Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Support of Public and Industrial Research using Ion Beam Technology

Final Report Summary - SPIRIT (Support of Public and Industrial Research using Ion Beam Technology)

Executive Summary:
SPIRIT (Support of Public and Industrial Research using Ion Technology) is an Integrating Activities project integrating 11 leading European ion beam facilities from 7 Member States and 1 Associated State, 9 of which provided Transnational Access (TNA) of Users to their facilities. Ion beams are available in an energy range from ~1 keV to ~100 MeV for modification and analysis of surfaces, interfaces, thin films and nanostructured systems. The techniques are applicable to materials, biomedical and environmental research and technology. For materials analysis, they are complementary to the use of, e.g. photons or neutrons. The partners are specialized in mutually different areas and dispose highly complementary equipment.
After a full duration of 54 months (1-March-2009 to 31-August-2013), SPIRIT has achieved almost all of its goals with 38 out of 39 milestones having been reached and 52 out of 55 deliverables having been accomplished.
In 205 user campaigns selected by an independent European User Selection Panel, 16179 user hours have been delivered. The origin of the users groups from 25 different countries, thereof 30% from new EU states (i.e. other than EU-15 member states) and 5% from Associated states indicate a strong contribution to European Integration. The scientific fields of the use demonstrate a pronounced multidisciplinarity, with 53% of the total user time devoted to Materials Science and 47% to other fields. A closer look into the Materials Science fraction shows a 25% share of electronic materials including semiconductors, and remaining 75% in a wide spectrum of materials issues including nanomaterial science, ion-solid interaction, tribology and corrosion, and optical, optoelectronic, ferroic, magnetic and spintronic materials. Other fields included studies in nuclear physics and astrophysics, biomedicine, forensics and earth sciences, and for cultural heritage, environmental and nuclear materials investigations. The pronounced multidisciplinary and external impact is confirmed by the low fraction (7%) of intra-SPIRIT user campaigns, and by the small number of follow-up user projects (18%).
In Joint Research Activities, SPIRIT has significantly improved the instrumental and methodical basis at the infrastructures. New beam lines and end stations have been created in particular for in-situ diagnostics and for the single-ion irradiation of living cells. New charged particle detectors and detector arrangements have been developed to improve the radiation hardness and the detection efficiency. In connection with the latter, means to minimize sample damage have been investigated resulting in the publication of a Damage Mitigation Handbook. Scanning transmission ion micro-tomography in combination with particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) analysis has reached a lateral resolution of a few micrometers and has been applied to biological organisms. 3D micro-imaging has also been demonstrated using confocal PIXE spectroscopy with capillary X-ray lenses. A high potential of ion-beam techniques also for chemical analysis has been demonstrated with wavelength-dispersive PIXE spectrometry and under pioneering studies of secondary ion mass spectrometry under MeV ion bombardment (MeV-SIMS), which allows molecular micro-mapping with the advantage of simultaneous Rutherford backscattering (RBS) and PIXE analysis even at atmospheric pressure. For many of the above issues, new and standardized software and data formats have been created. Most of the Joint Research results have been transferred to standard operation at the infrastructures, and a significant fraction of the TNA campaigns (estimated ~15%) took profit from the new developments.
Networking Activities included the creation of a website which has been continuously updated, and which provided access to an online system for TNA proposal submission, and evaluation and handling of the user campaigns. Advertising material has been produced and widely distributed, including a general SPIRIT brochure, a special brochure for biomedical applications, and three flyers for specific industrial applications of ion technologies. Newsletters have been edited twice per year. With a dedicated exhibition stand, SPIRIT has exhibited at 10 International Conferences and 5 National and International Trade Fairs.
Regional Industrial Days have been organized by three beneficiaries. Three Focused Workshops have been held with more than 50 participants each from the SPIRIT consortium and external institutions. Four Tutorials were arranged combining lectures and hands-on training. An intra-SPIRIT Technician Exchange Program has been organized. In order to harmonize resources for ion technologies, an Ion Beam Database and a Software Resource Database have been created. For quality control, round robin experiments with standard samples for ion beam analysis and ion implantation fluence definition have been performed among the SPIRIT infrastructures. Further, a quality control program has been launched with regular telephone conferences. Future trends and aspects of ion beam technologies have been investigated and documented in a Foresight Review.
Several of the SPIRIT beneficiaries are strongly involved in industrial R&D and services, with up to more than 30% of the total beam time at the individual infrastructures. During the duration of SPIRIT, a significant increase of these activities (around 20% in average) has been observed, which might be partly attributed to SPIRIT TNA and advertising and promoting activities. Further, spin-off companies for the transfer of ion technologies were founded at three of the infrastructures. For extended discussion and information, a Documentation on the Industrial Impact of SPIRIT has been issued.

Project Context and Objectives:
SPIRIT shall enhance user access to ion beam technologies and increase the quality of research by sharing best practice, balancing supply and demand, harmonizing procedures and extending the services into new emerging fields and to new users especially from the NMS and from industry. An independent European User Selection Panel will evaluate the user proposals adopting a common SPIRIT procedure. Networking activities will include the development of common standards for quality assessment, training and consultancy and foresight studies. Joint Research Activities shall promote emerging fields such as targeted single ion implantation for irradiation of living cells, ion-beam based analysis with ultrahigh depth resolution, ion-based 3-D tomography, and chemical and molecular imaging. Joint efforts are necessary to improve the systems for detection of ion-induced secondary radiation and the associated software, and to develop means to reduce sample deterioration by the analyzing ion beam. SPIRIT will contribute to the development and structuring of the European Research Area by enhancing ion beam provision, strengthening the European Knowledge base and promoting mobility through realization of the following objectives.
• Optimization of the use and upgrading of the best European infrastructures. Integration of eleven of the most advanced ion beam infrastructures in Europe to create a worldwide recognized state-of-the-art network of facilities.
• Provision of wider and more efficient access to infrastructures and use: Extension of the application of ion technologies in new and emerging fields, in New Member States and in industry through targeted measures. These will include promotional literature and newsletters, exhibitions and workshops, industry days etc. More efficient access will be achieved by the installation of common policies and procedures for user selection and access, sharing best practice and promotion of new technical developments, by user consultancy, training services and by a prompt backup service at another infrastructure in case of local machine failure.
• Creation of a central hub for information on the use of ion beams and for application for beamtime: A website will be established offering comprehensive information on the application of ion beams in a broad variety of research fields, announcing workshops and tutorials and providing a single entrance point for application for beam time. A help desk will be available for individual consultations
• Structure better and integrate on a European scale the way the Infrastructures operate: Installation of shared systems, standards and monitoring procedures to increase the technical quality and user provision and transfuse best practice between member sites. Publicising these developments to the other EU ion beam infrastructures. The objective is to give researchers (users) mobility of access to the infrastructure best suited to handle their project.
• Establishment of common European benchmarks and and sharing best practice: A World Class reference standard will be provided for ion beam processes and techniques.
• Capacity to mobilise a comprehensive consortium of stakeholders: Training of scientists from less experienced facilities and provision of access to state-of-the-art instrumentation to everyone.
• Common and coordinated approach to new and unexpected developments in the field:
o To monitor and to respond to the evolution of the world-wide state of the art, and to implement shared approaches to keep Europe at the forefront of these developments. This process will involve an International Advisory Board.
o To communicate these developments through a regularly updated website and regular research meetings of stakeholders and potential users amongst the academic and industrial communities.
• An impact on the ERA: The objective is to create an integrated critical mass of European Ion Beam facilities,
o Adopting a common set of policies and procedures,
o Sharing best practice to promote the advancement of European research by easier and faster User access,
o Enabling improved design of experiments,
o Extending ion beam capabilities to respond to researcher’s needs in new and emerging technology areas.
To take the lead in research activities and to foster the applications of ion beams in multidisciplinary research, SPIRIT will stimulate specialisation in the EU infrastructures and pave the way to further research funding for instrumental developments. In this way the necessity for supporting local ion beams facilities will become obvious to national funding bodies.
• Improvement of the technical performance of the infrastructures. Conducting targeted Joint Research Activities on the methodology and techniques will result in further improvements and capabilities of the TNA.
• Provision of User Access: The objective is to deliver at least 13500 hours of access to users over the 54 months of the SPIRIT project through around 200 users and 229 user projects.

Project Results:
For better readability in connection with supplementary material such as figures and tables, it was decided to append a full document (see Final Report Results.pdf) for this section rather than filling in the text box.
Potential Impact:
• With SPIRIT, the first European multinational consortium has been created for the transnational use of ion technologies in public and industrial research and development. A central European platform has been configured for ion technologies as being complementary to other physical techniques for materials analysis and modification, such as photon-, neutron- and laser-based techniques.
• An expert consortium has been established with unified procedures of user acquisition, joint management of resources, common standards and protocols, central data and software libraries, and the proven ability to disseminate knowledge in the field.
• The full delivery of transnational user access, which significantly exceeds the original goals of SPIRIT, has demonstrated the broad demand for the use of ion technologies with a pronounced multidisciplinary spectrum of applications. Whereas more than half (55%) of the SPIRIT transnational use has addressed different topics of materials research, the remaining fraction covered biomedical research, nuclear physics and astrophysics, nuclear materials, cultural heritage, forensics, geology, mineralogy and metallurgy, as well as environmental studies. This multidisciplinarity is underlined by a low fraction of intra-SPIRIT use (7%) and a high fraction of new users (83%).
• Through Joint Research Activities, new and improved devices, techniques, procedures and protocols have become available for the ion beam applications community, and in particular for new interdisciplinary investigations such as for chemical surface analysis (a report on Chemical Imaging Techniques with Accelerated Ion Beams has been published), environmental studies, radiation biology, and forensics. This has also enhanced the quality of the transnational use during the project, and ensures the general availability of cutting-edge ion technologies in Europe.
• Both Transnational Access and Joint Research activities have clearly demonstrated the potential of ion technologies in new and emerging fields as well as in areas of high socio-economic relevance. Such fields include nanotechnology, information and communication technology (in particular addressing novel optical materials and systems), low-carbon energy technology (solar technology, nuclear technology), resource efficiency (waste handling), health (radiation biology) and forensics.
• Quality control, calibration and standardization activities have contributed to improve the quality of ion technology applications for an extended use in science and industry. A Quality Assurance Handbook has been created and posted on the SPIRIT website. In this context, special attention has been directed to the problem of beam-induced sample damage, resulting in the publication of a Damage Mitigation handbook.
• Special attention has been directed to future developments and potential new applications of ion beam technologies, resulting in the publication of a Foresight Study.
• With a significant participation of researchers from New Member States and Associated States both within the consortium and in the Transnational Access Activities, SPIRIT has demonstrated a strong devotion to European Integration and to the development of the European Research Area.
• To increase the knowledge about ion technologies and to improve their visibility in Europe and in other countries, SPIRIT has launched broad and focused advertising and dissemination actions, including a public website, brochures, flyers for industrial applications, and newsletters. The consortium has exhibited at numerous international and national conferences and trade fairs.
• SPIRIT has contributed to education and dissemination of knowledge in its field through three focused Workshops addressing potential new users, four topical Tutorials and a Networking Training Week.
• The results of the SPIRIT activities were disseminated through the SPIRIT website, the Newsletters, presentations at international conferences, and publications in international journals. By the end of the project, around 60 and more than 100 publications in international refereed journals were counted as resulting from SPIRIT Joint Research activities and from Transnational Access user campaigns.
• For the promotion of ion technologies in industry, three Regional Industrial Days have been organized.
• SPIRIT has visibly supported and expanded the use of ion technologies in industrial research and development, although the direct participation of industry in Transnational Access has been small. The latter can be attributed to the fact that the rules and procedures involved in EU infrastructure programs are less compatible with industrial practices, as with respect to IPR and non-disclosure issues, the time delay due to the proposal evaluation process, and the request for trans-nationality. Thus, industry generally prefers cooperation and services on a bilateral contract base. Indeed, a significant fraction of the total beam time (up to 35%) at the leading SPIRIT infrastructures is allotted to such industrial activities which reflect the multidisciplinarity of ion technologies as described above. These activities increased significantly (between 10% and 50% at the different infrastructures) during the duration of SPIRIT. This may be attributed to some of the SPIRIT Networking actions as well as a generally improved visibility of ion technologies through the project. In order to cope with the increased demand for industrial services and to promote the transfer of ion technologies to industry, dedicated transfer companies have been established at three SPIRIT infrastructures during the duration of the project. A Documentation on SPIRIT Industrial Impact has been edited.
• The SPIRIT consortium has successfully acquired an EU Initial Training Network SPRITE, the scientific case of which is to a large extend based on SPIRIT JRA activities. Also industry is strongly involved in SPRITE with one full beneficiary and four associated partners. As a main issue of the project, an intensive interaction between public and private partners is established through industry secondments of early stage and experienced researchers.

List of Websites:
SPIRIT website:

Contact details:

SPIRIT Coordinator:
Wolfhard Möller, HZDR Dresden, Germany, +49 351 260 2245

SPIRIT Team Leaders:
Philippe Moretto, CNRS-CENBG Bordeaux, France, +33 557 12 08 08
Andre Vantomme, KU Leuven, Belgium, +32 16 32 75 14
Primoz Pelicon, JSI Ljubljana, Slovenia, +386 1 477 34 12
Günther Dollinger, UBW Munich, Germany, + 49 89 6004 3505
Serge Bouffard, CEA-CIMAP Caen, France, +33 2 31 45 46 01
Roger Webb, U Surrey, U.K. +44 1483 68 9830
Eduardo Alves, IST/ITN Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 994 6086
Ian Vickridge, UPMC Paris, France, +33 1 44 27 46 47
Milko Jaksic, RBI Zagreb, Croatia, +385 1 468 0942
Hans-Arno Synal, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, +41 44 633 20 27