Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

William Culbreth

Second Committee Member

Robert Boehm

Third Committee Member

Yitung Chen

Fourth Committee Member

Kenneth Czerwinski

Fifth Committee Member

Woosoon Yim

Number of Pages



Non-traditional radioisotope production techniques using a compact, high power linear electron accelerator have been demonstrated and characterized for the production of 18F, 47Sc, 147Pm, and 99mTc from a variety of target candidates. These isotopes are used extensively in the medical field as diagnostic and therapy radioisotopes, as well as the space industry as RTG's. Primary focus was placed on 99mTc as it constitutes approximately 80% of all diagnostic procedures in the medical community that use radioactive tracers. It was also the prime focus due to recent events at the Chalk River nuclear reactor, which caused global shortages of this isotope a few years ago.

A Varian K15 LINAC was first used to show proof of principle in Las Vegas. Various samples were then taken to the Idaho Accelerator Center where they were activated using an electron LINAC capable of electron energies from 4 to 25 MeV at a beam power of approximately 1 kW. Production rates, cross sections, and viability studies were then performed and conducted to assess the effectiveness of the candidate target and the maximum production rate for each radioisotope.

Production rates for 18F from lithium fluoride salts were shown to be ideal at 21MeV, namely 1.7 Ci per kg of LiF salt, per kW of beam current, per 10 hour irradiation time. As the typical hospital consumption of 18F is around 500 mCi per day, it is clear that a large amount of 18F can be made from a small (300 gram) sample of LiF salt. However, since there is no current separation process for 18F from 19F, the viability of this technique is limited until a separations technique is developed. Furthermore, the calculated cross section for this reaction is in good agreement with literature, which supports the techniques for the isotopes mentioned below.

Production rates for 47Sc from vanadium oxide targets were shown to be a maximum at 25 MeV with a production rate of 2 mCi per day, assuming a 2 kW beam and a 10 kg target. While this production rate would be able to support a research environment where a single patient per day would be addressed, it is unlikely that this method would produce enough material to support a large hospital.

The production of 147Pm from europium oxide targets showed that due to the large spin state differences between 151Eu and 147Pm, a negligible amount of 147Pm can be created using the (ã,á) process. The minimum detectable limit for these experiments, given this specific isotope, was 10 nCi.

The (ã, ã') reaction was studied on 99Tc to determine the production rates and cross sections for this reaction. It was found that the average production rate between 12 and 25 MeV was approximately 3 uCi/(kg*kW). Given that a single patient dose of 99mTc is approximately 20 mCi, we find that we need many kilograms of technetium metal. This would produce toxic levels of technetium in the patient; therefore this method is not likely viable. It was also found, however, that the (n,n') reaction may play a significant role in the activation from ground state technetium to the metastable state.

Finally, the (ã, á) reaction that will produce 99mTc from rhodium oxide targets was quantified from energies of 12 to 25 MeV. The production rate was found to be 64 and 113 mCi/(kg*kW*day) for 19 and 25 MeV, respectively. Given a 2 kW beam and a 2 kg target, we find this technique to be a feasible method to create 99mTc in a local setting using a LINAC. By using a fast separations technique, such as selective volatilization, a process in which technetium oxide is volatilized off of rhodium oxide in a carrier gas could provide a turn-key solution for entities looking to create this radioisotope on site. A cost-benefit analysis was performed and it was found that a system such as this could produce over $1M in revenue per year given a standard hospital usage of 40 patient doses per day.


Accelerator; Electrons; Isotopes; Linear accelerators; Nuclear medicine; Radioactive tracers; Radioisotopes; Radiopharmeceuticals; Rhodium compounds; RTGs; Technetium


Nuclear | Nuclear Engineering