Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tumors under fire: Munich physicists generate highly energetic carbon beams using intense lasers

11.12.2009
Oncologists have a dream: they want to use highly energetic ion beams in good quality and accurately defined dose for a pin-sharp and cost-effective radiation treatment of tumors.

Modern techniques based on intense laser pulses may in the future replace expensive conventional particle accelerators. A team of physicists of the Cluster of Excellence "Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics" (MAP) lead by Prof. Dr. Dietrich Habs (Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich) in cooperation with scientists of the Max-Born-Institute in Berlin now succeeded to finally experimentally demonstrate a mechanism of laser-driven beam generation that has been predicted by theorists long time ago.

The pioneering results are published in the latest issue of Physical Review Letters.

Carbon beams are considered to be the most effective method of cancer therapy, as tumors are destroyed permanently with minimum trauma. Whereas conventional x-rays or electron beams cause significant damage to the surrounding healthy tissue on their pathway into the body, the high biological effectiveness of carbon beams can be precisely concentrated in the tumor, thus exclusively killing targeted cancer cells. Therefore, carbon ions are an outstanding tool for radiation therapy of deeply situated tumors located in highly sensitive regions like in the vicinity of the brain stem, where doctors would refuse to even contemplate surgical intervention. The generation of these beams is currently rather challenging, state-of-the-art are complex huge accelerator facilities which are extremely expensive in construction, operation and maintenance. Hence, the vast majority of today's cancer patients is unable to benefit from this kind of treatment. "As doctors we are dependent on the physicists' progress to develop a cheaper and more compact carbon beam source in order to make ion beam therapy available for everybody" Prof. Dr. Michael Molls points out, another MAP member and director of the TUM Department of Radiation Oncology.

Indeed, in recent years major advances have been achieved in the generation of highly energetic ion beams based on compact lasers instead of large-scale accelerator facilities. "The new technique allows an acceleration distance smaller than the diameter of a human hair," Habs explains. Such small distances are sufficient to accelerate ions to high energies when employing highly intense laser pulses. Not only the accelerator itself, but also the beam guide is being shrunken significantly, as the several tons of weight steering magnets can be replaced by small-sized mirrors. However, up to now no efficient method has been developed to transfer the same amount of energy from the laser to every single ion to allow for a well defined penetration depth of the particle beam in radiation therapy. This is what Prof. Habs and his team are working on. Andreas Henig carried out the first successful experiments together with Berlin physicists: "With the latest results we succeeded in an efficient ion beam generation, while simultaneously reducing the energy spread of the accelerated particles. We are very happy about this experimental break-through!"

The scientists generate the high energy ions by irradiating diamond-like carbon foils with intense laser pulses. Atoms located within the foil are split into electrons and ions by the strong electric field of the laser focus, a plasma is generated. The enormous laser intensity (about 1020 times more intense than the sun) strongly heats the electrons and separates them in an expanding cloud from the heavier and therefore slower ions. A huge charge separation field builds up, accelerating ions to velocities up to a tenth of light speed. However, up to now laser-accelerated ions exhibited a broad energy spectrum, whereas medical applications demand a well-defined particle energy to allow for a precise control of penetration depth and dose distribution in the body.

The group of Munich physicists is the first to experimentally demonstrate an acceleration process which allows all ions to fly with the same velocity. By changing the laser polarization from linear to circular and reducing the diamond-like carbon foil to only a few nanometers in thickness, an uncontrolled heating of the particles and subsequent foil expansion was avoided. Instead, the laser light now pushes the electrons collectively as a nanometer-thin layer in forward direction, dragging carbon ions with it. The whole foil is driven like a sail by the light pressure of the laser - a mechanism that has been predicted by theorists long time ago.

The accomplished results provide the first experimental proof and pave the way towards a cost-saving generation of the highly promising carbon ion beams. The next challenge for the physicists in the Cluster of Excellence is to further increase the energy of the laser-accelerated ion beam. At the moment it is not yet sufficient to penetrate the body far enough to reach deeply situated tumors. Nonetheless, Habs is excited: "Already in a few moths from now we will start irradiating single cells at our biomedical beamline here at the Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching and will in parallel work hard to further enhance the parameters of the ion beam."

Original publication:
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.103.245003

Christine Kortenbruck | idw
Further information:
http://www.munich-photonics.de
http://www.ha.physik.uni-muenchen.de/index.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astrophysicists measure precise rotation pattern of sun-like stars for the first time
21.09.2018 | NYU Abu Dhabi

nachricht Halfway mark for NOEMA, the super-telescope under construction
20.09.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

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: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Astrophysicists measure precise rotation pattern of sun-like stars for the first time

21.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Brought to light – chromobodies reveal changes in endogenous protein concentration in living cells

21.09.2018 | Life Sciences

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>