YEREVAN—The Alikhanyan National Laboratory in Yerevan (Yerevan Physics Institute, or YerPhi) will soon deliver a new 18 MeV (Million electron Volt) cyclotron to a modern diagnostic center funded by the Armenian government. The cyclotron was purchased from the Belgian company IBA, and installation is set for January 2015. Called Cyclone 18 (C-18), it will be placed in a newly constructed, specially designed building on the grounds of the laboratory. It is one of the most modern cyclotrons in existence today, producing negative proton beams of 18 MeV and deuteron beams of up to 10MeV energies.
In addition to providing short-lived radioactive isotopes for positron-electron tomography, Cyclone 18 will be used to expand YerPhi’s capabilities and standing in nuclear physics research, and to develop the applications of nuclear science to society. The science explored at YerPhi will range from studying the stellar nuclear reactions, which are essential to the formation of the solar system, and to understanding the conditions responsible for life on earth, as well as applying the techniques and tools of nuclear science toward understanding early human development. This is also applicable to environmental science and the dating of art and archeological artifacts.
This type of cyclotron is being implemented to produce radio-isotopes for hospitals and research centers all over the world. The production of radio-isotopes in Yerevan will provide services that presently do not exist for patients in Armenia, and potentially provide sales to neighboring countries. The cyclotron will place Armenia on a select list of countries with their own production of radio-isotopes that can be used in medical diagnostics and therapy.
The cyclotrons are also very versatile and can be used to carry out basic nuclear research. Some recent proposals by scientists at YerPhi, approved by the Armenian Ministry of Science and Education, include using the proton beams to study the “Hoyle state,” which is the resonance state that captures an alpha particle to make oxygen and hence facilitated the origin of life in our cosmos. The state was discovered more than 50 years ago, but remains a challenge in physics worldwide. Scientists at YerPhi propose to measure the decay of the Hoyle state.
Other research that can be done with the new C-18 Cyclotron is the conversion of proton beams into a neutron beam for use in a broad class of studies and experiments. Neutrons are fundamental particles that make up the atomic nucleus along with protons. The properties of neutrons, such as their charge neutrality, make them ideal probes to peer inside all types of matter, including nuclei and various types of dense matter. Wavelengths of neutrons are about the same as the distance between atoms, making them an ideal tool to study the engineering of materials, as well as biological, chemical, and physical systems. Neutrons and the likelihood of various materials to absorb neutrons (cross-sections) are important to answering a broad range of open questions from astrophysics, nuclear physics, and material science.
The production of a neutron beam at YerPhi will be an important experimental tool for Armenia. Other societal applications of nuclear physics include energy, climate physics, the physics of art, and archeology.