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Gifted and institutionalised

After a long awaited american style breakfast with sausages, egg and potato we set off for the RIKEN institute. This institute, which was founded 100 years ago, houses multiple research groups and is the biggest independent research institute in Japan and has several centers spread over the country. RIKEN increasingly focusses on creating an international community which is reflected in one of our members (Johan) joining the Advanced Catalysis research group from next week onwards. This group was our first stop of the day. We were introduced to the research mainly focussing on synthesizing new polymers, studying organometallic hydrogen complexes and the conversion of CO2. Apart from the interesting research, most surprising were the huge amount of facilities available to the group, including over 15 gloveboxes, a high pressure hydrogen lab and their own NMR room. This was also a nice introduction for Johan on the labs and atmosphere he will be spending his next couple of months in.

 

At our next visit we were greeted by Dr. Hiromitsu Haba, head of the radioisotope (RI) applications team. This is one of the groups running and managing the worlds largest superconducting ring cyclotron and houses several other cyclotrons as well as a large linear accelerator. Using these instruments, they can create high energy ion beams which can be accelerated to 70% of the speed of light.

 

The first cyclotron was created in the RIKEN institute by Dr. Nishina who pioneered the search for new stable elements and isotopes in Japan. This search culminated in the discovery of the 113th element. The researchers at RIKEN were given the honor of naming it in 2016. They chose the name Nihonium, which stems from Nihon or Japan in Japanese. From Dr. Haba we learned that this name was chosen as this was the first element to be discovered in Japan and Japanesium did not have a nice enough ring to it. We were quite lucky to be visiting in the summer period as all facilities stopped for maintenance and we could get a look into the huge concrete vaults and radiation resistant doors housing the cyclotrons.

 

Outside, the rain had started making the stifling heat more comfortable. We travelled back to the hostel and made our way to a restaurant for our last diner with Wesley. Since he will be leaving us after the last company visits tomorrow he guided us to a traditional hotpot restaurant. In a few days he will turn 40 so he was (un)pleasantly surprised by a desert with fireworks and chopsticks with his name on it.

 

One last day of visits remains and then it is almost time for us to go home.


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