Zirconium-89 is a short-lived (half-life = 3.3 days) positron-emitting radionuclide with scientific and medical applications in cancer detection and imaging. A major advantage of zirconium-89 is its longer physical half-life relative to fluorine-18 (110 minutes), the most widely-used positron-emitter in nuclear medicine. The longer half-life of zirconium-89 is desirable for positron-emission tomography (PET) applications involving labeled monoclonal antibodies that have relatively long uptake times in cancer.
Zirconium-89 is produced in a cyclotron by bombarding stable yttrium foils with high-energy protons. PNNL collaborated with the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle on a project to develop a rapid, automated production system for zirconium-89, funded by the DOE Isotope Program. The project team developed a reliable, automated isotope production and protein-labeling system to make high-purity zirconium-89.