The objective of the present work is to extend the applicability of the solution target approach to the production of (68)Ga using a low energy cyclotron. Since the developed method does not require solid target infrastructure, it offers a convenient alternative to (68)Ge/(68)Ga generators for the routine production of (68)Ga. A new solution target with enhanced heat exchange capacity was designed and utilized with dual foils of Al (0.20 mm) and Havar (0.038 mm) separated by helium cooling to degrade the proton energy to ~14 MeV. The water-cooled solution target insert was made of Ta and its solution holding capacity (1.6 mL) was reduced to enhance heat transfer. An isotopically enriched (99.23%) 1.7 M solution of (68)Zn nitrate in 0.2 N nitric acid was utilized in a closed target system. After a 30 min irradiation at 20 μA, the target solution was unloaded to a receiving vessel and the target was rinsed with 1.6 mL water, which was combined with the target solution. An automated module was used to pass the solution through a cation-exchange column (AG-50W-X8, 200-400 mesh, hydrogen form) which efficiently trapped zinc and gallium isotopes. (68)Zn was subsequently eluted with 30 mL of 0.5 N HBr formulated in 80% acetone without any measurable loss of (68)Ga. (68)Ga was eluted with 7 mL of 3 N HCl solution with 92-96% elution efficiency. The radionuclidic purity was determined using an HPGe detector. Additionally, ICP-MS was employed to analyze for non-radioactive metal contaminants. The product yield was 192.5 ± 11.0 MBq/μ·h decay-corrected to EOB with a total processing time of 60-80 min. The radionuclidic purity of (68)Ga was found to be >99.9%, with the predominant contaminant being 67Ga. The ICP-MS analysis showed small quantities of Ga, Fe, Cu, Ni and Zn in the final product, with (68)Ga specific activity of 5.20-6.27 GBq/μg. Depending upon the user requirements, (68)Ga production yield can be further enhanced by increasing the (68)Zn concentration in the target solution and extending the irradiation time. In summary, a simple and efficient method of (68)Ga production was developed using low energy cyclotron and a solution target. The developed methodology offers a cost-effective alternative to the (68)Ge/(68)Ga generators for the production of (68)Ga.
Keywords: 68Ga; cyclotron targetry; solution target.