Three Surprising Ways That X-Ray Technology is Used Today
In 1895, Professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen of Wuerzburg University in Germany noticed that a cathode-ray tube he was working with caused some crystals on a nearby table to emit a florescent glow. He covered the tube with heavy black paper and observed the the crystals still held the florescent glow, which led him to the conclusion that the radiation emitted by the cathode-ray tube could pass through opaque material (such as the heavy black paper) and cast a shadow of solid objects that were blocked by the material and otherwise couldn’t be seen by the eye.
One of the first tests Professor Roentgen conducted with his new-found x-ray was to capture a photographic plate of an x-ray of his wife’s hand. The x-ray radiation could pass through her tissue, but not the bone, and so the image accurately showed the skeletal make-up of her hand. Within a month of Professor Roentgen’s x-ray discovery, the technology was put into use by physicians and surgeons across Europe and America.
In the 120 years that have passed since Professor Roentgen’s discovery, x-ray technology has progressed so far beyond the initial value of viewing the human skeleton. A few interesting ways that x-ray technology is used outside of the medical field today include:
Industrial X-ray Inspections
Engineers have adopted the use of industrial x-ray equipment to conduct detailed inspections of parts that produce a higher quality product than ever before. Before the use of industrial x-ray inspections, engineers depended on touch probe or laser scanning services to get an internal inspection of a manufactured part. These techniques took a lot of time, produced inaccurate images of the inside of the part, and sometimes even destroyed the part in the process. Now, engineers often use the exact equipment used in hospitals to perform industrial x-ray inspections and create precise 3D imaging of a part quickly for quality assurance and manufacturing efficiency.
By creating a laser with x-ray energy instead of light waves, scientist are able to capture phenomena that happens so quickly it has never been seen before and has remained a theoretical concept. For example, we know that plants use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into food, but the process has never actually been seen. With the use of x-ray lasers, step-by-step images of the process can be captured to create a stop-motion video of the photosynthesis process so that we can see it unfold before our eyes for the first time ever.
The level of detail that a microscope can view an object depends on the length of the light waves used in it. Since x-ray wavelengths are much shorter than light wavelengths, by combining x-ray technology and microscopy, objects can be seen in at least ten times greater detail than even the best traditional microscopy technology.
One recent breakthrough using x-ray microscopy is the images of bugs dating back to the dinosaur era encased in amber that were captured with an x-ray microscope. Before the use of x-ray microscopy, scientists had to rely on casts of ancient bugs in dino-era mud; now they’re able to see images as detailed as if the bug was alive today and smiling for the camera. More info like this.