X-ray device uses nanotubes

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spin-off company has developed a new X-ray device based on carbon nanotubes

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a UNC start-up company, Xintek, have invented a new X-ray device based on carbon nanotubes that emits a scanning X-ray beam composed of multiple smaller beams while also remaining stationary.

As a result, the device can create images of objects from numerous angles and without mechanical motion, which is a distinct advantage for any machine since it increases imaging speed, can reduce the size of the device and requires less maintenance.

Carbon nanotube field emitters are used in the X-ray device as the electron source. In use, the device can readily produce both continuous and pulsed x-ray (>100KHz) with a programmable wave form and repetition rate and can produce sufficient x-ray intensity to image the human anatomy.

A report on the invention appears in this week’s issue of Applied Physics Letters, a science and technology journal. The physicists already have received US patents on elements of the work and expect more to be granted.

“This technology can lead to smaller and faster X-ray imaging systems for airport baggage screening and for tomographic medical imaging such as CT (computed tomography) scanners,” said Dr. Otto Zhou, Lyle Jones distinguished professor of physics and materials sciences in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The nanotube X-ray technology allows the device to be operated at room temperature rather than at the 1,000 degrees Celsius that conventional sources require.

It can also be operated as a high-speed X-ray camera, capturing clear images of objects moving at high speed.