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Cyclotrons belong to a class of machines called particle accelerators. There are two basic types of particle accelerators – linear accelerators (linacs) and cyclotrons. Both types accelerate charged particles to high velocities, and the particle beams can then be directed at targets for research, radioisotope production, and other purposes

The most important accelerators for radioisotope production are cyclotrons. Cyclotrons have a number of advantages over reactors for radioisotope production, such as safety, cheaper capital, operating and decommissioning costs, and they generate far less radioactive waste than reactors. For these and other reasons, cyclotrons have assumed an increasing and important role in radioisotope production.



About 150 – 200 cylcotrons are operating worldwide. About 35 of these are operated by radiopharmaceutical companies and are used solely for the production of medical radioisotopes. Another 25 are used in part for radioisotope production.

However, most of the above cyclotrons are not of sufficient power to produce large quantities of Iodine 123, which is the focus of Quasar Group’s main initiative and to solve a severe shortage in the United States and to a lesser extent in Europe. The type of cyclotron that is needed for this project are 30 MeV (million electron volts) that can produce large quantities of Iodine 123 utilizing Xe 124 gas target systems. This method produces an extremely high purity product and is the most easily managed compared to lower energy production methods utilizing Te 123 solid targets.


A cyclotron consists of two large dipole magnets designed to produce a semi-circular region of uniform magnetic field, pointing uniformly down. These are called Dee’s because of their D-Shape. The two Dee’s are placed back to back with their straight sides parallel but slightly separated.

An oscillating voltage is applied to produce an electric field across this gap. Particles injected into the magnetic field region of a Dee trace out a semicircular path until they reach the gap. The electric field in the gap then accelerates the particles as they pass across it.

The particles now have a higher energy so they follow a semi-circular path in the next Dee with larger radius so reach the gap again. The electric field frequency must be just right so the direction of the field has reversed by their time of arrival at the gap. The field in the gap accelerates them again and they enter the first Dee again.

Thus the particles gain energy as they spiral around. The trick is that as they speed up, they trace a larger arc and so they always take the same time to reach the gap.This way a constant frequency electric field oscillation continues to always accelerate them across the gap. The limitation on the energy that can be reached in such a device depends on the size of the magnets that form the Dee and the strength of their magnetic fields.

To learn more about cyclotron technology, visit the website of one of the major manufacturers -

Ebco Technologies or IBA Worldwide.

 Thursday, July 31, 2014