Researchers check the cyclotron in the Materials and Stresses Building at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lewis Research Center. The Materials and Stresses Building, built in 1949, contained a number of laboratories to test the strength, diffusion, and other facets of materials. The materials could be subjected to high temperatures, high stresses, corrosion, irradiation, and hot gasses. The Physics of Solids Laboratory included a cyclotron, cloud chamber, helium cryostat, and metallurgy cave.
The cyclotron was built in the early 1950s to test the effects of radiation on different materials so that the proper materials could be used to construct a nuclear aircraft engine and other components. By the late 1950s, the focus had shifted to similar studies for rockets. NASA cancelled its entire nuclear program in January 1973, and the cyclotron was mothballed.
In 1975 the Cleveland Clinic Foundation partnered with NASA Lewis to use the cyclotron to treat cancer patients with a new type of radiation therapy. The cyclotron split beryllium atoms which caused neutrons to be released. The neutrons were streamed directly at the patient’s tumor. Over the course of five years, the cyclotron was used to treat 1200 patients. The program was terminated in 1980 as the Clinic shifted its efforts to concentrate on non-radiation treatments. The Lewis cyclotron was mothballed for a number of years before being demolished.