Life and Work of Rolf Wideröe by © Pedro Waloschek,     => Contents

Box 12:  Betatrons and Industry

Following Kerst and Serber's first publications in 1941, industry had a good sense of the potential demand for betatrons, both for medical purposes and for non-destructive materials testing (less so for basic research in nuclear physics). Even during the War interesting developments were being initiated in both Europe and America, mainly in view of the commercial market expected after the War.

The American companies General Electric (where Kerst built his 20 MeV betatron in 1942), Westinghouse (from whence Slepian submitted the first patent for a preliminary stage of the betatron in 1922) and Allis-Chalmers devoted their attentions to the commercial manufacture of 20 MeV betatrons.

In Europe, Konrad Gund developed and built 6 and 15 MeV betatron-machines (which later achieved 18 MeV) at the Siemens-Reiniger factory in Erlangen, following Max Steenbeck's ideas and suggestions

In 1946, Wideröe started to develop and produce the 31 to 45MeV machines which were such a success for Brown Boveri & Co. (BBC) in Baden, Switzerland.

Philips' interest in the betatrons had already become apparent in 1944, when Wideröe worked with the company C.H.F.Müller in Hamburg (which formed part of the Philips group). Later on, betatrons both with and without iron cores were also built by Philips in Eindhoven. The iron-less betatrons for 9 MeV were run in a pulsed mode. Philips and BBC seemed to maintain good relations as was demonstrated during the production of electron sources for Wideröe.

In an article written in 1962 [Wi62] Wideröe described the three types of betatrons for hospitals which had been developed and built by Siemens-Reiniger in Germany, Allis-Chalmers in the USA and BBC in Switzerland. He also described the interesting linear accelerators developed at that time which could be used for medical purposes.

It is difficult to estimate the precise total number of betatrons built throughout the world. Commercial firms probably installed more than 200 of them, of which 78 were manufactured by BBC. But many institutes developed and built their own machines.