Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Powerful electron beam generator could combat anthrax


A physics professor’s invention to decontaminate industrial wastewater could become a powerful new weapon against anthrax.

Peter McIntyre and a group of colleagues at Texas A&M University have developed a cost-effective device to produce high energy electron beams that can break down harmful organic molecules in water - and destroy bacteria such as anthrax in food - or even on mail.

"William Cooper at the University of North Carolina showed that high-powered beams of electrons are highly effective in destroying organic contaminants in water," McIntyre said. "The difference here is that we’ve upped the power produced and reduced the cost, producing four times more energy at a unit cost per kilowatt five times less than any other such instrument."

Over the past three years, McIntyre’s team has developed the Coupled Multiplier Accelerator (CMA), a completely self-contained high-power electron accelerator that produces 100 kilowatts of beam power at one million volts, supports multiple independent beams and has a total capital cost of less than $500,000, representing a new, more affordable generation of e-beam technology.

Basically, McIntyre’s machine produces an electron beam like that found in CRT’s. The beam raster scans the contaminated water like cathode rays scan the inside of a TV tube, ionizing the water to produce free radicals and inducing both oxidation and reduction reactions which "digest" organic contaminants.

"The same process causes double breaks in bacterial DNA bonds, killing them," McIntyre explained. "It could be used to kill anthrax spores, which are five times more difficult to kill than bacteria like e-coli, because the spores encase the anthrax in a hard protective shell."

McIntyre expects the first commercial CMA to be in place at a Houston-area petrochemical plant by December. The technology has been licensed to a small Texas company which will operate the system there, where it will be used to treat a condensate stream containing methyl terbutyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive. MTBE is harmful to humans, and some of its secondary breakdown products, like formaldehyde and acetone, are even more toxic.

"The CMA is key to making lots of e-beam, supporting multiple beams needed for effective treatment in most real-world applications and doing it with a simple, reliable system that is economical for industrial applications," McIntyre said. "The basis of the technology is in every automobile - the alternator."

McIntyre’s CMA uses two 125 hp electronic motors to drive 16 alternators. Each alternator outputs a three-phase alternating current that is boosted by a transformer and rectified by a voltage multiplier circuit to produce high-voltage direct current. The 16 modules are connected in series to produce up to two megavolts of beam energy with up to 200 kilowatts of power. The entire accelerator - voltage source, electron guns and accelerator columns - is housed in a 14-foot-long, 9-foot-diameter pressurized steel vessel.

McIntyre’s CMA project team includes Texas A&M professors Akhdior Sattarov (physics), Bill Batchelor (civil engineering) and Bruce Herbert (geophysics) and Charles Meitzler of Sam Houston State University, as well as six graduate students, four undergrads and four professional technicians.

"You might say that man is the easiest organism to kill, but anthrax is one of the hardest," McIntyre observed. "We hope the CMA can equalize the odds a bit."

Contact: Judith White, 979-845-4664,;
Peter McIntyre,

Judith White | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm
23.03.2018 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics

nachricht Drug or duplicate?
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>