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Successful development of a prototype 'Quantum Scalpel' ion injector — 1/40th the size of existing equipment, commercialization aimed for 2030


When 'heavy ion radiotherapy' is used for the treatment of cancer, carbon ions are accelerated to approximately 70% of the speed of light and irradiated onto cancer cells. As this therapy subjects cancer patients to low physical burdens and can be implemented as a one-day cancer treatment, it has been attracting considerable attention in recent years. However, the requirements of large-scale accelerators and dedicated buildings have impeded its widespread use.

Senior Principal Researcher Hironao Sakaki of the Kansai Institute for Photon Science at the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) and his colleagues successfully developed for the first time ever a prototype of the ion injector essential for realizing the 'Quantum Scalpel,' which is a heavy ion beam radiotherapy device for cancer with an area ratio 40 times smaller than existing devices. The developed injector uses a laser beam to accelerate ions. The development was achieved by a joint research project with Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Hitachi Zosen Corporation.

The Quantum Scalpel is comprised of two accelerators: an ion injector that generates and initially accelerates carbon ions, and a synchrotron that accelerates the generated carbon ions to the speed required for their delivery to cancer cells in the body. Among these, a demonstration synchrotron is already in the production stage.

The research team separately developed a generator which constitutes an injector; an accelerator which accelerates ions by irradiating the target with a laser beam, and a transporter, which transports the generated ion beam to the synchrotron under controlled conditions. These three elements were assembled into a prototype, and its integrated testing began in June. The design of the Quantum Scalpel is scheduled to be finalized over the next three years based on both experimental data and simulation results, with the aim of its commercialization in 2030.

Developed prototype of the compact ion injector, part of the Quantum Scalpel, that uses a laser beam to accelerate ions.

The 'Quantum Scalpel' development project aims to reduce the size and sophistication of the device by introducing new technologies into the two accelerators, that is, the 'injector' and 'synchrotron.' Of these, the development of the prototype of the 'injector' shown in the photograph has been accomplished through industry-academia collaboration.

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