Israeli researchers develop inexpensive method to produce nuclear medicine isotopes

JERUSALEM, June 5, 2019 — Israeli researchers have developed a new efficient and inexpensive method of producing radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine and imaging technologies such as CT and PET CT scans.

The development was reported by the southern Ben-Gurion University on Wednesday.

Isotopes are types of the same chemical element, which differ in their mass, due to a different number of neutrons. Isotopes are similar in their chemical properties but differ in their physical behavior.

The new method eliminates the need for enriched uranium of a quality suitable for nuclear weapons, and a nuclear reactor.

In nuclear medicine, the isotope technetium-99m is often used for imaging. This is an unstable isotope with a half-life of only six hours.

Another disadvantage of the technetium-99m isotope is that it must be produced at the imaging clinic.

Usually, enriched uranium of a quality suitable for nuclear weapons, and a nuclear reactor are required to produce molybdenum-99, which breaks down into technetium-99m.

The Israeli invention uses molybdenum-100, a stable isotope found in nature, and a linear electron accelerator to produce molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m.

This process can also produce other radioactive isotopes with a short half-life, as a byproduct for use in PET CT scans.

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