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Researchers in Italy are working on small and portable X-ray scanner.

The coordinator of the NANORAY project Paolo De Stefanis explained: “We have developed new X-ray generation technology able to ensure high image quality at a low cost and hand-held size that can give a huge competitive advantage to the industries supporting it.”

An X-ray scanner compact enough to fit in an ambulance is what is promised by this EU-funded research project. The most important component of X-ray technology – the heated cathode – has been replaced with a cold one. That means getting rid of cumbersome cooling systems.

Sultan Dabagov, Professor of the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science and head of the X Lab at Laboratory Nazionali di Frascati INFN, said: “The idea was to develop a new, compact, low-power X-ray source that would provide superior characteristics compared with existing devices. What we needed was the same functionality with fewer costs. So our suggestion was to use these new carbon nanotubes.”

In the prototype, the electrons are generated by a very small tip on the cathode, covered with carbon nanotubes a thousand times thinner than a human hair.

This X-ray device does not require heating up to 2,000 degrees Celsius like traditional ones, so it will not degrade as quickly. It also offers a higher image resolution and quicker scanning.

That is good news for patients, says Paolo De Stefanis: “If you’re a patient and you need to be exposed to X-ray radiation, you probably want to be exposed as little as possible, and this can be achieved with the higher image resolution and the NANORAY focused electron beam.”

Several companies in Europe and elsewhere have already started to implement this innovative technology in healthcare, archaeology, engineering and other fields.

Paolo De Stefanis added: “Industries are interested in this project because they can get a huge competitive advantage by putting the first ever hand-held X-ray device with high image resolution and low cost on the market. It’s a device that can be applied to many fields such as medical imaging, quality inspections, and so on.”

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