HIMA supplies central control system for laser research center

At the Centre for Advanced Laser Application (CALA) on the Munich Research Campus of Ludwig Maximillian University (LMU), researchers will develop laser-based technologies to help improve the cure rate of cancer patients. CALA will rely on a central control solution from HIMA.

HIMA delivers ‘brain’ for CALA

The CALA scientific building and large equipment infrastructure - an investment of nearly €70 million - will extend in core areas the research possibilities of the Munich Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP) cluster of excellence. HIMA will supply the central control system for the CALA laser laboratory in which physicists, medical scientists and biologists will work to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and cancer therapy with high-brilliance X-rays. High-brilliance X-rays enable precise imaging results currently unattainable with conventional technologies. With this breakthrough technology, CALA scientists will be able to detect the tiniest tumors. The objectives of the research, in addition to risk-free screening, are advanced imaging for diagnostics as well as tumor therapy. With precise ion radiation, which can be delivered by CALA lasers, precancerous cells can be destroyed simply.

From concept to commissioning

Concept design, programming, installation and commissioning of the laser lab's central control system will be implemented by HIMA. The system will link all subordinate systems and, in the future, will control operational procedures, monitor equipment and initiate countermeasures if hazardous situations occur. Accordingly, the central control system interfaces with subsystems throughout the facility. The control system organizes the daily routine, including the release and blocking of the laser interlocks, the access authorizations at doors and the protective blinds on the windows. Simultaneously, it monitors the status of the systems, the warning lights and safety displays, and in special situations it triggers alarms.

Complete solution with maximum stability

To users, the status display and the graphic user interface provide initial information about all tasks regulated by the system. This includes eliminating operator errors that could lead to equipment damage or personal injury. With its simple, compact structure, the HIMA solution ensures both maximum system stability and economical operation. The modular structure of the system is highly flexible and can be adapted at any time to new conditions associated with forthcoming CALA extensions.

Three pillars in the fight against cancer

CALA operators are pursuing an innovative strategy for combating cancer. Broadband infrared radiation will be used to examine blood and exhaled air for the presence of cancer cells or for metabolism products that are characteristic of cancer cells, in order to detect a disease early on, cost-effectively and with no risk for patients. In the case of a positive screening, brilliant X-ray radiation with the aid of detailed imaging technology enables precise localization of the tumor. This method makes it possible to discover a primary tumor in an extremely early stage, when the formation of metastases is highly unlikely.

Moreover, the laser-driven or accelerator-driven X-ray radiation enables such a precise image of the anatomy of the tumor that therapy with local, laser-generated proton-ion beams and carbon-ion beams is possible. This significantly improves chances for recovery, even for tumor shapes that were previously resistant to radiation. The precise irradiation of tumor cells results in a minimal stress of the overlying or adjacent layers of healthy tissue.

Another advantage of ion radiation over classic radiation therapies, such as conventional X-ray radiation, is the precise progression of beam intensity coupled with an increasing depth dose. With an investment of approximately €70 million, CALA will further extend the leading position of the Munich universities in cancer research, and will constitute a state-of-the-art enhancement of the former Munich Centre for Advanced Photonics, to further strengthen the Munich site in its pioneering cancer research. Construction, which began in 2014, is scheduled to be completed in August 2016, with setup of large-scale scientific apparatus by the end of 2017. In addition to supplying the hardware components and developing the complete software architecture, HIMA will also maintain service for the modern laser lab.

HIMA capabilities

HIMA is supplying a HIMatrix F 35 and 23 RIOs for the central control system (CCS). The CCS is the higher-level control system of the CALA research facility and connects subordinate systems. The CCS controls many of the operational procedures, and it can monitor and initiate the required measures in the event of a fire alarm, power outage or other potential emergencies.

  • Communication with the controller of the Laser Beam Delivery (LBD) for setting the course of the beam and for beam adjustment.
  • Control of the operating states in the individual experimental areas, through:
    • Release / blocking of the laser interlocks
    • Switching of the laser shutters and blocking shutters in the experimental chambers
    • Activation of warning lights and safety displays on doors
    • Activation of the protective blinds on the windows of the laser rooms
    • Adaptation of the access authorization on doors in accordance with the desired status
  • A graphical user interface (GUI) for users to control experiment operation, and for the administrator and system technician.

The Centre for Advanced Laser Applications (CALA) in Garching near Munich (here still under construction) has been opened in August 2016. Photo: © Thorsten Naeser

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