Scientists showcase new medical instrument at Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Paul Duhaney

royal society exhibition

A research team from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Physics will exhibit at the prestigious Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (SSE) 2014.

The team behind the Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications (PRaVDA) project, an instrument to create the world’s first fully silicon-based proton CT scanner, has been selected as one of 22 exhibitors at the Royal Society’s annual display of the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology in the UK.

Held in London from Tuesday, 1 July to Sunday, 6 July, the SSE is an annual display of the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology in the UK.

Charged particles

PRaVDA is a tool that could improve particle therapy, a type of cancer treatment carried out using charged particles such as protons or carbon ions.

The instrument operates in a similar way to hospital CT scanners, but by using protons instead of X-Rays, the uncertainty in treatment planning for particle therapy is reduced. This means the healthy tissue and other critical structures around a tumour receive a lower dose, while the tumour itself is more effectively targeted.

PRaVDA assists in setting treatment, monitors patients’ doses and produces a 3D image of cancer – an image created using the same protons that are used to treat the disease.

Directional laser

Those attending the free event will have the opportunity to observe the instrument up close. Visitors will be able target a tumour using directional lasers, to simulate the way in which ionising radiation is used to treat cancers, as well as operate a model system and see real time imaging.

Professor Phil Allport, Upgrade Coordinator of the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the University, said: “We are pleased that the Liverpool Particle Physics Group has been recognised by the Royal Society for transferring cutting edge technology in the development of new detectors for the LHC into these sorts of medical applications.”

Jon Taylor is leading simulation and testing of the proton tracking system. Jon said: “We hope people will be excited by the advantages and potential of proton therapy and proton imaging and be interested to see how technology from particle physics can be applied to improve this area of cancer therapy. We are currently at the stage of mathematical modelling and testing of detectors and electronics before we start to build the full system later this year.”

The PRaVDA consortium consists of physicists from the University of Liverpool along with engineers, medical physicists and oncologists from the Universities of Birmingham, Lincoln and Surrey as well as University Hospitals in Birmingham and Coventry, and the iThemba Laboratories in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition takes place at the Royal Society, London, from Tuesday, 1 July to Sunday, 6 July 2014. For more information, please visit:

royal society exhibition

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