Purpose: The design of a 3D in-line side-coupled 6 MV linac waveguide for medical use is given, and the effect of the side-coupling and port irises on the radio frequency (RF), beam dynamics, and dosimetric solutions is examined. This work was motivated by our research on a linac-MR hybrid system, where accurate electron trajectory information for a clinical medical waveguide in the presence of an external magnetic field was needed.
Methods: For this work, the design of the linac waveguide was generated using the finite element method. The design outlined here incorporates the necessary geometric changes needed to incorporate a full-end accelerating cavity with a single-coupling iris, a waveguide-cavity coupling port iris that allows power transfer into the waveguide from the magnetron, as well as a method to control the RF field magnitude within the first half accelerating cavity into which the electrons from the gun are injected.
Results: With the full waveguide designed to resonate at 2998.5 +/- 0.1 MHz, a full 3D RF field solution was obtained. The accuracy of the 3D RF field solution was estimated through a comparison of important linac parameters (Q factor, shunt impedance, transit time factor, and resonant frequency) calculated for one accelerating cavity with the benchmarked program SUPERFISH. It was found that the maximum difference between the 3D solution and SUPERFISH was less than 0.03%. The eigenvalue solver, which determines the resonant frequencies of the 3D side-coupled waveguide simulation, was shown to be highly accurate through a comparison with lumped circuit theory. Two different waveguide geometries were examined, one incorporating a 0.5 mm first side cavity shift and another with a 1.5 mm first side cavity shift. The asymmetrically placed side-coupling irises and the port iris for both models were shown to introduce asymmetries in the RF field large enough to cause a peak shift and skewing (center of gravity minus peak shift) of an initially cylindrically uniform electron beam accelerating within the waveguide. The shifting and skewing of the electron beam were found to be greatest due to the effects of the side-coupling irises on the RF field. A further Monte Carlo study showed that this effect translated into a 1% asymmetry in a 40 x 40 cm2 field dose profile.
Conclusions: A full 3D design for an in-line side-coupled 6 MV linear accelerator that emulates a common commercial waveguide has been given. The effect of the side coupling on the dose distribution has been shown to create a slight asymmetry, but overall does not affect the clinical applicability of the linac. The 3D in-line side-coupled linac model further provides a tool for the investigation of linac performance within an external magnetic field, which exists in an integrated linac-MR system.