JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE

Cyclotron

The Cyclotron of the European Commission Joint Research Centre (model Scanditronix MC40) was closed down at the end of 2014. It was commissioned in the early 1980s and was 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 enabled the production of a wide variety of radioisotopes, making it especially suitable for research purposes. The number of such flexible facilities is limited worldwide (less than 50), and the Scanditronix MC40 in Ispra was the only cyclotron with such characteristics in Southern Europe.

Until the end of its operation the main research field at the JRC Cyclotron was related to nanomaterials safety, with ion-beams or neutrons generated by ion beams being used to radiolabel nanoparticles for highly sensitive tracing and quantification in biological matrices. A further area of research was the application of radioactive nanoparticles in medicine and the exploitation of radioisotopes in medical diagnosis and therapy. Such studies were usually carried out in collaboration with external partners from various EU countries, which required the special capabilities of the MC40 cyclotron.

The radiation-controlled area of the cyclotron is still being used for research with radiolabelled nanoparticles. Instead of direct activation, these are now synthesised using purchased radioisotopes, or alternatively activated material from collaboration partners. It is planned to pursue studies using these techniques also in the field of nanomedicine in order to study cell uptake and barrier crossing kinetics.