History of RARAF

RARAF is over 50 years old! We were founded on April 1st, 1967 out at Brookhaven National Labs. We are now at the Nevis Labs of Columbia Universtiy in Irvington, NY. We have had a great run of our first 50 years and look forward to another 50 as a leading biological radiation research facility.

Steve Marino, RARAF employee, and manager for more than 45 years, has written a "50 years of RARAF" review article which you can read here in Radiation Research.

RARAF was conceived in the late 1960s by Drs. V. P. Bond and H. H. Rossi. The immediate aim was to provide a source of monoenergetic neutrons designed and operated specifically for studies in radiation biology, dosimetry, and microdosimetry. The facility was built around the 4 MV Van de Graaff accelerator that originally served as the injector for the Cosmotron, a 2 GeV accelerator operated at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 2006 the Van de Graaff was replaced by a 5 MV Singletron from High Voltage Engineering Europa (HVEE) in the Netherlands.

RARAF operated at BNL from 1967 until 1980, when it was dismantled to make room for the ISABELLE project, a very large accelerator which was never completed. A new site for RARAF was found at the Nevis Laboratories of Columbia University where the Nevis Cyclotron was being disassembled. The U.S. Department of Energy provided funds to move RARAF to Nevis Laboratories and reassemble it in a new multi-level facility constructed within the Cyclotron Building. The new RARAF has been routinely operating for research since mid-1984.

In addition to the research conducted by members of Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research (CRR), during the more than five decades that RARAF has been in operation, experiments have been performed for over 55 different research groups from more than 45 institutions including universities, national laboratories, cancer centers, and private corporations. These experiments, along with those conducted by members of the CRR, have resulted in more than 350 publications in refereed journals, proceedings, and books. Research has been conducted in the fields of radiation biology, radiological physics, radiation chemistry, health physics, and medicine. These research groups have visited from at least 19 states and 8 countries.

Nevis Laboratories are located on a scenic 60-acre estate originally owned by the son of Alexander Hamilton. The DuPont family of Delaware donated the estate to the University in 1934, and construction of physics facilities at Nevis began in 1947. In the early 1950's Dwight D. Eisenhower, then President of the University, inaugurated what was then the world's most powerful cyclotron, which was eventually retired in 1978.