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Superconducting Electron Linacs

At Niowave, Inc., superconducting electron linear accelerators (linacs) are being built to tackle America’s high-tech challenges in fields as diverse as health care and national security. Niowave is aggressively pursuing commercial markets for compact versions of superconducting electron linacs:

  • Medical Radioisotopes (without the need for a nuclear reactor or highly enriched uranium)
  • Free Electron Lasers (high power tunable lasers at wavelengths not available today)
  • X-ray Sources (active interrogation, food irradiation and medical equipment sterilization)
  • Neutron Sources (high-intesity fast and thermal neutron flux without a nuclear reactor)

Over the past 30 years, the Department of Energy has developed superconducting particle accelerators for the largest and most powerful atom smashers ever built. These huge machines accelerate electrons and atoms to nearly the speed of light to understand the makeup of matter and how the universe works. That quest continues on many machines around the world today, with each of these machines costing roughly a billion dollars each. Much like Space-X has adapted NASA technology for commercial space applications, Niowave has adapted this technology for use in compact, cost efficient accelerators for a number of commercial applications.

Superconducting Electrion Linacs

Figure 1. A niobium superconducting accelerating structure being processed in the Niowave cleanroom

Superconducting Electrion Linacs

Figure 2. Conceptual Layout of the Niowave Superconducting Electron Linac used for various applications

In the simplest terms, superconductivity is used to efficiently accelerate electrons to high velocity and energy. The kinetic energy of the electrons is then used as a tool for a number of purposes. Niowave has pioneered the development of complete turn-key superconducting electron linacs that operate at 4 Kelvin for a broad range of commercial applications. In addition to the niobium accelerating structure (see Figure 1), the complete system includes the liquid helium refrigerator, high power microwave source, radiation shielding and licensing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A conceptual layout of the complete system is shown in Figure 2. This integrated system enables a company or university research group to quickly and inexpensively use the electron beam for their research or industrial process. Key applications and the associated parameters for the superconducting linac are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Applications of Superconducting Electron Linacs and associated beam parameters


Beam Energy

Beam Current

Beam Power

Medical Radioisotopes

40 MeV

2.5 mA

100 kW

Commercial FEL & X-ray and Neutron Source

2-40 MeV

2.5 mA

5-100 kW

Energy Recovery Linac for High Power FEL & X-ray and Neutron Sources

2-40 MeV

25 mA

50-1,000 kW

Superconducting Electron Linacs Brochure

NIOWAVE Inc. | 1012 N Walnut St, Lansing, MI 48906 | p 517-999-3475 | f 517-999-3626 |

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