutes and departments of German universities and major research institutions, one department of ETH Zurich and two independent research and consulting institutions. Especially a highly controversial project such as the selection of a site with the best possible safety and the realisation of a repository for high-level radioactive waste is likely to provoke social controversy and resistance. Therefore, the clarification and processing of complex and socio-technically challenging questions concerning nuclear waste disposal is indispensable. Research in TRANSENS is interdisciplinary. This means that the interested public and other non-academic actors are systematically involved in research contexts, specifically in transdisciplinary work packages (TAP). The research will be carried out in subject corridors that are central and relevant to the disposal problem and that are located at the interface between scientific-technical research on the one hand and social science and humanities research on the other. The aim is to create a science-based, experimental landscape that will enable scientific conclusions to be drawn about the disposal path to be followed. In this context, the IRS is working on the TAP TRUST (technique, uncertainties, complexity and trust)
    Led by: Prof. Dr. Clemens Walther
    Team: Dr. Cord Drögemüller, Dr. Pius Krütli, Dr. Roman Seidl
    Year: 2019
    Funding: Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Volkswagen Foundation, Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony; Funding number: 02E11849A-J
    Duration: 01.10.2019 - 30.09.2024
  • Nuclear environmental forensics of radiocesium isotopes
    If an environmental sample is contaminated with radioactive material (specifically: radiocesium) from several sources, it is difficult to identify the sources of contamination. Using the characteristic 135Cs/137Cs fingerprint, environmental samples should be assigned to a specific source. 135Cs is one of the "most difficult" radionuclides in nuclear environmental analysis and should now be made analytically "detectable". An example of this are the microspheres released in Fukushima, which represent a microscopic archive of fission products from a specific source. Therefore the isotopic composition of the radiocesium fraction in the microspheres will be analyzed by laser ablation triple quadrupole ICP mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-QQQ-MS).
    Team: Dorian Zok, Prof. Dr. Georg Steinhauser, Felix Stäger
    Year: 2019
    Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Projektnummer 419819104
    Duration: 01.01.2019 – 31.12.2021
  • Speciation of plutonium: Investigations of the formation, stability and radiolysis of colloids of different plutonium isotopes
    The aqueous chemistry of plutonium is very complex as it can be present in several oxidation states at the same time. Therefore it can form many different species, varying in properties like solubility, mobility etc. Colloids are formed from an over-saturated aqueous solution of tetravalent plutonium and play an important role in increased mobility which could lead to a release of plutonium from the final storage of radioactive waste. In previous studies, executed independently of each other, results of colloids of 239Pu and 242Pu particular for structure were contradictory. The main difference between these isotopes is their specific activity, which indicates that varying amounts of alpha radiation could have an influence on the formation and the aging processes of the colloids. However, different isotopes of plutonium were used and the experiments were carried out in various media. This project, funded by the Siebold-Sasse-Foundation, is intended to gain detailed knowledge of the formation mechanism and structures of colloids produced in different media (nitrate, chloride, perchlorate).
    Team: Sandra Reinhard, Clemens Walther
    Year: 2019
    Funding: Siebold-Sasse-Stiftung
    Duration: 01.06.2019 – 31.05.2022
  • Secondary Ionisation of Radioactive Isotopes for Ultra trace analysis with Spatial resolution (SIRIUS)
    The behaviour of plutonium in the environment is of high importance in the field of radioecology. Previous studies show that a sole ultra-trace analysis of plutonium does not give answers to all issues in question. It is due to the complex chemical binding properties, that detailed speciation analysis is inevitable to understand the behaviour in the environment properly.
    Led by: Prof. Dr. Clemens Walther
    Team: Hauke Bosco, Martin Weiß, Manuel Raiwa, Paul Hanemann
    Year: 2019
    Funding: BMBF 2020+ 02NUK044A
    Duration: 01.01.2016 - 31.12.2019
  • Remote alpha
    Remote and real-time optical detection of alpha-emitting radionuclides in the environment (JRP-v09) The overall goal of this project is to develop novel optical systems for the remote detection and quantification of large-scale contamination with alpha emitters in the outdoor environment for the very first time, allowing sound and quick countermeasures in case of a radiological emergency. The specific objectives of this project are: 1. To develop a new method and instrumentation for the optical detection of alpha particle emitters in the environment by air radioluminescence. This includes the development of the first prototype of a mobile-outdoor optical detection system for real-time radioluminescence mapping of alpha sources in the environment. 2. To develop and establish a calibration system for the novel-type radioluminescence detector systems. This includes a new metrological infrastructure with dedicated UV radiance standard, well characterized alpha-active environmental samples and a validated calibration scheme for the remote detection of optical systems. 3. To extend the optical detection system to an imaging functionality for mapping of alpha contaminations in the environment. This includes the development of an unmanned airborne monitoring system (UAMS) that will integrate the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the novel alpha-radioluminescence detection system developed in the objective 1 to scan and obtain an image of the contaminated area. 4. To prepare and run a feasibility study for a laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopic method for the detection of alpha emitters. This method complements alpha-radioluminescence and, depending on laser parameters such as pulse power, photon wavelength and pulse duration, can enhance the detectable activity limit to below 1 kBq/cm². 5. To facilitate the take up of the results by stakeholders and provide input to relevant standardization bodies and radiation protection authorities. Information on the project research results will be disseminated by the partners to standards committees, technical committees and working groups. In addition, knowledge will be transferred to the nuclear industry sector.
    Led by: Koordinator: PTB
    Year: 2020
    Duration: 01.03.2020-28.02.2023
  • Speziation und Transfer von Radionukliden im Menschen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Dekorporationsmitteln (RADEKOR)
    Gelangen Radionuklide (RN) über den Nahrungspfad zum Menschen, können sie eine radio- und chemotoxische Gefahr darstellen. Um die Gesundheitsrisiken bei einer oralen Aufnahme von RN mit der Nahrung präzise abschätzen und wirksame Dekontaminationsverfahren anwenden zu können, ist ein Prozessverständnis der Biokinetik der RN auf zellulärer und molekularer Ebene zwingend notwendig. In dem geplanten Verbundprojekt werden Lebensmittel, die natürlicherweise Radionuklide enthalten verabreicht. Dies sind zum Beispiel Paranüsse oder auch bestimmte Heilwässer mit hohem (aber nicht gesundheitsschädlichem) Radium-Gehalt. Nach dieser oralen Inkorporation werden neben quantitativen Ausscheidungsanalysen und biokinetischen Modellierungen auch die molekulare Speziation der RN im Verdauungstrakt und ihre Wechselwirkungen mit Zellen des Magen-Darm-Traktes in An- und Abwesenheit gängiger Dekorporationsmittel untersucht. Ziel dieser Arbeiten ist es, mit einem tieferen Prozessverständnis der RN-Wechselwirkungen im Verdauungstrakt auf molekularer und zellulärer Ebene zur Erstellung eines präzisen biokinetischen Modells und zur Entwicklung bzw. Verbesserung von nuklidspezifischen Dekontaminationsstrategien beizutragen.
    Led by: Prof. Dr. Clemens Walther
    Team: Linus Holtmann, Ahmadabdurahman Shamoun
    Year: 2020
    Funding: BMBF FöKZ 02NUK057C
    Duration: 01.07.2020-31.12.2023
  • Biologische Radionuklidentfernung durch Nutzung natürlicher Assoziationsprozesse (RENA)
    Das Ziel des Vorhabens ist die Entwicklung eines Verfahrens zur ex situ-Behandlung radionuklidbelasteter Böden, die aus dem Rückbau kerntechnischer Anlagen stammen. Dafür wird das Potential der Biologie (Pflanzen, Pilze) zur Mobilisierung und Entfernung von Radionukliden aus Böden untersucht. Ziel ist die signifikante Volumenreduktion mittel- und schwachradioaktiver Abfälle. Unsere Untersuchungen gehen von bereits ausgekofferten und entsprechend vorbehandelten Böden aus. Die aus dem Baubereich stammenden polycyclischen aromatischen Kohlenwasserstoffe (PAKs) werden als charakteristische und zusätzliche organische Kontaminationen derartiger Böden bei der Remediation berücksichtigt. Der holistische Ansatz, der die bodenmikrobiologischen, mineralogischen, geo- und radiochemischen Aspekte vereint, wird für die Implementierung in ein reaktives Transportmodell vorbereitet. Mit einem derartigen numerischen Ansatz sollen Vorhersagen über die Effizienz, quantitative Einflussfaktoren und insbesondere Übertragbarkeit auf andere Bodenmaterialien aus Rückbauvorhaben ermöglicht werden.
    Led by: Prof. Dr. Georg Steinhauser
    Team: Dr. Dorian Zok, Tobias Blenke
    Year: 2021
    Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Förderkennzeichen 02NUK066C
    Duration: 01.09.2021-31.08.2024