Laser Technology for Medicine and Applications
Research at CALA
The approaches to be employed for the generation of high-energy X-radiation and ion beams are in principle the same. In both cases, trains of extremely short, high-intensity pulses of laser light will be used to accelerate electrons, protons or ions (electrically charged atoms) to very high velocities. Highly energetic electrons make it possible to produce X-radiation of unprecedented quality. This in turn is a prerequisite for enhanced imaging procedures that should enable tumors and other pathologies to be visualized at an earlier – and hence more tractable – stage than hitherto. By using ultrashort light flashes to accelerate protons or ions, on the other hand, the researchers hope to provide the basis for cost-efficient particle-based therapies: Since ions, the atomic nuclei, are much heavier than electrons, such beams cause much greater damage when they impinge on living tissues, and can be used to kill tumors. Ion beams have greater biological effects on living tissue, and can be used to kill tumors effectively. Laser-accelerated and precisely directed ion bunches could complement the current generation of particle accelerators for highly effective targeted particle therapy and make it available to a far wider range of cases than can be treated by the current generation of particle accelerators.
In addition to medical applications, CALA will of course also focus on projects in basic research. Further studies of ultrafast processes – such as the dynamics of electrons – at atomic scales are planned. Physicists will also be exploring the interaction between light and matter using beams of a previously unattainable intensity. According to theoretical models, this capability should enable them to uncover entirely new physical phenomena.