Physics

Laser-Produced Radioactive Isotopes

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Science  13 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5686, pp. 921
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5686.921a

Tagging pharmaceuticals with short-lived positron-emitting isotopes makes it possible to use the imaging technique positron emission tomography (PET) to follow the fate of these compounds non-invasively; for instance, in measuring neurotransmitter receptor distributions in the brain. Although essential from a biosafety point of view, the short lifetimes of these radioactive isotopes present logistical limitations on the locations of the scanners—requiring them to be in proximity to an isotope-producing nuclear facility or synchrotron—which may not always be where the patients are. Using the powerful VULCAN laser, Ledingham et al. present a proof-of-principle demonstration in which radioactive isotopes of carbon and fluorine are produced in sufficient abundance during the interaction between petawatt laser pulses and a solid target such as gold, aluminum, or mylar foils. As high-power lasers continue to shrink in size, the prospects for radioactive isotopes being produced in-house will improve. — ISO

J. Phys. D App. Phys. 37, 2341 (2004).

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