Design students turn ion beam facility into artwork

Published on June 26, 2023

Two students from the Design Academy Eindhoven will spend the next few weeks transforming the gray six-meter-long and one-and-a-half-meter-wide tube of DIFFER's Ion Beam Facility into a true work of art. One side will have a cutaway like character with mainly purple and pink colors. Those colors are a reference to the colors of a plasma that is generated in the tube. The other side will be orange, the color of the Netherlands. Also, at that side, there will be space for DIFFER's logo and for posters about the research it facilitates.

The Ion Beam Facility is one of DIFFER's proverbial business cards. The device allows researchers from within and out of DIFFER to research new materials. For example, they can study layers of material for developing batteries or solar cells.

From cosmic rays to flower DNA
In addition, the device can be used by manufacturers of semiconductors, by meteorologists, geologists, archaeologists and art researchers. Electronics developers have already used the facility to test antennas on a chip to withstand cosmic rays. Furthermore, flower producers asked DIFFER to intentionally damage flower DNA to create new varieties.

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On the left, the current dull, gray Ion Beam Facility. On the right, an impression of the new orange backside with the DIFFER logo. In the middle, a sketch of the new front with the colors of a plasma and what appears to be an exposed tube. Photo left: DIFFER/Bart van Overbeeke. Sketches: Lex Mannens and Emma Werkhoven. Impression right: DIFFER. [high resolution]

Proud of facilities
"DIFFER is opening up more and more to external researchers," says Beata Tyburska-Pueschel. She is project manager of the Ion Beam Facility. "We are proud of our Ion Beam Facility. And the painting helps us explain how ions are accelerated and how the facility can be used."

Tyburska-Pueschel copied the idea for revamping the facility from an American facility where she worked as a junior researcher. "That beamline there was painted bright red in the university's colors and had a logo on it. We're making a 2.0 version!"

Combined design
In late 2022, DIFFER asked the Design Academy Eindhoven if they might circulate a call to revamp the dull gray tube. Two students, Emma Werkhoven and Lex Mannens, both in their second year, showed interest. They visited DIFFER and separately submitted an idea. Werkhoven wanted to do something with a cutaway drawing to show the interior of the machine. Mannens was fascinated by the different colors a plasma can have. Eventually they decided to join forces and create a combined design.

"At first we wanted to spray paint, but that is not healthy in indoor spaces. Besides, there are other devices in the same room and they are still in operation," explains Emma Werkhoven. "We are now going to paint with a special, safe dye."

On June 27, when the exams at the Design Academy will be over, Werkhoven will start with a layer of primer. After that, the artists are going to use pencil and tape to set up the outline. Subsequently, they will paint the tube. Eventually, they hope to finish by July 7.

DIFFER, the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research, conducts leading fundamental research in the fields of fusion energy and solar fuels. DIFFER (www.differ.nl) operates a number of unique facilities that allow scientists, including those from outside the institute, to do their research. The institute works in close partnership with academia and industry. DIFFER is based in Eindhoven and is part of the institutes organization of NWO.

Dutch original news item: https://www.differ.nl/designstudenten-toveren-ionenbundel-om-tot-kunstwerk

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