BY JOSEPH DAGDIGIAN
YEREVAN—The Alikhanyan National Laboratory in Yerevan (Yerevan Physics Institute) will soon take delivery of a new 18 MeV (million electron volt) cyclotron for a modern diagnostic center funded by the Armenian government. The cyclotron is purchased from a Belgian Company (IBA) and the plan is to start installation of the new 18 MeV cyclotron in January of 2015. The cyclotron will be placed in a newly constructed, specially designed building on the grounds of the laboratory. The new cyclotron, the Cyclone 18, is one of the most modern cyclotrons produced today in the world. The cyclotron will produce negative proton beams of 18 MeV and deuteron beams of up to 10 MeV energies.
The new cyclotron, in addition to providing short-lived radioactive isotopes for positron-electron tomography, will also be used to expand the capability of the Yerevan Physics Institute in nuclear physics research and the applications of nuclear science to society. The science questions explored at Yerevan Physics Institute 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 towards understanding early human development. This science is also applicable to environmental science and the dating of art and archeological artifacts. This will expand the capabilities of Armenia in medical treatment and diagnostic techniques.
This type of cyclotron is being implemented worldwide 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 to patients in Armenia and potentially provide sales to neighboring countries. The cyclotron will place Armenia amongst a select list of the world’s 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 the Yerevan Physics Institute, and approved by the 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 the Institute propose to measure the decay of the Hoyle state.
Another example of the kind of research that can be done at the Institute with the new C-18 Cyclotron is the conversion of the proton beam into a neutron beam for use for 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 makes them ideal probes to peer inside all types of matter, including properties of nuclei and various types of dense matter. Wavelengths of neutron are about the same as the distances between atoms making them an ideal tool to the study of 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 the Yerevan Physics Institute will be an important experimental tool for the country of Armenia. Other societal applications of Nuclear Physics include energy, climate physics, physics of art, and archeology.