Nuclear Engineering Division

Low-Energy Accelerator Facility

Argonne National Laboratory’s 50 MeV/25 kW electron linear accelerator can produce a wide range of useful radioisotopes for medical, national security, basic science and industrial applications.


Supporting Peaceful Nuclear Energy Research

From its roots in the World War II-era Manhattan Project, Argonne’s Nuclear Energy program has grown to support peacetime uses of nuclear technology for the production of energy, scientific exploration and medical diagnostics and therapy. Particle accelerators are important tools in these efforts.

Particle accelerators use electric fields to speed up and increase the energy of a beam of particles. These particles are steered and focused with magnetic fields. The Low-Energy Accelerator Facility (LEAF) consists of an electron linear accelerator (LINAC) and a Van de Graaff (VDG) electron accelerator. Originally built in 1969, the LINAC recently underwent a significant upgrade to increase the beam power and energy. Researchers in Argonne's Nuclear Engineering Division use the LEAF for a wide range of applications. This talented team of radiochemists, chemical and nuclear engineers, health physicists and experienced technicians supports multiple programs on behalf of sponsors such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. DOE Office of Science Isotope Program and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

General Applications

  • Radioisotope separation and purification method development
  • Radioisotope production
  • Targetry
  • Radiation testing and material response to received dose
  • Material activation

Applications in Medical Isotopes

  • Pilot-scale testing for the production of 99Mo
    • Method 1: sub-critical fission of low enriched uranium solution
    • Method 2: photon absorption (γ,n) on enriched 100Mo targets
  • Production and purification of radiotheragnostic isotopes 67Cu and 47Sc
  • Development of chemical recycling methods for enriched target materials
  • Development of production methods and generators for alpha emitting radioisotopes

Key Facts about the LEAF


  • Classified as an accelerator facility by the U.S. Department of Energy, the LEAF operates under an approved accelerator safety envelope. A safety team that includes experts in health physics, ergonomics and industrial hygiene supports the facility.
  • The electron linac can deliver continuous or pulsed beams with energy up to 50 MeV and average power of more than 20 kW.
  • Several target station locations provide ample access for operations and post-run remote target transfer.


  • The VDG electron accelerator is used to investigate and test critical experimental equipment and materials for radiation hardness and stability.
  • The low-energy (3 MeV) VDG accelerator is capable of Pulse and Continuous modes.
  • The VDG accelerator provides the capability to deliver high levels of electron/photon dose rates to critical components without presenting activation and handling hazards of the irradiated targets.

About the Team

The Nuclear Chemical Engineering Department of Argonne’s Nuclear Engineering Division offers a wide range of expertise, capabilities and facilities, described below.


  • Separation sciences and technologies
  • Nuclear and chemical engineering process development
  • Radiochemistry
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Targetry
  • Electron accelerator physics
  • Theoretical simulations
  • Radiation effects and dosimetry
  • Radiation chemistry

Related Facilities

Hot Cells

  • Support for separations activities and the ability to introduce and remove samples safely and efficiently
  • Adequate shielding for hundreds of Ci of medical isotopes
  • Large interior working areas
  • Interior equipment within each cell, customizable as needed
  • Manipulator mock-up area for pre-job testing of equipment and processes

Radiochemical Laboratories

  • Available for processing materials, final chemical processing, quality control and quality assessment

Analytical Chemistry Laboratory

  • Provides advanced radiometric and chemical analyses and purity checks

Related Information


Related Multimedia

Video: LINAC simulation of radiolytic gas generation for the SHINE Mo-99 production system

Results from an unsteady, 3D, multiphase CFD simulation including heat transfer using modified Open FOAM solver two-phase Euler Foam. Full helium gas headspace and sample in/out flow included and volumetric heat generation rate used directly from MCNP6 simulation results.

Last Modified: Mon, April 10, 2017 10:17 AM


For more information:

Nuclear Chemical Engineering Dept.
Nuclear Engineering Division