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Cyclotron Tour (Issue 12 2017)

Written on the 17 August 2017

On Sunday 30 July, just after the trial exams, 11 Year 12 Physics students went on an excursion to the SAHMRI building on North Terrace in the city, right next to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Once there, Prab Takhar, Director of Molecular Imaging and Therapy Research Unit, showed us around the impressive building, explaining its architectural significance to the Kaurna People. But these students weren't there for the architecture; they were to see a Cyclotron!

Buried at the bottom of the building, three floors below street level and entombed in a vault with walls three metres thick, is South Australia's first and only Cyclotron. It exists to produce radiopharmaceuticals, which are used in Nuclear Medicine.

It accelerates protons to near light-speed so that they can hit a target and embed the proton into the nucleus of the target material. This results in the production of a new element that has a very short half-life. Small amounts of this material are administered to patients who are about to have PET scans (or other scans) for diagnostic purposes.

You can only visit on Sundays because of the danger of residual radioactive material during the week when the cyclotron is working. By Sunday it is safe to go inside the vault.

So these young people may very well be administering Nuclear Medicine to us in the near future.

Simon Honner
Physics Teacher


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