Posted in | Materials Research

Cancer Treating Laser Ions Discovered by Chalmers University Researchers

Chirped-Standing-Wave Acceleration. That is the name of the novel technique used to accelerate ions with lasers. The picture shows a laser beam (purple) that falls onto a thin foil, with a mirror on the rear side. The beam is reflected, forming a standing wave. Because of the systematical variation in wavelength of the laser pulse, the crests of the wave start to move. This drags the electrons and ions along, accelerating them to high speeds. (Image Credit: Felix Mackenroth)

A team of researchers from Chalmers University, Department of Physics, have discovered an entirely new way of using lasers that can accelerate ion beams. the new technique could provide more access too advanced cancer treatment.

The high impact journal Physical Review Letters recently published the results.

Next generation Ion technology could be used to treat tumors that are otherwise inoperable, for instance brain tumors. The treatment involves a concentrated beam of ions that destroy the cancer cells, and do not damage the healthy surrounding tissue.

This is achieved by using a cyclotron accelerator. However, today only certain facilities around the world offer this kind of an ion treatment.

Only very few patients can receive the treatment today because such a facility is not even available in every European country. Using our method to control the ions, the same technology will hopefully in the future be used in equipment that is compact, inexpensive, and easy to use.

Mattias Marklund, Head of the Division of Theoretical Physics, Chalmers University of Technology

Marklund and his colleagues Felix Mackenroth and Arkady Gonoskov designed a new method called the Chirped-Standing-Wave Acceleration, which could be a paradigm shift. Their work relies on a particle accelerator where ions are accelerated with the help of a laser, which is different to traditional accelerators that make use of electric fields to accelerate ions.

We knew that a laser could trap electrons but did not know how to move the electrons so that they could drag the ions with them. We found an elegant solution to this puzzle by letting the laser's wavelength vary continuously, in such a way that the ions were accelerated.

Arkady Gonoskov, Postdoctoral Researcher, Chalmers University

Until now there have only been a few methods to accelerate ions using lasers, and none of these methods had the ability to engineer the ions in an efficient and organized manner.

It was more like using a sledgehammer. With our method we can capture, stabilize and organize large numbers of ions with great precision without using a lot of energy. This is a small step towards the ultimate goal of treating cancer tumors in a way that provides enormous benefit to society. But we are still far from the ultimate goal.

Felix Mackenroth, Postdoctoral Researcher, Chalmers University

This method has only been analyzed using advanced computer simulations, however future experiments are planned in collaboration with Lund University.

The research was regulated within the framework of the Pliona project funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. University of Umeå is also partaking in the project.

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