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ECU Physics Department Receives $868,000 NSF Grant for New Particle Accelerator

East Carolina University physics professors Jeff Shinpaugh and Larry Toburen received a National Science Foundation grant to replace a 1970s model particle accelerator in the university's accelerator laboratory.

The $867,982 grant will provide a 2-million-volt tandem ion accelerator and supporting instrumentation. The new accelerator will be approximately 32 feet long and weigh more than 12,000 pounds, or six tons.

Shinpaugh, director of the ECU accelerator laboratory, said, “The new system will provide stable, energetic light and heavy ion beams in an energy range … perfectly suited for continuing and expanding our studies in radiation physics, atomic interactions in gases and solids, and trace element analysis.”

Since its inception, the accelerator laboratory has provided opportunities for experimental basic and applied physics research in the physics department, while supporting interdisciplinary work as well. Research based on the new accelerator includes studies of radiation effects in biological systems, fundamental processes in ion-atom and ion-molecule collisions, and atomic interactions in solids. Interdisciplinary research is supported through elemental analysis studies for applications in biology, geology, anthropology and medicine.

Over the past decade, the ECU Department of Physics’ Radiation Physics group has received funding of more than $3 million from sources that include NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. For additional information about the particle accelerator and the NSF grant, contact Shinpaugh at 252-328-1852 or

This story appeared originally in the Nov. 24, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at