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Design study of an innovative high-intensity industrial cyclotron for production of Tc-99m and other frontier medical radioisotopes

Project description

Design study of high-intensity cyclotron for production of medical radioisotopes

Technetium-99m (99mTc) is a metastable radioisotope that is used in countless medical diagnostic procedures. Nowadays it is almost exclusively produced in a few remaining ageing research reactors worldwide. Radiopharmaceuticals based on 99mTc are applied in imaging and functional studies of the brain, myocardium, thyroid, lungs, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, skeleton, blood as well as various tumours. Depending on the procedure, the 99mTc is bound to a compound that transports it to its target location. Direct production of 99mTc by proton cyclotrons is the most promising approach to increase its availability, yet the key challenge is the design of a compact high-intensity apparatus termed 'self-extracting cyclotron' (SEC). The EU-funded InnovaTron project will improve the magnet design and the beam-optics of the SEC based on new technological solutions.


Tc99m is the most widely used isotope in nuclear medicine. Production is almost exclusively done with a few ageing research reactors worldwide. Recent shutdowns of some those reactors have resulted in a worldwide Tc99m shortage. Europe is affected, because it is the second largest consumer of Tc99m worldwide. In response to growing concerns about Tc99m availability and the increasing demand in medicine, alternative production routes are being explored in the community. Direct production by proton cyclotrons looks the most promising solution. Cyclotrons offer several advantages, one of them being the possibility for local production, as is done for other commonly used medical isotopes. Large-scale production of Tc99m requires high proton beam intensities. InnovaTron focuses on a cutting-edge research project in accelerator design. The key challenge is the design of an innovative compact high-intensity cyclotron, named ‘self-extracting cyclotron’. In this machine, the proton beams exit without using an extraction device. Such devices usually prevent the extraction of high beam currents as would be needed for Tc99m production. A prototype machine was built by the company IBA around the year 2000. Self-extraction was successfully proven by extracting a current close to 2 mA. However, rather poor beam quality was observed resulting in too high machine activation and a maximum extraction efficiency not larger than 80%. This was encouraging but not yet good enough for industrial applications. InnovaTron will improve the magnet design and the beam-optics of the self-extracting cyclotron based on new technological solutions. It will be realized using high-level computer-aided design and beam physics studies. Key goals are: i) high currents up to 10 mA or more, ii) extraction efficiency higher than 95%, iii) beam quality at least a factor three better than the prototype.
This cyclotron will allow production of high quantities of Tc99m and other frontier medical isotopes.


Net EU contribution
€ 166 320,00
1348 Ottignies Louvain La Neuve

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Région wallonne Prov. Brabant Wallon Arr. Nivelles
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 166 320,00