AUniversity of Missouri (MU; Columbia, MO, USA) engineering team has invented a compact system the size of a stick of gum that can be used to generate a source of x-rays.
"Currently, x-ray machines are huge and require tremendous amounts of electricity," says Scott Kovaleski, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU. "In approximately three years, we could have a prototype hand-held x-ray scanner using our invention. The cell-phone-sized device could improve medical services in remote and impoverished regions and reduce health care expenses everywhere."
The system uses a mass of crystalline piezoelectric material to convert a low-voltage input electrical signal into a high-voltage output signal. Output energy is extracted in the form of a high-voltage electron beam using a field-emission diode mounted on the surface of the crystal. The electron beam produces x-rays via bremsstrahlung interactions with a metallic surface.
The system developed by Kovaleski's team could be used to create other forms of radiation in addition to x-rays. For example, it could replace radioisotopes used in drilling for oil with a safer source of radiation that could be turned off in case of emergency.
Kovaleski's team published a detailed description of the work in an IEEE Transaction on Plasma Science paper entitled "Investigation of the Piezoelectric Effect as a Means to Generate X-Rays." It can be found here.
Related items on x-ray imaging from Vision Systems Design.
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-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor,Vision Systems Design