IOP Institute of Physics

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For the development of compact superconducting magnets for medical applications, enabling the more widespread use of proton-beam therapy for cancer treatment.

The medical therapeutic application of proton beams is an exciting area that enables more effective treatment of cancer by reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The beam energy is deposited over a narrower range than in other forms of radiotherapy, which limits the risk of collateral damage to vital organs. The availability of proton therapy is currently limited because of the cost and size of the superconducting cyclotron that is normally used – a conventional system requires around a football-pitch-sized amount of space for installation.

Tesla Engineering have developed compact superconducting magnet technology that enables a medical cyclotron to be mounted on a gantry – meaning that there is potential for the use of proton-beam therapy to become much more widespread. Cyclotrons combine a magnetic field with a varying electric field to accelerate charged particles. The stronger the magnet, the more compact the cyclotron. However, operating the superconducting wire in a strong magnetic field places it under stress – the stronger the magnet, the higher the stress. For this reason, conventional cyclotrons tend to be large and heavy.

Tesla uses a unique combination of electromagnetic design, materials choice, vacuum impregnation technology and mechanical modelling to develop superconducting magnets that can operate at much higher stress. These can then be used to build smaller and lighter cyclotrons, meaning that their medical applications can be made available to many more patients.

The company

Tesla was established in 1973 and designs and manufactures a wide range of top performance, state-of-the-art superconducting and resistive magnets and gradient coils for specialist applications in science, medicine and industry around the world. The company employs more than 250 people and has subsidiaries in the USA and Netherlands.

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