DOE Isotope Program Highlights

News highlights from all participating national laboratories, university facilities, and other research institutions which feature work from the U.S. Department of Energy Isotope Program can be found here.

Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory Depiction of a titanium-44/scandium-44 generator. The generator consists of a hydroxamate-based resin undergoing scandium-44 elution with hydrochloric acid.

Scientists Identify an Alternative System for Producing the Medical Isotope Scandium-44

An easy-to-use system can increase the availability of PET imaging agents to more patients.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Engle, University of Wisconsin. Summary of the production process for radioisotopes of scandium using recyclable, enriched calcium.

Researchers Improve Production for Short-Lived Scandium Radioisotopes

Hard to produce in quantities and purities appropriate for human use, scandium radioisotopes have potential for imaging cancer.
The binding of At-211 with mono- and diketones with different bond strengths. Image courtesy of Jon Burns, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tunable Bonds: A Step Towards Targeted At-211 Cancer Therapy

Scientists can tune the strength of astatine-211 bonds with chemicals called ketones, laying the groundwork for a new class of radiopharmaceuticals.
Image courtesy of Brown, M.A., Metal Oxide Sorbents for the Separation of Radium and Actinium, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 59, 20472-20477 (2020). [DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.0c04084] The separation of radium and actinium is a major component in the production, distribution, and purity of targeted alpha therapy isotopes. This image shows the separation profiles of radium (purple) and actinium (green) across a zirconia resin.

Scientists Develop Inorganic Resins for Generating and Purifying Radium and Actinium

Research advances the chemistry and improves the purity of isotopes for targeted alpha therapy used in the treatment of cancers.
Image courtesy of Gauthier Deblonde, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory This photograph is a rare example of a curium compound (isotopes Cm-248/246). This is a Cm(III)-polyoxometalate complex isolated and characterized using the newly proposed technique that required only 1-10 micrograms of the precious radioisotope.

New Strategy Can Harvest Chemical Information on Rare Isotopes with a Fraction of the Material

A newly proposed approach aids chemical studies of rare, toxic, radioactive, and precious isotopes by requiring 1,000 times less material.
Image courtesy of Jaimee Janiga, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Getting Purer Berkelium, Faster than Ever

This new method individually separates heavy metals — an actinide chemist’s dream.
Left: production rate as a function of proton energy of parent radioisotopes selenium-72 (Se-72) (1) & germanium-68 (Ge-68) (2). Right, a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) image of a patient with metastatic colon cancer, obtained using gallium-68 (Ga-68)

Fighting Cancer on Earth and in Space Using High-Energy Protons

Scientists on Earth use high-energy protons to create isotopes to detect and treat cancer. In space, however, these same high-energy protons can pose a risk to spacecraft and the health of the astronauts traveling in them.
Image courtesy of Texas A&M University The medical radioisotope astatine is separated from bismuth then loaded into a resin column. Once dry, the column is packed for shipping so the astatine can be sent for use at a cancer treatment center.

Cancer Countermeasures on a Column

University researchers produce a novel method of shipping the promising medical isotope astatine-211
Image courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Army Research Laboratory. Direct deposition of a radioisotope source onto a converter. This can improve conversion of the radioisotope source’s beta decay emissions to electricity by using two converters instead of one. The result is greater power density for the power source.

New Approach to Radioisotope Power Sources for Improved Efficiency, Long Life

NextGen power sources may satisfy the need for long-term, compact power for use in remote or extreme environments.
Image courtesy of Carlos Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Researcher Sandra Davern looks at non-radioactive metal ions enclosed in biodegradable polymers in her lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Her work is paving the way for enclosing isotopes in the same polymers for targeted treatment of cancer cells.

Enclosing Radiation-Loaded Particles to Better Seek and Destroy Cancer

Promising study details how radioactive agents could be sent directly to cancer cells.