Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies, Inc. (MIFTI)
Applying fusion technology to the medical and energy fields
Nuclear medicine is an essential, wide-spread treatment methodology used in the management of large numbers of patients, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and from oncology to cardiology, neurology, and psychiatry. There are nearly 100 different nuclear medicine imaging procedures currently in use. For example: in the diagnosis and treatment of hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), thyroid cancer, cardiac stress tests that quantify heart function, diagnostics in coronary heart disease that determine the effectiveness of coronary artery bypass surgery and angioplasty. Other uses include bone scans, to determine if cancer has spread, lung scans to diagnose pulmonary embolism, in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the characterization of molecular targets for pathophysiology, and genesis, etc.
Figure 1 illustrates the growth of diagnostic nuclear medicine is exponential, and the number of patients has grown over 20 million per year since 1993.
Figure 2 shows the growth of therapeutic nuclear medicine procedures, which is a market above 3.5 billion dollars a year.
Fig. 2 Yearly growth of radionuclides based business
The need for clinical and research applications of radionuclides is rising exponentially. Radionuclides are normally produced by bombarding the nuclei of stable atoms with sub-nuclear particles (neutrons, protons, etc.), as to cause nuclear reactions to occur that convert a stable nucleus into an unstable one. However, the majority of radionuclides used in applications today are imported on a daily basis, and those required for innovative research are either available sporadically in limited quantities, or not at all.
Today, in the USA, there is only one research reactor (the University of Missouri Research Reactor) that provides reactor-produced radionuclides for therapeutic applications. However, it has low power (10 MW) that enables it to produce only a relatively small quantity of radionuclides at a low specific activity (a few radioactive atoms and a much greater number of non-radioactive atoms) that limit its use.
A small staged Z-pinch machine could be a reliable and cost-effective alternative to existing neutron sources, and could be placed in clinics and hospitals. Preliminary modeling indicates that a staged Z-pinch reactor could be assembled into a small cabinet and produce enough neutrons per shot, in a high-repetition rate system, to meet the needs of physicians, researchers, and patients. This machine might cost a few million dollars, but this is a fraction of the cost of a nuclear reactor, and can be placed in every university for scientific research in nuclear medicine.