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The initial plans to build a large accelerator in Groningen date from 1957. The main advocate of the plans was Professor Brinkman, then professor at the University of Groningen. In 1963, the government agreed to the plans. A contract was signed with Philips to build an isochronous cyclotron, which was completed in 1970. In 1972 an agreement was signed between the Ministry of Education and Science (O&W), the Dutch Organization for Pure Scientific Research (ZWO, now NWO), the University of Groningen and the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research of Matter (FOM), which fixed the management structure of the new institute. It was agreed that KVI would have two mother organizations: the University of Groningen and FOM. Not long after, Brinkman, the first director, passed on the baton to Rolf Siemssen, who was specially brought to Groningen.

Extension of the facility

Since the first experiments in 1971, more and more beam lines were installed for various kinds of experiments, mostly in fundamental nuclear physics. In 1977, a magnetic spectrograph, built by the Swedish company Scanditronix , went into operation. In 1982-83, an Electron Cyclotron Resonance (ECR) ion source for the production of multiply charged ions followed. This allowed for the acceleration of heavy ions in the cyclotron and could be used for atomic physics experiments as well.

The first nuclear physics research

In the early years, research concentrated on fundamental nuclear physics, and the structure of the atomic nucleus was the main focus. Not only experimental but also theoretical research was conducted. Eminent names from that time include Akito Arima and Franco Iachello, who developed the famous Interacting Boson Model at the KVI. In 1994, Arima was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Groningen.

Atomic and applied nuclear physics

In the 1980's, KVI research expanded. Parallel to the nuclear physics research, already in the late 1970's an atomic physics group started. In addition, the disaster with the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl in 1986 led to the founding of a group that concentrated on research into the environmental effects of radiation, making use of nuclear physics technology. The applied nuclear physics group, later called the Nuclear Geophysics Division (NGD), was discontinued in 2007.

A new cyclotron: AGOR

Around 1985 a new phase began for KVI. In order to maintain a top position in European and worldwide nuclear physics research, the decision was made to build a new cyclotron. Based on a French-Dutch agreement, the construction of the superconducting K=600 MeV cyclotron AGOR (Accélérateur Groningen ORsay) began in Orsay/Paris in December 1985. AGOR passed the beam tests in April 1994, was dismounted and shipped to Groningen during 1994 and 1995 and was reassembled at KVI. In January 1996 first beams were extracted, followed by the start of the scientific programme with the AGOR facility in July 1996. AGOR was officially inaugurated on 16 January 1997, in the presence of Minister Ritzen of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and his French colleaugue d'Aubert.

AGOR is capable of accelerating both light and heavy ions. Protons and deuterons can be accelerated up to an energy of 190 MeV, and heavier nuclei up to 90 MeV per nucleon. The cyclotron is equipped with three external ion sources: a cusp source for the production of intense beams of protons, deuterons and alpha particles, an ECR ion source for the production of light and heavy ions and a polarized-ion source for polarized protons and deuterons.

Research with the AGOR facility

In 1998, the operation, improvement and development of the AGOR cyclotron i s accommodated in a FOM programme. In addition, two further nuclear physics programmes are created in this framework: 'Nuclear structure and its implications for astrophysics' (approved until the end of 2005) and 'Interacting hadrons' (until the end of 2006). Within the nuclear physics programmes, both experimental and theoretical research is done. In addition to fundamental nuclear physics experiments, the AGOR accelerator is also used for radiobiology experiments with proton beams and for application specific experiments such as irradiation of electronic components.

Precision research into stationary particles: TRIµP

In 2001 the FOM programme TRIµP ('Trapped Radioactive Isotopes: µicro-laboratories for fundamental Physics') starts. Presently the TRIµP facility is under construction: beams of short-lived radioactive particles produced with AGOR will be cooled down and 'trapped', in order to probe the limits of validity of the 'Standard Model' of fundamental interactions of elementary particles. TRIµP is uniting nuclear physics research and atomic physics techniques. It will run until 2013. In 2004, the double magnetic recoil separator was installed, commissioned and found working according to specifications. Other components of the TRIµP facility were installed by 2008, when the programme was very positively evaluated by an international panel.

Focusing on new research lines

In 2004 FOM decides to stop supporting nuclear physics research and KVI has to look for new research lines. In 2007, a structural collaboration with the German Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) starts in which KVI mainly contributes towards the future FAIR facility, in particular to the NUSTAR, PANDA and HITRAP experimental activities and accelerator developments. The nuclear and hadron activities of KVI shift thereby from the local facility towards international collaborations.

In parallel, new research lines are set up in astroparticle physics and physics for life. The KVI astroparticle physics activities becomes embedded in the national FOM programme 'The origin of cosmic rays' (approved until the end of 2015). At the same time the KVI theory group receives funding out of the national FOM programme 'Theoretical particle physics in the era of the LHC' (until the end of 2013). At the moment, funding is still being sought for a new research line on the interaction of radiation with matter, comprising radiobiology, particle therapy, interaction of radiation with DNA molecules, and medical imaging.


As mentioned above, KVI was founded, and directed until 1972, by professor Brinkman. After the management structure of KVI was fixed, Rolf Siemssen took over and he remained in office for more than 18 years (1972-1990).  He was succeeded by Rudi Malfliet (1991-1995) Rudi Malfliet (1991-1995) , Muhsin Harakeh (1996-2008), Klaus Jungmann (2009 - 2012), Cees Sterks (2012 - 2013). Presently, the director of the new KVI - CART is Ad M. van den Berg.

Last modified:22 March 2019 1.34 p.m.
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