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
    Sponsors: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - Förderkennzeichen: 02S9276D
    Lifespan: 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.
    Leaders: Dr. Beate Riebe
    Team: Annika Gust, Simon Pottgießer, Marcus Mandel
    Year: 2017
    Sponsors: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - Förderkennzeichen: 02 NUK 051A
    Lifespan: 01.09.2017 - 31.08.2020
  • A Modular European Education and Training Concept In Nuclear and Radio Chemistry (MEET-CINCH)
    In 2010–2016 a series of two “CINCH projects” – CINCH-I: Cooperation in Education in Nuclear Chemistry, and CINCH-II: Cooperation and training in Education in Nuclear Chemistry – was supported within Euratom FP7. The projects aimed at mitigating the special skill-based deficits within nuclear chemistry at masters and doctorate levels and the decline of number of staff qualified in this field. Even though a major step towards the sustainability of the results achieved was done before the end of CINCH-II project – establishment of the NRC Network – some support was still needed during the period of transition to real sustainability. Without such support, a real danger existed that a significant part of the important achievements of the CINCH projects would die and thus most of the money invested into CINCH and CINCH-II would be wasted. However, the MEET-CINCH project does not aim at sustainability only – its main aims are to pro-actively bring the results achieved so far to their end-users (CINCH VET e-shop), significantly contribute to attracting new talents and increasing the nuclear (chemistry) awareness by developing a MOOC – Massive Open On-line Course, and investigate the applicability of the modern Flipped (Inverted) Classroom concept in the nuclear chemistry teaching and training field. The IRS will contribute to this project mainly by developing a Flipped Classroom course and by providing remote controlled experiments based on the RoboLab concept. In addition, the IRS is involved in the development of the MOOC and a European recognized training passport in nuclear chemistry and supports the dissemination of knowledge of radiochemistry at German universities and non-university institutions. The MEET-CINCH consortium involves 12 partners from 9 EU countries.
    Leaders: Dr. Jan-Willem Vahlbruch
    Team: Dr. Claudia Fournier, Vivien Pottgießer, Wolfgang Schulz, Paul Hanemann
    Year: 2017
    Sponsors: Europäische Union - Horizont 2020\nFörderkennzeichen: 754972
    Lifespan: 01.06.2017 - 31.05.2020
  • 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.
    Leaders: Julia Stadler
    Team: Dr. Michael Steppert, Julia Stadler
    Year: 2018
    Sponsors: Siebold-Sasse-Stiftung (
    Lifespan: 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. Our consortium of world-leading experts in radioactive ion beam research and applications, laser spectroscopy, scientific laser technologies (industrial partners) and nuclear and atomic theorists will recruit and train 15 doctoral students. LISA will form a cohesive and symbiotic collaboration for training young scientists in the pursuit of the following research objectives: Develop laser-based actinide ion beam production and purification techniques; develop laser technology; measurement of ionization potentials and electron affinities; extract atomic and nuclear properties from laser spectroscopy studies; enhance the prospects for direct use of the actinide isotopes themselves (theranostic applications), or the application of techniques for their detection (environmental monitoring). LISA will be structured into 7 work packages (WP), separated according to specific types of technical or research challenges, training, communication and management, but highly interlinked to ensure a close interaction between the ESR fellows. This structure is designed to expose all trainees to the breath of activity types across the network and also to foster working relationships that will endure long after the project ends.
    Year: 2019
    Sponsors: ITN: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks
    Lifespan: 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)
    Leaders: Prof. Dr. Clemens Walther
    Team: Dr. Cord Drögemüller, Dr. Pius Krütli, Dr. Roman Seidl
    Year: 2019
    Sponsors: Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Volkswagen Foundation, Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony; Funding number: 02E11849A-J
    Lifespan: 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
    Sponsors: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Projektnummer 419819104
    Lifespan: 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
    Sponsors: Siebold-Sasse-Stiftung
    Lifespan: 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.
    Leaders: Prof. Dr. Clemens Walther
    Team: Hauke Bosco, Martin Weiß, Manuel Raiwa, Paul Hanemann
    Year: 2019
    Sponsors: BMBF 2020+ 02NUK044A
    Lifespan: 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.
    Leaders: Koordinator: PTB
    Year: 2020
    Lifespan: 01.03.2020-28.02.2023