Huddersfield’s International Institute for Accelerator Applications has developed the world’s first ns-FFAG accelerator (EMMA) and has demonstrated the applications of the advanced particle accelerator technology involved.

What was the problem?

Nuclear power currently provides 20% of our electricity, yet within 15 years most of the UK’s nuclear power stations will have closed. Although the support for nuclear power has been gradually increasing in the UK over the last ten years, there are still concerns over safety and of toxic waste storage. To address these issues, researchers at Huddersfield have been exploring the potential of an innovatively designed Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor based on thorium.

Through this research they have shown that thorium can provide an alternative form of nuclear energy. It is more abundant, safer, has a much smaller problem with legacy radioactive waste, and is proliferation resistant.

Benefits of this research

The Institute has demonstrated the feasibility of compact, reliable and affordable proton machines for cancer therapy, radioisotope production and muon and neutron production, offering UK industry a technological lead in a potentially enormous international market. The Institute has strong connections with major accelerator facilities around the world, including the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva and the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund.

Research carried out at Huddersfield helped to establish a scientific and political case for the construction of the €1.5 billion European Spallation Source in Lund.

What did we do?

The development of EMMA as part of the £7.5million Research Councils UK (RCUK)-funded International CONFORM project, brings together the fixed field and high duty cycle of a cyclotron with the strong focussing of a synchrotron, using magnets whose fields vary with position but not with time. In a conventional FFAG the beam optics does not change during acceleration, constraining the form of the field. Relaxing this constraint in EMMA enables simpler magnets and a smaller beam pipe to be deployed.

This discovery has allowed the development of cheap, simple and compact proton machines with simple magnets and low losses. Potential applications include proton and charged ion radiotherapy, medical isotope production and the production of muons and neutrons for boron neutron capture therapy.

Huddersfield was the only UK higher education institute to participate in the European Spallation Source Preparatory Phase Project. The research carried out within the Institute played a major role in the project, which ran from 2008-2010 and led to the multinational decision to build ESS in Lund; Sweden.

Huddersfield’s original involvement with neutron instrumentation and general neutronics has evolved to include the design of the target, evaluation of induced radiation in the accelerator, and the accelerator itself.

Siemens AG has awarded the International Institute for accelerator Applications the status of Siemens Official Technology Partner in recognition of on-going innovative research, including the work on alleviating the global drought of medical radioisotope 99mTc by exploring low energy proton accelerator production of this and alternative radioisotopes.
This demonstrates the potential of local hospital based radioisotope production and presents new industrial routes for achieving reliable production and deployment of medical radioisotopes.

What happened next?

Research carried out by the International Institute for Accelerator Applications has featured on a film, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, which presents an introduction to the European Spallation Source (ESS). Sir Patrick explains how it will soon be one of the most important research facilities in the world, enabling developments in drug design, magnetic materials for data storage, ceramics for engineering, biocompatible materials, hydrogen fuel and processes for capturing carbon. This film was one of ten shortlisted for the US National Science Foundation’s International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.