The Cyclotron of the European Commission Joint Research Centre (model Scanditronix MC40) is a highly versatile accelerator with variable particle energy and the capability of accelerating protons and alpha particles (8 - 40MeV) as well as deuterons (4 - 20MeV) and helium-3 nuclei (13 - 53 MeV).
This enables the production of a wide variety of radioisotopes. This characteristic makes the cyclotron especially suitable for research purposes. The number of such flexible facilities is limited worldwide (less than 50), and the Scanditronix MC40 in Ispra is the only cyclotron with such characteristics in Southern Europe.
Currently the main research field at the JRC Cyclotron is nanotoxicology, where ion-beams or neutrons generated by ion beams are used to radiolabel nanoparticles for highly sensitive tracing and quantification in biological matrices. A further area of research is the application of radioactive nanoparticles in medicine and the exploitation of radioisotopes in medical diagnosis and therapy. Such studies are usually carried out in collaboration with external partners from various EU countries, which require the special capabilities of the MC40 cyclotron.
The JRC Cyclotron has a commercial collaboration with General Electric Healthcare for the production of 18F-FDG, a radioactive pharmaceutical used in positron emission tomography (PET) for cancer diagnosis. Every night the JRC Cyclotron is employed to produce fluorine-18, which is the radioactive label of the 18F-FDG radiopharmaceutical, which is synthesized and distributed by General Electric Healthcare to customer hospitals in Northern Italy.