Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

High Energy Particle Generation and Nuclear Transformation Using a Short Pulse Laser

Technology #1905


A number of radioisotopes are currently utilized as markers and for purposes in various medical, scientific, industrial and other applications. However, radioisotopes frequently have a relatively short half-life, from a few hours to a few minutes. In Positron Emission Tomography (PET) facilities, radioisotopes are derived from targets by bombarding them with high-energy protons or deuterons obtained from a cyclotron accelerator. Unfortunately, cyclotron accelerators suitable for use in the medical environment are very expensive, large and heavy, and require a trained staff to operate and maintain the apparatus. Thus, the accelerator must be physically located in a medical center located within a short distance from the PET scanning apparatus.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new method and apparatus for generating high-energy ions and inducing small nuclear reactions. This invention employs a high-energy laser and results in high-current, high-gradient ion acceleration capable of inducing nuclear reactions on a small scale at much lower cost than conventional methods. Specifically, this approach produces energetic ions from plasmas by focusing an intense, short duration optical pulse form a laser onto a target, whereby the concentrated energy contained in the focused laser beam ionizes the target material, raising it to temperature for production of plasma consisting of free electrons and ions.

Applications and Advantages


  • Instant production of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine


  • Lower cost, compact equipment
  • Does not use long life radioisotopes,-nl-simplifying nuclear material management