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New Scientist magazine shares the history of X-ray tubes


A recent article in the New Scientist magazine takes a look at the CT scans of X-ray tubes, created by Herminso Villarraga-Gomez. Read below to find out what inspired Herminso to create these images and how they were taken.  

Modern Rotating Anode Tube - Herminso Villarraga-Gómez, Nikon Metrology, Inc., Americas.A new ad­di­tion to ‘The Evo­lu­tion of X-ray Tubes’ col­lec­tion of im­ages: Mod­ern Ro­tat­ing Anode Tube – Her­minso Vil­lar­raga-Gómez, Nikon Metrol­ogy, Inc., Amer­i­cas.

This is an X-ray image of a ro­tat­ing anode X-ray tube from mod­ern times (1960s-to-to­day). The ro­tat­ing anode tube is an im­prove­ment of the Coolidge tube, which helps with the dis­si­pa­tion of heat at the focal spot. A con­sid­er­able quan­tity of heat is gen­er­ated at the anode by in­ci­dence of elec­trons when X-rays are being gen­er­ated. The use of ro­tat­ing tar­get anode, which is usu­ally pro­vided in the form of a disc, avoids the elec­trons hit­ting just at one given spot at the tar­get and con­cen­trat­ing all the heat on it. The ro­ta­tion spreads the heat along the en­tire disc when the elec­tron beam is in­ci­dent on a re­gion away from the disc cen­ter. (The pic­ture above was taken with a Nikon XT H 450 CT sys­tem hous­ing a mod­ern X-ray tube).


What was the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind this pro­ject?

I’m a physi­cist and an op­ti­cal en­gi­neer cur­rently work­ing in the tech in­dus­try (at Nikon Metrol­ogy) with X-ray ma­chines. Since 2015 (the In­ter­na­tional Year of Light and Light-based Tech­nolo­gies—as de­clared by the United Na­tions), I de­cided to start a pro­ject of imag­ing (with X-rays) the in­te­rior of tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tions—it can be called “the evo­lu­tion of things”. It started with the pub­li­ca­tion of a first sub­mis­sion to the Op­tics and Pho­ton­ics News (OPN) that ap­peared in the De­cem­ber 2015 issue. The image sub­mit­ted at that time was called “The Evo­lu­tion of Elec­tric Light Bulbs” fea­tur­ing an Edi­son style in­can­des­cent light bulb, a flu­o­res­cent light bulb, and a LED light bulb. The next year, in 2016, I cre­ated the “the Evo­lu­tion of the Com­puter Mouse” to fea­ture the tran­si­tion from wired elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal track­balls to a wire­less op­ti­cal/laser track­ing mech­a­nism. This past year my sub­mis­sion theme to the OPN was “The Evo­lu­tion of X-ray Tubes”.

Why the evo­lu­tion of things?

I very much like the the­ory of evo­lu­tion be­cause not only can it be ap­plied to nat­ural se­lec­tion in the her­i­ta­ble char­ac­ter­is­tics of bi­o­log­i­cal pop­u­la­tions over suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions but also to the evo­lu­tion of ideas, or to the evo­lu­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions. The big ad­van­tage with the lat­ter is the evo­lu­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions can be eas­ily per­ceived in our cur­rent times with­out the need to wait for time-scale tran­si­tions that cover sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of species as the case of bi­o­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion. My in­spi­ra­tion comes from see­ing X-ray im­ages every day in my cur­rent job at Nikon Metrol­ogy. My focus to­ward X-ray tech­nolo­gies started in 2012 when I started my PhD at the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina at Char­lotte (USA) with a pro­ject that in­volved using X-rays for metrol­ogy—for di­men­sion­ing things (not only for imag­ing).

How were the im­ages cre­ated?

The im­ages were taken using an X-ray CT sys­tem. I used a Nikon CT sys­tem for my ra­di­ographs of the evo­lu­tion of things. How­ever, since CT (or CAT scan) is used for 3D imag­ing from mul­ti­ple ra­di­ographs but I was only in­ter­ested in a sin­gle 2D ra­di­ographic image, I lim­ited the use of the CT sys­tem ca­pa­bil­ity to shoot only a sin­gle X-ray image, to ob­tain the best ra­di­ograph that I could pos­si­bly get for my ob­ject of in­ter­est.



Take a closer look at The Evo­lu­tion of X-ray Tubes pro­ject.

Read the New Sci­en­tist ar­ti­cle – ‘Ghostly im­ages show the his­tory of x-ray tubes’.