Manchester University is leading a £8.3 million project to develop a new type of particle accelerator, that will be easier to operate and maintain than existing counterparts. The accelerator will be adapted for applications in medicine and industry, and for basic research.
No one has yet built such a “non-scaling fixed field alternating gradient” (NS-FFAG) accelerator, and there are considerable challenges to be overcome before it could be used commercially.
The Conform project to develop the machine has received £7.5 million funding from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The research will be led by Roger Barlow at the School of Physics and Astronomy in collaboration with Science and Technology Facilities Council at the Daresbury Laboratory, the Cockroft Institute and Birmingham, Surrey, Oxford, and Leeds universities and Imperial College London.
Barlow said, “An opportunity is arising which could allow the NS-FFAG to be used as a new type of charged particle therapy machine for treating cancer. The reduced size, increased reliability and flexibility of such machines should all lead to lower costs of ownership while delivering more effective therapies.”
Beams of protons or heavier particles such as carbon ions can deposit much more radiation directly in the cancer, while losing much less energy in the surrounding healthy tissue.
NS-FFAGs could potentially be used for many other purposes, including helping to generate electricity without significant greenhouse gas emissions and could provide a very intense neutron source for studying the structure of materials and the dynamics of chemical reactions.