A new particle accelerator unveiled at CERN, the European physics research center, is expected to spawn portable accelerators that could help doctors treat cancer patients and experts analyze artwork, according to Reuters.
CERN is gradually upgrading its hardware to get more data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), its 27-km (17-mile) circular accelerator that smashes protons together at almost the speed of light to probe basic questions about the universe.
Its latest upgrade, resembling a 90-meter oil pipeline hooked up to a life support machine, replaces the 39-year-old injector that produces the flow of particles for the LHC. CERN miniaturized the previous technology and saw many potential uses.
“It’s a brave new world of applications,” said project leader Maurizio Vretenar.
CERN has already built a version to treat tumors with particle beams and licensed the patent to ADAM, a CERN spin-off owned by Advanced Oncotherapy. Another medical use is to create isotopes for diagnosing cancers. Since isotopes decay rapidly, they normally have to be rushed to patients just in time to be used.
“With our portable technology, isotopes could be made inside the hospital already,” Vretenar said.
The next goal is a one-meter prototype weighing about 100 kgs, with which museums could analyze paintings and jewelry. The bulk of funding for the project came in a few weeks ago.
“We are building something portable. We already have a collaboration with the Louvre, and with the Italians at Florence at the Italian institute for conservation of artworks,” said Vretenar.
The Louvre in Paris is the only museum in the world that already has an accelerator, and when it is closed on Tuesdays, artifacts are taken down to the basement for analysis.
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