The Anonymous Widower

Are There Any Medical Application For Large Amounts Of Electricity?

I ask this question, as an eminent medical researcher has just thanked me by text for my energy posts.

It could be that he sees some benefit in having lots of energy available from wind.

I have a few thoughts.

Are Electricity Bills Getting To Be A Larger Proportion Of The Running Costs Of Hospitals Or Medical Research Establishments?

We are all suffering to some extent from higher electricity prices, but some of the latest medical equipment with large electromagnets and powerful X-rays must be expensive on electricity.

Proton Therapy

Does proton therapy use very large amounts of electricity and is this one of the reasons, that these seemingly-powerful machines are thin on the ground?

So if electricity is much more plentiful and hopefully more affordable, is this going to mean that proton therapy is used more often?


The Diamond Light Source is described like this in Wikipedia.

Diamond Light Source (or Diamond) is the UK’s national synchrotron light source science facility located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research. In particular it can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials from proteins (to provide information for designing new and better drugs), and engineering components (such as a fan blade from an aero-engine) to conservation of archeological artifacts (for example Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose).

There are more than 50 light sources across the world. With an energy of 3 GeV, Diamond is a medium energy synchrotron currently operating with 32 beamlines.

When the history of the pandemic is written, Diamond may well turn out to be one of the heroes.

This page on the Diamond web site, lists some of the applications of a particular analysis, that Diamond can perform.

Under Life Sciences and Bio-Medicine, this is said.

One of the remarkable exploits of SRIR microspectroscopy is probing single isolated cells and tissues at sub-cellular resolution, collecting broadband molecular information with excellent spectral quality via the diffraction limited microbeam. Studying individual cells is important because it reveals the cell-cell differences (e.g. due to cell cycle or biological variability) which are averaged together in conventional IR imaging or spectroscopy. This is important for identifying the subtle underlying spectral differences of interest in the research.

Applications include developing spectral biomarkers for disease diagnosis – particularly cancer research, location of stem cells within tissues, following effects of natural and synthetic chemicals on stem-cell differentiation and quantifying drug sensitivity.

A key development recently achieved is moving from fixed and dried samples to ex vivo, living conditions in the natural aqueous environment and time-dependent studies of biological processes. The combined requirements of high spatial resolution, rapid data acquisition and high photon flux (due to strong IR absorption by water) make synchrotron radiation an invaluable microanalysis tool.

In the THz part of the spectrum, very bright (coherent) synchrotron radiation (CSR) is useful in the study of low energy modes, especially in highly absorbing samples. The THz properties of biological materials is a rapidly growing field, from the organism level (imaging) down to fundamental spectroscopy at the biochemical level, where, for example, the solvation shell around proteins can be studied via changes in low energy hydrogen bonds.

That all sounds impressive.

As with NMR, which I used in the 1960s and as since been developed into MRi, I wonder if important hospitals and universities will have their own mini-Diamonds to do the analyses described above.

Again what will be the electricity bill?


I suspect that electricity may be a significant cost of the running some of these new machines and an abundance of wind power, which reduces the cost of electricity, may improve medical research and treatment.



May 9, 2022 - Posted by | Energy, Health | , , , , ,


  1. There is an article on the BBC today about a 11,000 pv panel solar farm for Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham Yorkshire that generates 26 MWh a day, enough for 3,250 households, to run the hospital saving £250,000 a month.

    Comment by jason leahy | May 10, 2022 | Reply

  2. Interesting stuff.

    During the pandemic, some hospitals were running out of oxygen. A friend of mine used to be the Chief Pharmacist in a large hospital and oxygen was her responsibility. It was a nightmare at times, as trucks got stuck in traffic and gates were blocked to the oxygen compound at times.

    So I contacted ITM Power and asked if they could generate oxygen with one of their electrolysers, which they can.

    I suspect we might see hospitals generate their oxygen in this way and use the hydrogen for transport and other purposes. They could even just pipe it to the local hydrogen filling station and it could be powered by solar panels or a nearby wind farm.

    It might give the average patient a different perspective on renewable energy. I wonder if that is happening in Castle Hill Hospital?

    Comment by AnonW | May 10, 2022 | Reply

  3. As I understand it Proton Beam machines are rare – I think England has 2 – because of the cost of the actual machines. But the machines deal with brain cancer very quickly and very completely. I haven’t seen a cost benefit analysis of the machine against the usual chemotherapy and radiotherapy used for treatment of people with cancer, but even if the electricity costs are high it MAY still be a similar price. It works particularly well with children, who are generally hospitalised for radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but I don’t think they are for PB.

    My concern over electrify costs is more about people with disability or medical conditions requiring a lot of electricity who live in the community. I know a family with a little girl who suffered severe hypoxia during her birth. She uses an electric wheelchair, needs a special bed, is tube fed, and produces an unbelievable amount of laundry. Families such as this family are likely to need financial support to keep up fuel payments. Including fuel for transport, which people in wheelchairs and scooters etc need, because majority of Motobility cars are currently petrol driven unless you can pay a massive surcharge. The ones newly available include some hybrid ones, which I will get, but I gather the surcharge of the all-electric ones is generally high. And electric cars will not become widely used until it is easier to charge them. On the other hand, some friends of mine have switched to electric cars, and their solar panels are producing a lot of the electricity to power them. Sadly the government isn’t great at joined up thinking.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | May 10, 2022 | Reply

  4. There are two big ones and a smaller one at Clatterbridge for eyes. There is certainly a large need for joined up thinking, but also I feel that a lot of housing is totally unsuitable for a modern zero-carbon lifestyle.

    Take my road, where about half the residents can take cars off the road, but also half the houses are poorly insulated and wouldn’t be able to have solar-panels on the roofs.

    When I moved here ten years ago, there were no spaces at night, but now there are quite a few. I can only assume, that there is less car ownership than there was. The road is on a cycling route to the City and buses and the Overground are in walking distance.

    I have proved that it is possible to live where I do and not have a car. And from what I see and hear, I’m not the only one in my road.

    Life is changing!

    Comment by AnonW | May 10, 2022 | Reply

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