The technology physicists use to control and divert laser interactions into particle beams has largely been limited by the target which the laser must pass through. This problem has restricted the applications of lasers significantly. The flat targets currently being used hamper energy potential and lack control leaving much to be desired for maximum beam energies and lower beam divergences. Concepts such as fast ignition, used to initiate nuclear fusion, require a laser strong enough to deliver ignition spark at the precise point. This desire for both increased beam efficiency and a lower divergence was the driving force to design a target that can produce a proton beam of a higher maximum energy, a lower divergence than current targets and can produce proton beams not limited by the characteristics of the laser.
The research team led by Dr. Nathalie Le Galloudec at the University of Nevada, Reno, has developed and patented a micro-cone target that produces higher energy and lower-divergence particle beams. This unique combination is dimensioned specifically using small conical targets for high intensity laser target interaction that yields substantially more energy and lower angular divergence than flat targets. This is particularly relevant to fast ignition, small compact particle beams, medical applications, focused ion and/or electron beam microscopes, and also exhibits the potential to produce proton beams not limited by the characteristics of the laser. By using the faces leading to the tip, not the laser imprint or focal spot, there is an impact on the particle beam characteristics. This allows for the laser to be mitigated yielding point source emission size and control like never before and applied to precise applications such as cancer treatment.
The benefits of using lasers to produce ion beams in cancer treatment have already been demonstrated by reducing damage to normal tissue during treatment with less invasive techniques and lowered risks of infection. The control and power these targets would yield is unprecedented and potentially life-saving. This technology would allow for more precise and powerful treatments, decreasing the need for follow-up surgery, and satisfying the demand for more precise tools. The benefits of using a laser to produce ion beams in cancer treatment continues to grow from reduced pain, bleeding, swelling, and scarring to shorter recovery time and this technology will propel how we treat cancer to the next level.
Nathalie realized the potential for improvement in the targets while analyzing experimental data during a similar project at Nanolabs, a UNR spin-out company, testing laser target interaction. Using this information she moved forward by rendering countless simulations to progress the design before patenting the concept in 2009.
This target design is available for licensing. UNR is seeking expressions of interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize this technology.