Increasing efficiency of BEAMnrc-simulated Co-60 beams using directional source biasing




This study describes the implementation of a directional source biasing (DSB) scheme for efficiently simulating Cobalt-60 treatment heads using the BEAMnrc Monte Carlo code. Previous simulation of Co-60 beams with BEAMnrc was impractical because of the time required to track photons not directed into the treatment field and to simulate secondary charged particles.


In DSB, efficiency is increased by splitting each photon emitted by the Co-60 source a user-defined number of times. Only those split primary photons directed into a user-defined splitting field (encompassing the treatment field) are sampled, yielding many low-weight photons directed into the field. Efficiency can be further increased by taking advantage of radial symmetry at the top of the treatment head to reduce the number of split primary photons tracked in this portion. There is also an option to generate contaminant electrons in DSB.


The DSB scheme in BEAMnrc increases the photon fluence calculation efficiency in a 10 × 10 cm2 Co-60 beam by a factor of 1800 with a concurrent increase in contaminant electron fluence calculation efficiency by a factor of 1200. Implementation of DSB in beampp, a C++ code for accelerator simulations based on EGSnrc and the C++ class library, egspp, increases photon fluence efficiency by a factor of 2800 and contaminant electron fluence efficiency by a factor of 1600. Optimum splitting numbers are in the range of 20 000–40 000. For dose calculations in a water phantom (0.5 × 0.5 × 0.5 cm3 voxels) this translates into a factor of ∼400 increase in dose calculation efficiency (all doses > 0.5 × Dmax). An example calculation of the ratio of dose to water to dose to chamber (the basis of the beam quality correction factor) to within 0.2% in a realistic chamber using a full simulation of a Co-60 treatment head as a source indicates the practicality of Co-60 simulations with DSB.


The efficiency improvement resulting from DSB makes Monte Carlo commissioning of Co-60 beams and calculation of beam quality correction factors feasible.