June 9, 2016

The construction of Medical X-ray machine —

The construction of Medical X-ray machine —

The heart of medical X-ray machine is an electrode pair — a cathode and an anode — that sits inside a glass vacuum tube. The cathode is a heated filament, like you might find in an older fluorescent lamp. The machine passes current through the filament, heating it up. The heat sputters electrons off of the filament surface. The positively-charged anode, a flat disc made of tungsten, draws the electrons across the tube.

Medical x ray machine

The voltage difference between the cathode and anode is extremely high, so the electrons fly through the tube with a great deal of force. When a speeding electron collides with a tungsten atom, it knocks loose an electron in one of the atom’s lower orbitals. An electron in a higher orbital immediately falls to the lower energy level, releasing its extra energy in the form of a photon. It’s a big drop, so the photon has a high energy level — it is an X-ray photon.

X-ray atom

Free electrons can also generate photons without hitting an atom. An atom’s nucleus may attract a speeding electron just enough to alter its course. Like a comet whipping around the sun, the electron slows down and changes direction as it speeds past the atom. This “braking” action causes the electron to emit excess energy in the form of an X-ray photon.

X-ray atom

The high-impact collisions involved in X-ray production generate a lot of heat. A motor rotates the anode to keep it from melting (the electron beam isn’t always focused on the same area). A cool oil bath surrounding the envelope also absorbs heat.

The entire mechanism is surrounded by a thick lead shield. This keeps the X-rays from escaping in all directions. A small window in the shield lets some of the X-ray photons escape in a narrow beam. The beam passes through a series of filters on its way to the patient.

A camera on the other side of the patient records the pattern of X-ray light that passes all the way through the patient’s body. The X-ray camera uses the same film technology as an ordinary camera, but X-ray light sets off the chemical reaction instead of visible light.

Generally, doctors keep the film image as a negative. That is, the areas that are exposed to more light appear darker and the areas that are exposed to less light appear lighter. Hard material, such as bone, appears white, and softer material appears black or gray. Doctors can bring different materials into focus by varying the intensity of the X-ray beam.


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