The most popular uses of refractory metals in the medical market is in X-ray generation or radiation shielding applications. Over the last decade, there has been a move towards improved diagnosis and treatment therapies, which has led to more sophisticated equipment that require more complex refractory metal components. The majority of the uses of refractory metals in this market require precision machining, assembly, forming and forging.
In nuclear medicine radioactive isotopes are used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In this procedure, radioactive isotopes are administered to the patient and then imaged using radiation detectors. These images can be specifically localized to various organs or cellular receptors and can show the extent of a disease in the body based on the cellular function and physiology.
Nuclear medicine imaging studies is generally more organ and tissue specific (e.g.: lungs scan, heart scan, bone scan, brain scan, etc.) than those in conventional radiology imaging, which focuses on a particular section of the body (e.g.: chest X-ray, abdomen/pelvis CT scan, head CT scan, etc.).
Radioactive isotopes are delivered to the patient through Tungsten containers and shielded syringes in order to not expose the clinician. When a radioactive isotope is used as a source of radiation, isotope shielding containers are used in Radiotherapy equipment. Large 400 x 400 x 400 mm WHA containers are used to shield the rest of the equipment from the radiation and is the source for transportation and exchange.
Refractory metals have been used to generate x-rays for many years using Molybdenum and Tungsten anodes. As the images become more sophisticated with 3D imaging via Computer Tomography (CT), there is a push for more complex materials and components, many of which require high power rotating anodes and sophisticated collimation units. Medical equipment such as CT Scanners use rotating x-ray anodes. Th9s is a complex part containing the rotating anode, shaft, bearings, and susceptor cup. It is then enclosed in a glass vacuum sealed case.
Radiation Therapy Equipment
These medical devices deliver a controlled dose of radiation generated by a linear accelerator or LINAC. Tungsten heavy alloy is used extensively to both shield the operator and patient from radiation, and to deliver the exact dose to the cancerous cells. The delivery is controlled using a multi-leaf collimator of MLC. This is manufactured using tungsten heavy alloy.