Insight into hot cell technology

Definition and significance for research

Hot cells are a fascinating and important tool in modern medical research and industry. They play a decisive role in the fight against diseases such as cancer. The high-tech devices represent both a powerful diagnostic tool and a potential treatment option.

They are a good example of the impressive progress that science has made in the field of radiology in recent years.

In this blog post, we would like to explain to you what exactly a hot cell is, how it works and what significance it has for medical research, particularly in relation to cancer treatment.

Explanation of the term hot cell and areas of application

The term “hot cell” refers to a highly specialized laboratory or an enclosed workspace. Here, researchers and experts can work safely with radioactive materials or substances. The name is derived from the fact that high temperatures and radiation levels often prevail inside these rooms. These are caused by the radioactive materials used. These rooms are extremely important to ensure the safety of scientists and laboratory staff handling radioactive substances.

The hot cell plays an important role in industrial and energy technology, where it is used, for example, for the examination and analysis of radioactive waste or the production of radiating materials for medical and scientific purposes.

Especially in cancer research, where radioactive isotopes are frequently used in the diagnosis and treatment of tumors, hot cells are essential to ensure the safe handling of these substances.

Description of the function and application of a hot cell

The entire working area inside the hot cell is shielded by thick lead walls and lead glass windows. These protect the people in the room from the dangerous ionizing radiation. Lead is particularly suitable for shielding as it absorbs radiation very effectively.

In a hot cell, the researchers do not work directly with their hands on the radioactive samples, but use special remote control tools –  so-called manipulators. These manipulators are elongated, pincer-like instruments that reach through the lead glass window. They enable researchers to handle the materials precisely without exposing themselves to radiation.

Hot cells are used in various fields of research, including nuclear physics, medicine and the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. In medical research, for example, they are used in the production of radiopharmaceuticals or radioactive tracers for diagnostics. While they are used in nuclear physics for the investigation of fission products or for testing fuel elements.

In cancer research, hot cells play a decisive role in the development of new therapeutic approaches and diagnostic procedures.


In order to understand the protective function of the hot cell, it is important to first clarify exactly what radioactivity means and what dangers it harbors.

Radioactivity is the ability of an atomic nucleus to emit radiation, whereby this radiation can consist of different particles (e.g. alpha, beta or gamma radiation). While alpha and beta radiation can generally be shielded by thin materials, this is much more difficult with gamma radiation. They have a high penetrating power and can therefore damage people and materials in the vicinity of the hot cell.

The radioactivity in the hot cell is therefore reduced to an acceptable level by using lead shielding and other protective measures. This allows the researchers to examine, process and dispose of the radioactive materials in a safe environment.

Lead shielding

One of the most important components of a hot cell is the lead shielding. Lead is the preferred material for shielding in both research and application areas due to its high density and ability to effectively absorb radioactive radiation. The lead shielding of a hot cell acts as a barrier. It ensures that the radioactivity produced during work with radioactive materials does not escape to the outside and thus does not harm people or the environment.

Depending on the type of radioactive substances used and their specific radiation energy, the lead shielding is designed with the appropriate strength and thickness to ensure optimum protection. In addition, lead shielding is often combined with other materials such as boron and polyethylene. This provides additional protection against neutron radiation.

Application of hot cells in cancer research

The use of hot cells plays a decisive role in cancer research. It serves to gain new medical insights and develop innovative therapeutic approaches. The hot cell enables researchers to handle and examine radioactive substances. Without being exposed to high levels of radiation themselves.

This is of great importance as radioactive isotopes are often used in cancer research. For example, to investigate the mode of action of drugs or to better understand the distribution of cancer cells in the body.

Another important field of application is the development of radioactive tracers. These are for example used in diagnostics, in PET scans (positron emission tomography). Radioactive substances are injected into the patient’s body in order to obtain detailed information about the metabolism and spatial distribution of tumors.

In summary, it can be said that hot cells are indispensable for most experimental approaches in cancer research in which radioactive substances are used. They not only facilitate the safe handling of these materials, but also contribute to a better understanding of cancer and its possible treatments.


Hot cells play a crucial role in scientific research, especially in cancer research. The use of lead shielding reduces radioactivity within the hot cell to a minimum. This makes working with radioactive materials safer and more efficient.

Modern hot cell technology enables the detailed investigation of radioactive materials and processes that can contribute to the discovery of new therapeutic approaches and drugs. Hot cells are of particular importance in cancer research, as they make it possible to precisely understand and analyze the properties of tumors and their changes when exposed to radiation or other forms of treatment. This helps to optimize the effectiveness of therapies and possibly even discover new treatment options.

In view of the continuous development of hot cell technology and the rapid progress in research, the future prospects in this area are very promising. The debate about radioactivity and its scientific benefits shows once again that, with responsible handling and appropriate safety measures, even potentially dangerous technologies can be used for the benefit of mankind.

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