Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of Ion Linac Systems accelerators?

Our RFI and RFQ linac designs allow for ion currents and duty factors that are higher than achievable with any other type of compact accelerator in the low MeV/u energy range. This is due to the highly efficient operation of the RFI and RFQ structures. Additionally, our neutron producing target allows for a flux unmatched by other accelerators in the same energy range. Below is a list of the major advantages that Ion Linac Systems products offer.

  • High power ion beams (protons, deuterons, carbon, etc.).
  • High rf efficiency, unmatched by other linac designs.
  • High current at 100% (CW), unachievable with other linacs or cyclotrons.
  • High flux neutron production capability.
  • Compact form factor.
  • Low total cost of acquisition and operation relative to other accelerators.
  • Operation without need for megavoltage insulating gasses.
  • Experience and expertise of the Ion Linac Systems team.

What is a linear accelerator (linac)?

Linear accelerators are electromagnetic devices used to accelerate atomic and sub-atomic particles, such as electrons and protons, to high velocities (energies).

How do linacs accelerate the particles?

Accelerators employ electric and magnetic fields to accelerate, focus and steer the particles. The electric and magnetic fields exert forces only on charged particles such as ions (atoms with too few or too many electrons), atomic nuclei (atoms with no electrons), protons, and/or electrons; they do not exert forces on neutral particles such as neutral atoms or neutrons.

Does Ion Linac Systems make electron linacs, such as those commonly used in radiation therapy?

No. Ion Linac Systems focuses on designing and building machines that accelerate particles heavier than electrons. Our linacs can be designed to accelerate protons, deuterons, alpha particles (helium), carbon ions, etc. Medical applications of these heavier particles include proton therapy, hadron (carbon ion) therapy, neutron therapy such as Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT), and radioisotope production. Conventional radiation therapy ultilizes beams of energetic electrons, either for direct medical application or to produce beams of x-rays.

What is an RF linear accelerator?

For most applications involving particle energies of one MeV or higher, radio frequency linear accelerators (RF linacs) are employed. In these accelerators, the electric and magnetic fields oscillate at high frequencies, commonly know as "radio frequencies", in the range of millions to billions of cycles per second. RF linacs are one of the best ways to accelerate charged particles to MeV and GeV energies.

How does an RF linac structure work?

In RF linacs, very high electric and magnetic fields are produced by injecting RF energy from a powerful RF system, similar to a television transmitter, into a confined region of space (cavity) bounded by conducting materials (usually copper) to keep the energy from radiating away (as in radio, television or radar transmissions). The particles to be accelerated are injected into the linac structure. As the direction of the electric field reverses millions of times per second, the linac structure must be designed to manage the distribution of the electric fields within the structure and the distribution of the particles within the beam so that the particles are exposed to the electric fields when they are in the accelerating direction and shielded from them when they are in the decelerating direction.

What is a drift tube?

One of the earliest practical linac structures, the Drift Tube Linac structure, accomplishes the complex chore of acceleration with the aid of "drift tubes" distributed along the axis of the structure. The particles are exposed to the longitudinal electric fields when they are in the accelerating direction and are hidden from the electric fields by the drift tubes when the electric fields are in the opposite direction. As the velocities of the particles increase, the lengths of the drift tubes must also increase to keep pace with the particles. Incorporated into the design of all RF linacs is the ability to bunch and focus the particles into small packets suitable for efficient acceleration.

What is the purpose of particle accelerators (of this type)?

Particles in these energy ranges find scientific, industrial, medical, and military applications through their ability to produce radioisotopes for medical applications; radiation effects for cancer therapy; thermal and energetic neutron beams for medical applications, material inspection, and explosive detection; special effects for solid state physics applications; and energetic particle beams for elementary particle physics research.