(19)
(11)EP 3 608 921 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
12.02.2020 Bulletin 2020/07

(21)Application number: 18187472.8

(22)Date of filing:  06.08.2018
(51)Int. Cl.: 
G21K 5/08  (2006.01)
H05H 6/00  (2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(71)Applicant: Ion Beam Applications S.A.
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (BE)

(72)Inventors:
  • COMOR, Jozef
    1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (BE)
  • GEETS, Jean-Michel
    1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (BE)
  • NACTERGAL, Benoît
    1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (BE)

(74)Representative: Connor, Marco Tom et al
Pecher & Partners Rue Louis de Geer, 6
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (BE)

  


(54)SYSTEM FOR THE IRRADIATION OF A TARGET MATERIAL


(57) Capsule for the transfer of a target material (2) in a conveying system between a target irradiation station and a collecting station, such as a hot cell, comprising:
- a beamline channel (4) for the passage of an energetic beam irradiating said target material (2),
- a target holder (1) for holding the target material (2) or a substrate backing the target material (2),
- a housing (3) for enclosing said target holder (1), said housing being openable such that the target material (2) can be inserted in or removed from the target holder (1) when the housing (3) is opened,
- a degrader foil (5a, 5b, 5c), said degrader foil being positioned across the beamline channel (4),
- at least one target cooling inlet (14) and one target cooling outlet (15),
- at least one degrader foil cooling inlet (20) and one degrader foil cooling outlet (21).




Description

Field of the invention



[0001] The present invention relates to a system for the transfer of a target material between a target irradiation station wherein the target material is irradiated by an energetic beam, such as for example a particle beam, and a collecting facility wherein the irradiated target material is collected, such as for example a hot cell in a system for the production of radionuclides.

Description of prior art



[0002] Irradiation of target materials by an energetic beam is used in many modern applications. For example, radionuclides have long been produced by cyclotron irradiation of target materials with medium- or low-energy (5-30 MeV) beam for medical applications. Radionuclides have many important industrial and scientific uses, the most important of which is tracers: by reactions with appropriate non-radioactive precursors, radiodrugs are synthesized and, when administered in the human body, permit diagnosis and therapy monitoring by Positron Emission Tomography (PET), especially in the treatment of tumors. Some radiodrugs can have therapeutic effect as well.

[0003] Document EP 1 717 819 discloses a system for automatically producing radionuclides. In the system disclosed, a cylindrical target carrier, or capsule, comprising a partition wall defining two open cylindrical cavities is disclosed. One of the cylindrical cavities is used to house the target material for irradiation. In the system disclosed, the capsule is used as a shuttle between an irradiation unit where the target material carried by the capsule is irradiated, and a hot cell wherein the electrodeposition and the electrodissolution of the target material can take take place thanks to an electrolytic cell. A pneumatic transfer system is arranged to transfer the capsule between the hot cell and the irradiation unit. A purifying system is also present and is used in order to purify the acid solution comprising the radionuclide obtained from the electrodissolution step. In this system, the irradiation takes place in an irradiation unit which receives a particle beam from a cyclotron. In the case different radionuclides need to be produced or when target materials with different thicknesses are used in this system, the energy of the particle beam irradiating the target material needs to be varied. This can be done by using a more complex accelerator which can deliver a beam with a variable energy. When the accelerator can only deliver the particle beam at a fixed energy, the energy of the beam irradiating the target material can still be varied by using a degrader foil positioned across the beamline in the irradiating unit. By switching between different degrader foils, the energy of the beam obtained from a fixed energy cyclotron can consequently be tuned such to irradiate the target material with the appropriate energy level. Switching between different degrader foils is however an awkward procedure which involves a shutting down of the system, with obvious adverse economic implications, and an access to the irradiation station, generating a radiation exposure of the maintenance staff.

Summary of the invention



[0004] It is an object of the present invention to provide a system for automatically producing radionuclides with an increased flexibility for varying the energy of the beam irradiating the target material.

[0005] The present invention is defined in the appended independent claims. Preferred embodiments are defined in the dependent claims.

[0006] In particular, the invention concerns a capsule for the transfer of a target material in a conveying system between a target irradiation station and a collecting station, such as a hot cell, comprising:
  • a beamline channel extending along a beamline channel axis X1 for the passage of an energetic beam irradiating said target material,
  • a target holder for holding the target material or a substrate backing the target material at a glancing angle with respect to said beamline channel axis X1,
  • a housing for enclosing said target holder, said housing being openable such that the target material can be inserted in or removed from the target holder when the housing is opened,
  • a degrader foil, said degrader foil being positioned across the beamline channel, for degrading the energy of said energetic beam upstream of the target material,
  • at least one target cooling inlet and one target cooling outlet for the passage of a cooling fluid in a cooling duct in the vicinity of the target holder such that the target material can be cooled during the irradiation,
  • at least one degrader foil cooling inlet and one degrader foil cooling outlet for the passage of a cooling gas in the vicinity of said degrader foil.


[0007] In an advangeous embodiment, the glancing angle is comprised between 10° and 90°.

[0008] In an advangeous embodiment, the capsule has a shape defined by a geometry of revolution around said beamline channel axis X1, said capsule comprising a front end and a back end, the beamline channel extending inside the capsule from said front end to said target holder.

[0009] In an advangeous embodiment, the target cooling inlet is located in the back end of said capsule, said target cooling inlet being aligned with the beamline channel axis X1.

[0010] In an advangeous embodiment, the target cooling outlet is located in the back end of said capsule, said target cooling outlet being an annular cooling outlet located around the beamline channel axis X1.

[0011] In an advangeous embodiment, the housing comprises a closing lid, wherein
  • said closing lid is coaxially fastenable to said housing with respect to said beamline axis X1 such to form the back end of said capsule,
  • said target holder is rigidly coupled to said closing lid such that said target holder is inserted into said housing when said closing lid is fastened to said housing.


[0012] In an advantageous embodiment, the target cooling duct is configured such that the cooling fluid can contact the target material or the substrate backing the target material held in the target holder.

[0013] The invention also concerns a system for the irradiation of a target material in a target irradiation station and the transfer of the irradiated target material between said target irradiation station and a collecting facility, such as a hot cell, comprising:
  • at least one capsule as discussed supra,
  • a receiving station for being located in said collecting facility,
  • a target irradiation station for receiving an energetic beam from a beamline along a beamline axis,
  • a conveying system comprising a transfer tube for conveying said capsule between said receiving station and said target irradiation station,
wherein
  • said conveying system comprises a first terminal located in said target irradiation station,
  • said target irradiation station comprises an irradiation unit for the irradiation of said target material,
  • said irradiation station comprises a first actuator for the transfer of the capsule between the first terminal and the irradiation unit and a second actuator for the locking of the capsule in an irradiation position,
  • said target irradiation station comprises a collimator for narrowing the energetic beam from the beamline,
  • said at least one capsule can be locked in the irradiation unit by the second actuator in an irradiation position wherein the beamline channel axis X1 of said capsule is aligned and connected with said beamline,
  • said target irradiation station comprises at least one target cooling inlet duct and one target cooling outlet duct being in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet and the target cooling outlet of said capsule when said capsule is locked in its irradiation position,
  • said target irradiation station comprises at least one degrader foil cooling inlet duct and one degrader foil cooling outlet duct being in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet and the degrader foil cooling outlet of said capsule when said capsule is locked in its irradiation position,
  • said receiving station is connected to the transfer tube as a second terminal of said conveying system, said receiving station being openable such that said capsule can be extracted from said receiving station.


[0014] In an advantageous embodiment, the conveying system is a pneumatic system.

[0015] In an advantageous embodiment, the conveying system is a vacuum pneumatic system.

[0016] In an advantageous embodiment, the receiving station is connected to the transfer tube through a gate valve such that the second terminal can be used as an airlock between said conveying system and said collecting facility.

[0017] In an advantageous embodiment, the target cooling inlet duct and the target cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station, as well as the target cooling inlet and the target cooling outlet of said capsule, are configured such that the target cooling inlet duct of said irradiation station is in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet of said capsule and such that the target cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station is in fluid communication with the target cooling outlet of said capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between said capsule and said irradiation unit with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when said capsule is locked in the irradiation position.

[0018] In an advantageous embodiment,
  • the target cooling inlet of said capsule is a circular inlet located in the back end of said capsule, said target cooling inlet being aligned with the beamline channel axis X1,
  • the target cooling outlet of said capsule is located in the back end of said capsule, said target cooling outlet being an annular cooling outlet located around the beamline channel axis X1,
  • the target cooling inlet duct of said irradiation station has an end portion located on the beamline axis with a circular shape having a radius matching the radius of the target cooling inlet of said capsule,
  • the target cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station has an end portion located on the beamline axis with an annular outlet having a radius matching the radius of the target cooling outlet of said capsule.


[0019] In an advantageous embodiment, the degrader foil cooling inlet duct and the degrader foil cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station, as well as the degrader foil cooling inlet and the degrader foil cooling outlet of said capsule, are configured such that the degrader foil cooling inlet duct of said irradiation station is in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet of said capsule and such that the at least one degrader foil cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station is in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling outlet of said capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between said capsule and said irradiation unit with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when said capsule is locked in the irradiation position.

[0020] In an advantageous embodiment,
  • the degrader foil cooling inlet of said capsule is an arc shaped inlet with a radius R1 located in the front end of said capsule,
  • the degrader foil cooling outlet of said capsule is an arc shaped outlet located in the front end of said capsule, said arc shaped outlet having a radius R2 different from the radius R1,
  • the degrader foil cooling inlet duct of said irradiation station has an end portion with an annular shape around the beamline axis having a radius matching the radius R1 of the arc shaped inlet of said capsule,
  • the degrader foil cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station has an end portion with an annular shape around the beamline axis having a radius matching the radius R2 of the arc shaped outlet of said capsule.

Brief description of the drawings



[0021] These and further aspects of the invention will be explained in greater detail by way of example and with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 shows a capsule for a system according to the present invention;

Figure 2 is an enlarged sectional view of the capsule according to Figure 1;

Figure 3 is a schematic view of a system according to the present invention;

Figure 4 shows the irradiation station of a system according to the present invention;

Figure 5 shows a sectional view of the irradiation station according to Figure 4, with a capsule locked in its irradiation position;

Figure 6 is a detailed view of a part of a system according to the invention connected to the beamline of an energetic beam generator;



[0022] The figures are not drawn to scale.

Detailed description of preferred embodiments



[0023] Figures 1 and 2 show an example of a capsule for the transfer of a target material 2 according to the invention, for use in a conveying system between a target irradiation station and a collecting station, such as a hot cell.

[0024] The capsule comprises:
  • a beamline channel 4 extending along a beamline channel axis X1 for the passage of an energetic beam irradiating said target material 2,
  • a target holder 1 for holding the target material 2 or a substrate 2a backing the target material 2 at a glancing angle with respect to said beamline channel axis X1,
  • a housing 3 for enclosing said target holder 1, said housing 3 being openable such that the target material 2 can be inserted in or removed from the target holder 1 when the housing 3 is opened,
  • at least one degrader foil 5a, 5b, 5c being positioned across the beamline channel 4, for degrading the energy of the energetic beam upstream of the target material 2,
  • at least one target cooling inlet 14 and one target cooling outlet 15 for the passage of a cooling fluid in a cooling duct 6 in the vicinity of the target holder 1 such that the target material 2 can be cooled during the irradiation,
  • at least one degrader foil cooling inlet 20 and one degrader foil cooling outlet 21 for the passage of a cooling gas in the vicinity of the at least one degrader foil 5a, 5b, 5c.


[0025] The energetic beam to be received in the capsule for irradiating the target material 2 is typically a particle beam, like a proton beam, but can also be an electromagnetic radiation, like Gamma ray. Such kinds of energetic beams are indeed commonly used in applications for the production of radionuclides by (photo)nuclear reactions wherein the use of the capsule according to the invention is highly advantageous.

[0026] In Figures 1 and 2, the target material 2 is backed by a substrate 2a. Such target material 2 backed by a substrate 2a can be obtained by a chemical process wherein the target material 2 is electrodeposited on the substrate 2a. In another embodiment the target material can be melted or pressed into an appropriate cavity in the substrate. Alternatively, when it is not backed by a substrate, the target material 2 can be directly held by the target holder 1. Typical examples of common targets are enriched or natural nickel electrodeposited on silver or gold or gold plated copper substrates, enriched or natural thallium on copper substrate, enriched or natural zinc on copper or gold plated copper substrate, alloys of enriched or natural gallium and nickel on copper or gold plated copper, enriched or natural antimony on copper or gold plated copper substrate, enriched or natural tellurium oxide melted into a cavity in platinum or iridium substrate, enriched or natural strontium oxide pressed into a cavity in platinum or iridium substrate, natural yttrium foil fixed by a fixing ring into a cavity in platinum or iridium substrate, sheets or foils of metals without substrate, etc

[0027] The target holder 1 is configured to receive the target material 2 and to stabilize it at a glancing angle with respect to the beamline channel axis X1. The glancing angle is advantageously comprised in a range between 10° and 90° wherein a glancing angle of 90° corresponds to a target material 2 perpendicular to the beamline axis X1. A glancing angle lower than 90° increases the effective thickness of the target material exposed to the irradiation, which ultimately allows increasing the yield of the radionuclides production while keeping constant the actual thickness of the target material. A glancing angle lower than 90° also increases the effective surface area of the target exposed to the beam reducing the average beam current density and thereby increasing the beam current acceptance of the target and consequently the yield.

[0028] In Figures 1 and 2, the capsule has a tubular lateral wall defined by a geometry of revolution around the beam line channel axis X1 and is closed by a front end 12 and a back end 13. The housing 3 is a sheath enclosing the different components of the capsule. The housing 3 has a protective function for the target material 2 and can be made up of any suitable material, e.g. aluminium or aluminium alloys, titanium or titanium alloys, niobium or niobium alloys, etc.

[0029] The housing 3 needs to be openable such that the target material 2 can be inserted or removed from the target holder 1 by a human or robotic operator, typically in a shielded nuclear radiation containment chamber (the so-called "hot cell"). In this regard, the housing 3 can comprise a main body 31 and a closing lid 7. The closing lid 7 is coaxially fastenable to said main body 31 with respect to said beamline axis X1 such to form the back end 13 of said capsule. The target holder 1 is advantageously rigidly coupled to the closing lid 7 such that when the closing lid 7 is fastened to the main body 31, the target holder 1 is inserted into said main body 1 at the required glancing angle. Alternatively, when the housing does not comprise a main body 31 and a closing lid 7, the housing 3 can comprise a slide system or door such that the housing is openable and the target material 2 can be accessed.

[0030] The at least one degrader foil 5a, 5b, 5c positioned across the beamline channel 4 of the capsule allows degrading the energy of the energetic beam received in the capsule such that the required energy level is reached when the beam hits the target material 2. When the beam delivered to the capsule has a fixed energy, it is indeed necessary to tune the energy of the beam downstream of the beam generator. The number, thickness and material of the degrader foils that are included in the capsule depend on the beam energy level delivered by the beam generator and on the required beam energy level to be delivered on the target material 2. In Figures 1 and 2, the capsule comprises three degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c. In other embodiments, the capsule can comprise only one or two degrader foils, or alternatively more than three degrader foils. In the embodiment of Figures 1 and 2, the degrader foils are made of aluminium and have a width of 0.25mm. Any material of any width with a suitable energy degradation power can however be used.

[0031] The presence of degrader foils in the capsule according to the invention allows for the reduction of the ionising radiation dose received by the operators during the maintenance of the target station. It is well known that the energy degrader foils are getting heavily activated during the operation of the target station, hence they are the strongest source of ionizing radiation induced in the target station other than the target and the substrate. Since the energy degrader foils are part of the capsule, they are removed from the target station together with the irradiated target after every irradiation, hence the only activated parts remaining in the vicinity of the target station are the collimators and beam stops along the beamline.

[0032] The degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c can be removably mounted on the capsule such to be replaced when necessary. This will allow the degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c to be replaced, for example after a predetermined number of irradiations, or alternatively when a new target material 2 requiring a different energy degradation power needs to be irradiated. The degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c can also be mounted on a support 3a being detachable from the rest of the housing 3. In such configuration, the degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c can be changed by removing the support 3a and by mounting a new support 3a on the capsule.

[0033] The at least one cooling inlet 14 and at least one target cooling outlet 15 for the passage of a cooling fluid in a cooling duct 6 in the vicinity of the target holder 1 can be located in the back end 13 of said capsule. In Figures 1 and 2, the target cooling inlet 14 is a circular outlet aligned with the beamline channel axis X1, while the target cooling outlet 15 is an annular outlet located around the beamline channel axis X1. The cooling duct 6 is a passage in the capsule connecting the target cooling inlet 14 to the target cooling outlet 15. The function of the cooling duct 6 is to evacuate the heat generated during the irradiation from the target material 2. The cooling duct 6 needs consequently to circulate a cooling fluid, such as cooling water, or any other suitable fluid with high boiling point, high heat capacity and high heat conductivity near the target material 2. In Figures 1 and 2, the cooling duct 6 is configured to bring the cooling fluid in contact with the substrate 2a backing the target material 2. In other embodiments, the cooling duct 6 can be configured such that the cooling fluid is brought near the substrate 2a without contacting it. In these embodiments, the cooling duct 6 advantageously comprises a portion separated from the substrate 2a by a thin layer of thermally conductive material.

[0034] The energetic beam received by the capsule will also generate a heating of the degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c. In order to limit the thermal increase in the degrader foils, a cooling fluid can be brought in the vicinity of the at least one degrader foil 5a, 5b, 5c. As represented in Figures 1 and 2, a degrader foil cooling inlet 20 and a degrader foil cooling outlet 21 can be configured to allow the passage of a cooling fluid tangentially to the degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c. As it will spread in the beamline channel 4 during the irradiation, the cooling fluid is advantageously an inert substance, such as a noble gas. In Figures 1 and 2, the degrader foil cooling inlet 20 is an arc shaped inlet with a radius R1 located in the front end 12 of the capsule. The degrader foil cooling outlet 21 is an arc shaped outlet also located in the front end 12 of said capsule, but with a radius R2 different from R1.

[0035] In the capsule represented in Figures 1 and 2, the degrader foil 5c and target holder 1 define a closed cavity in said beamline channel 4. In this configuration, the contamination of the irradiation station and of the beamline by the cooling fluid circulated in the beamline channel 4 is prevented because the cooling fluid does not leak outside of the closed cavity in the capsule. In addition, the circulation of the cooling fluid in the beamline channel 4 can be forced tangentially to the front face of the target material, which will enhance the heat removal from the target, which is particularly important for target materials with low heat conductivity.

[0036] The presence of the degrader foils 5a, 5b, 5c embedded in the capsule according to the invention allows tuning the energetic beam upstream of the target material 2 without having to switch between degrader foils located in the irradiation unit 10. The use of the capsule according to the invention in a system for producing radionuclides is consequently highly advantageous. Indeed, with the capsule according to the invention, different target materials 2 requiring different beam energy levels can be irradiated successively without using a beam generator with a variable energy level and without accessing the irradiation station 10.

[0037] As represented in Figure 3, the present invention also relates to a system for the irradiation of a target material in a target irradiation station 10 and the transfer of the irradiated target material between said target irradiation station 10 and a collecting facility, such as a hot cell 9, comprising:
  • at least one capsule as described supra,
  • a receiving station 8 for being located in the collecting facility 9,
  • a target irradiation station 10, as represented in Figure 4, for receiving an energetic beam from a beamline along a beamline axis,
  • a conveying system 11 comprising a transfer tube 12 for conveying said capsule between said receiving station 8 and said target irradiation station 10,
wherein
  • the conveying system 11 comprises a first terminal 16 located in the target irradiation station 10,
  • the target irradiation station 10 comprises an irradiation unit 17 for the irradiation of the target material 2,
  • the irradiation station 10 comprises a first actuator 34 for the transfer of the capsule between the first terminal 16 and the irradiation unit 17 and a second actuator 18 for the locking of the capsule in an irradiation position,
  • the target irradiation station 10 comprises a collimator 19 for narrowing the energetic beam from the beamline,
  • the at least one capsule can be locked in the irradiation unit 17 by the second actuator 18 in an irradiation position wherein the beamline channel axis X1 of said capsule is aligned and connected with the beamline,
  • the target irradiation station 10 comprises a target cooling inlet duct 22 and a target cooling outlet duct 23 being in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet 14 and the target cooling outlet 15 of the capsule when the capsule is locked in its irradiation position,
  • the target irradiation station 10 comprises a degrader foil cooling inlet duct 24 and a degrader foil cooling outlet duct 25 being in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet 20 and the degrader foil cooling outlet 21 of the capsule when the capsule is locked in its irradiation position,
  • the receiving station 8 is connected to the transfer tube 12 as a second terminal of the conveying system 11, the receiving station 8 being openable such that the capsule can be extracted from the receiving station 8.


[0038] In the system represented in Figures 3, the conveying system 11 is a vacuum pneumatic conveying system. Such system comprises a first suction tube 26 in fluid communication with the transfer tube through the first terminal 16 in the irradiation station 10. It also comprises a second suction tube 27 in fluid communication with the transfer tube 12 through the receiving station 8 ("second terminal"). The suction tubes 26, 27 are connected to an air blower 28 and to the atmosphere through three-way valves 29 and 30. A HEPA filter 31 can also be included between the air blower 28 and the three-way valves 29 and 30.

[0039] The principle of operation of the conveying system is the following:
  • when the capsule needs to be transferred from the collecting facility 9 to the irradiation station 10, the atmosphere port of the first three-way valve 29 is closed while the first suction tube 26 is set in fluid communication with the blower 28. On the other hand, the air blower port of the second three-way valve 30 is closed while the second suction tube 27 is set in fluid communication with the atmosphere. The air is consequently sucked out of the first suction tube 26 through the air blower 28. This depression in the suction tube 26 generates a motion of the capsule in the transfer tube 12 from the collecting facility 9 to the irradiation station 10 and at the same time an air suction from the atmosphere into the second suction tube 27.
  • when the capsule needs to be transferred from the irradiation station 10 to the collecting facility 9, the atmosphere port of the second three-way valve 30 is closed while the second suction tube 27 is set in fluid communication with the blower 28. On the other hand, the air blower port of the first three-way valve 29 is closed while the suction tube 26 is set in fluid communication with the atmosphere. The air is consequently sucked out of the second suction tube 27 through the air blower 28. This depression in the suction tube 27 generates a motion of the capsule in the transfer tube 12 from the irradiation station 10 to the collecting facility and at the same time an air suction from the atmosphere into the first suction tube 26.


[0040] As represented in Figure 3, the system can comprise two additional valves 32, 33, such as ball valves, in the collecting facility 9. The first valve 32 is positioned across the transfer tube 12 and the second valve 33 is positioned across the second suction tube 27. In this arrangement, the receiving station 8 becomes consequently an airlock in the hot cell 9. These valves 32, 33 are advantageously kept closed when a capsule is extracted or placed in the receiving station 8. This operation will ensure that the atmosphere of the hot cell 9 is not disturbed by the air used for the transfer of the capsules and that the potentially contaminated atmosphere of the hot cell 9 will not enter the air stream of the conveying system 11. When a capsule needs to be transferred between the hot cell 9 and the irradiation station 10, the valves 32, 33 are opened such that the conveying system 11 can be operated as described supra.

[0041] An example of an irradiation station 10 of a system according to invention is disclosed in more details in Figures 4 and 5. The irradiation station 10 is mounted on a mounting stand 35 through a positioning mechanism, which allows for a precise alignment of the irradiation unit relative to the beam. Besides the elements already described supra, the irradiation station 10 can also comprise a cooling system for the collimator 19. Such cooling system comprises a collimator cooling inlet duct 36 and a collimator cooling outlet duct 37.

[0042] As represented in Figures 4 and 5, the irradiation station 10 comprises two actuators: 34 and 18 for positioning and locking the capsules. When the capsule is received in the first terminal 16 of the irradiation station 10, the first actuator 34 transfers the capsule to the irradiation unit 17. By the action of the second actuator 18 the capsule is locked in its irradiation position. The irradiation position of the capsule in the irradiation unit 17 is a position of the capsule wherein
  • the beamline channel axis X1 is aligned and connected with the beamline,
  • the target cooling inlet duct 22 and the target cooling outlet duct 23 are in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet 14 and the target cooling outlet 15 of the capsule,
  • the degrader foil cooling inlet duct 24 and the degrader foil cooling outlet duct 25 are in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet 20 and the degrader foil cooling outlet 21 of said capsule.


[0043] In an advantageous embodiment of the system, the target cooling inlet duct 22 of the irradiation station 10 is configured such that it is in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet 14 of the capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between the capsule and the irradiation unit 17 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when the capsule is locked in the irradiation position. Similarly, the target cooling outlet duct 23 of the irradiation station 10 is advantageously configured such that it is in fluid communication with the target cooling outlet of the capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between the capsule and the irradiation unit 17 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when the capsule is locked in the irradiation position. In this configuration, the target cooling system is operational at any angular orientation of the capsule in the irradiation unit 10 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1. This reduces the task complexity of the actuators 18 and 34, which does not need to measure the angular orientation of the capsule in the first terminal 16 and does not need to rotate the capsule at a particular angle with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when locking the capsule in its irradiation position.

[0044] In the capsule represented in Figures 1 and 2, wherein the target cooling inlet 14 is a circular inlet located in the back end 13 of the capsule and is aligned with the beamline channel axis X1, the target cooling inlet duct 22 of the irradiation station 10 has an end portion located on the beamline axis and with a circular shape having a radius matching the radius of the circular target cooling inlet 14 of the capsule. Similarly, as represented in Figures 1 and 2, when the target cooling outlet 15 of the capsule is an annular outlet in the back end 13 of the capsule and is located around the beamline channel axis X1, the target cooling outlet duct 23 of the irradiation station 10 has an end portion with an annular outlet around the beamline axis and having a radius matching the radius of the target cooling outlet 15. In this example of configuration, the target cooling system is operational irrespective of the relative angular orientation between the capsule and the irradiation unit 17 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when the capsule is locked in the irradiation position.

[0045] In an advantageous embodiment of the system, the degrader foil cooling inlet duct 24 of the irradiation station 10 is configured such that it is in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet 20 of the capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between the capsule and the irradiation unit 17 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when the capsule is locked in the irradiation position. Similarly, the degrader foil cooling inlet duct 25 of the irradiation station 10 is advantageously configured such that it is in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet 21 of the capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between the capsule and the irradiation unit 17 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when the capsule is locked in the irradiation position. In this configuration, the degrader cooling system is operational at any angular orientation of the capsule in the irradiation unit 10 with respect to the beamline channel axis X1. This reduces the task complexity of the actuators 18 and 34, which does not need to measure the angular orientation of the capsule in the first terminal 16 and does not need to rotate the capsule at a particular angle with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when locking the capsule in its irradiation position.

[0046] In the capsule represented in Figures 1 and 2, wherein the degrader foil cooling inlet 20 is located in the front end 12 of the capsule and is an arc shaped inlet with a radius R1 around the beamline channel axis X1, the degrader foil cooling inlet duct 24 of the irradiation station 10 has an end portion with an annular shape around the beamline axis and having a radius matching the radius R1 of the arc shaped inlet 20 of the capsule. Similarly, as represented in Figures 1 and 2, when the degrader foil cooling outlet 21 is located in the front end 12 of the capsule and is an arc shaped outlet 21 having a radius R2 around the beamline channel axis X1 different from the radius R1, the degrader foil cooling outlet duct 25 of the irradiation station 10 has an end portion with an annular shape around the beamline axis and having a radius matching the radius R2 of the degrader foil cooling outlet 21.

[0047] Figure 6 represents a detailed view of a part of a system according to the invention connected to the beamline 38 of an energetic beam generator 39. The energetic beam generator 39 can be a particle accelerator such as a cyclotron. Alternatively, the energetic beam generator can generate electromagnetic radiation, like Gamma ray.


Claims

1. Capsule for the transfer of a target material (2) in a conveying system between a target irradiation station and a collecting station, such as a hot cell, comprising:

- a beamline channel (4) extending along a beamline channel axis X1 for the passage of an energetic beam irradiating said target material (2),

- a target holder (1) for holding the target material (2) or a substrate backing the target material (2) at a glancing angle with respect to said beamline channel axis X1,

- a housing (3) for enclosing said target holder (1), said housing being openable such that the target material (2) can be inserted in or removed from the target holder (1) when the housing (3) is opened,

- a degrader foil (5a, 5b, 5c), said degrader foil being positioned across the beamline channel (4), for degrading the energy of said energetic beam upstream of the target material (2),

- at least one target cooling inlet (14) and one target cooling outlet (15) for the passage of a cooling fluid in a target cooling duct (6) in the vicinity of the target holder such that the target material (2) can be cooled during the irradiation,

- at least one degrader foil cooling inlet (20) and one degrader foil cooling outlet (21) for the passage of a cooling gas in the vicinity of said degrader foil (5a, 5b, 5c).


 
2. Capsule according to claim 1, wherein said glancing angle is comprised between 10° and 90°.
 
3. Capsule according to claim 1 or 2, wherein said capsule has a shape defined by a geometry of revolution around said beamline channel axis X1, said capsule comprising a front end (12) and a back end (13), the beamline channel (4) extending inside the capsule from said front end (12) to said target holder (1).
 
4. Capsule according to claim 3, wherein said target cooling inlet (14) is located in the back end (13) of said capsule, said target cooling inlet being aligned with the beamline channel axis X1.
 
5. Capsule according to claim 3 or 4, wherein said target cooling outlet (15) is located in the back end (13) of said capsule, said target cooling outlet (15) being an annular cooling outlet located around the beamline channel axis X1.
 
6. Capsule according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said housing comprises a closing lid (7), wherein

- said closing lid (7) is coaxially fastenable to said housing (3) with respect to said beamline axis X1 such to form the back end (13) of said capsule,

- said target holder (1) is rigidly coupled to said closing lid (7) such that said target holder (1) is inserted into said housing (3) when said closing lid (7) is fastened to said housing (3).


 
7. Capsule according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the target cooling duct (6) is configured such that the cooling fluid can be in thermal contact with the target material (2) or the substrate backing the target material held in the target holder (2).
 
8. System for the irradiation of a target material in a target irradiation station (10) and the transfer of the irradiated target material between said target irradiation station (10) and a collecting facility, such as a hot cell (9), comprising:

- at least one capsule according to anyone of claims 1 to 7,

- a receiving station (8) for being located in said collecting facility (9),

- a target irradiation station (10) for receiving an energetic beam from a beamline along a beamline axis,

- a conveying system (11) comprising a transfer tube (12) for conveying said capsule between said receiving station (8) and said target irradiation station (10),

wherein

- said conveying system (11) comprises a first terminal (16) located in said target irradiation station (10),

- said target irradiation station (10) comprises an irradiation unit (17) for the irradiation of said target material (2),

- said irradiation station comprises a first actuator (34) for the transfer of the capsule between the first terminal (16) and the irradiation unit (17) and a second actuator (18) for the locking of the capsule in an irradiation position,

- said target irradiation station (10) comprises a collimator (19) for narrowing the energetic beam from the beamline,

- said at least one capsule can be locked in the irradiation unit (17) by the second actuator (18) in an irradiation position wherein the beamline channel axis X1 of said capsule is aligned and connected with said beamline,

- said target irradiation station (10) comprises at least one target cooling inlet duct and one target cooling outlet duct being in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet (14) and the target cooling outlet (15) of said capsule when said capsule is locked in its irradiation position,

- said target irradiation station (10) comprises at least one degrader foil cooling inlet duct and one degrader foil cooling outlet duct being in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet (20) and the degrader foil cooling outlet (21) of said capsule when said capsule is locked in its irradiation position,

- said receiving station (8) is connected to the transfer tube (12) as a second terminal of said conveying system (11), said receiving station (8) being openable such that said capsule can be extracted from said receiving station (8).


 
9. System according to claim 8 wherein said conveying system (11) is a pneumatic system.
 
10. System according to claim 9 wherein said conveying system (11) is a vacuum pneumatic system.
 
11. System according to any one of claims 8 to 10, wherein the receiving station (8) is connected to the transfer tube (12) through a gate valve such that the second terminal can be used as an airlock between said conveying system (11) and said collecting facility (9).
 
12. System according to any one of claims 8 to 11, wherein the target cooling inlet duct (22) and the target cooling outlet duct (23) of said irradiation station (10), as well as the target cooling inlet (14) and the target cooling outlet (15) of said capsule, are configured such that the target cooling inlet duct (22) of said irradiation station (10) is in fluid communication with the target cooling inlet (14) of said capsule and such that the target cooling outlet duct (23) of said irradiation station (10) is in fluid communication with the target cooling outlet (15) of said capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between said capsule and said irradiation unit (17) with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when said capsule is locked in the irradiation position.
 
13. System according to claim 12 wherein

- the target cooling inlet (14) of said capsule is a circular inlet located in the back end (13) of said capsule, said target cooling inlet (14) being aligned with the beamline channel axis X1,

- the target cooling outlet (15) of said capsule is located in the back end (13) of said capsule, said target cooling outlet (15) being an annular cooling outlet located around the beamline channel axis X1,

- the target cooling inlet duct (22) of said irradiation station (10) has an end portion located on the beamline axis with a circular shape having a radius matching the radius of the target cooling inlet (14) of said capsule,

- the target cooling outlet duct of said irradiation station (10) has an end portion located on the beamline axis with an annular outlet having a radius matching the radius of the target cooling outlet (15) of said capsule.


 
14. System according to anyone of claims 8 to 13 wherein the degrader foil cooling inlet duct (24) and the degrader foil cooling outlet duct (25) of said irradiation station (10), as well as the degrader foil cooling inlet (20) and the degrader foil cooling outlet (21) of said capsule, are configured such that the degrader foil cooling inlet duct (24) of said irradiation station (10) is in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling inlet (20) of said capsule and such that the at least one degrader foil cooling outlet duct (25) of said irradiation station (10) is in fluid communication with the degrader foil cooling outlet (21) of said capsule irrespective of the relative angular orientation between said capsule and said irradiation unit (17) with respect to the beamline channel axis X1 when said capsule is locked in the irradiation position.
 
15. System according to anyone of claims 8 to 14 wherein

- the degrader foil cooling inlet (20) of said capsule is an arc shaped inlet with a radius R1 located in the front end (12) of said capsule,

- the degrader foil cooling outlet (21) of said capsule is an arc shaped outlet located in the front end (12) of said capsule, said arc shaped outlet having a radius R2 different from the radius R1,

- the degrader foil cooling inlet duct (24) of said irradiation station (10) has an end portion with an annular shape around the beamline axis having a radius matching the radius R1 of the arc shaped inlet (20) of said capsule,

- the degrader foil cooling outlet duct (25) of said irradiation station (10) has an end portion with an annular shape around the beamline axis having a radius matching the radius R2 of the arc shaped outlet (21) of said capsule.


 




Drawing
































REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description