Laser driven Particle Induced X-ray Emission:

source development and X-ray spectral/spatial analysis


The PIXE  (Particle Induced X-ray Emission) is a multi-elemental, quantitative, highly sensitive (trace elements with concentrations in parts-per-million), rapid, non-invasive and non-destructive analysis technique to determine the composition of surface layers of a sample. The technique is based on spectroscopy of the characteristic X radiation emitted by each atom following irradiation with proton/ion beams. PIXE requires protons with MeV energies (2-3 MeV typically) that are currently produced with particle accelerators whose dimensions (and costs) represent a limit for the application of the same technique outside of large research infrastructures. The possibility of PIXE measurements with proton beams extracted in the air has opened the way to the application of the technique to the study of materials of historical, artistic or archaeological interest.

Recently it has been demonstrated the possibility of accelerating protons/ions by ultrashort pulse lasers and INO has successfully carried out tests producing ions with energies up to 3 MeV, thus already usable for PIXE measurements. The project aims to develop a compact prototype laser-ion converter for the development of the first compact LaserPIXE demonstrator. The VCS S.R.L. is highly specialized in the production of high-vacuum components and precision mechanical necessary for the purpose and has already collaborated with the INO for the realization of the experimental tests carried out so far. It is therefore the ideal private partner for the development of the LaserPIXE demonstrator. INFN is an Italian excellence recognized internationally in the use of nuclear techniques and PIXE in particular in the field of cultural heritage. CNR and INFN are also partners of E-RIHS the emerging European research infrastructure distributed for cultural heritage and heritage science of which Italy is the leader and which will be based in Florence. The success of this project could radically change the PIXE technique scenario, making it usable in sectors, in laboratories that are not large infrastructures and even leaving open the prospect of a transportable system for in-situ measurements. The project also includes the development of advanced experimental X-ray detection and image reconstruction techniques for biomedical and cultural heritage conservation applications.

Objective: To validate the PIXE technique with protons from an all-optical accelerator based on laser-plasma interaction, and design of an integrated compact accelerator prototype with sample port and detector for PIXE analysis.

Scientific responsible: Fernando Brandi (INO-CNR)

Participating Institutions:

  • INO-CNR, Pisa;
  • IFC-CNR  Pisa;
  • INFN-Florence;
  • VCS srl, Parma.

Duration: 2 years, start date 15 February 2018.

Fundings: 108 Keuro (50% Tuscany Region ESF European Social Fund, 50% Vacuum Components and Systems – VCS SrL, Parma)