Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Breakthrough! UNC scientists’ research promises improved X-ray machines using carbon nanotubes

02.07.2002


The basic technology that produces X-rays has remained essentially the same for a century, but now scientists and physicians at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Applied Nanotechnologies Inc. say they should be able to improve it significantly.



Experiments the team conducted have shown they can cause carbon nanotubes, a new form of carbon discovered about a decade ago, to generate intense electron beams that bombard a metal "target" to produce X-rays. Researchers say they have demonstrated that their cold-cathode device can generate sufficient X-ray flux to create images of extremities such as the human hand.

The advantage of using carbon nanotubes is that machines incorporating them can work at room temperature rather than the 1500 or so degrees Celsius that conventional X-ray machines now require and produce.


"If this works as well as we think it will, we can make such machines a lot smaller and cooler and be able to turn them on and off much faster," said Dr. Otto Z. Zhou, associate professor of physics and materials sciences. "Other advantages are that they should be cheaper, be safer in terms of the lower heat generated, last longer, use less electricity and produce higher resolution images.

"We believe we have made a major breakthrough in X-ray technology, and we are extremely excited about it."

A report on their experiments appears in the July 8 issue of Applied Physics Letters, a science and technology journal. Patents on the UNC work are pending.

Besides Zhou, authors are Dr. Guo Z. Yue, a former UNC faculty member now with United Solar Systems; Qi Oiu and Drs. Bo Gao and Hideo Shimoda of Applied Nanotechnologies Inc., students Yuan Cheng and Jian Zhang, and Dr. Jian Ping Lu, associate professor of physics and astronomy and applied and materials sciences. Dr. Sha Chang, associate professor of radiation oncology at the UNC School of Medicine, also participated in the project.

"Scientists and others, including the popular press, have shown a lot of interest in carbon nanotubes because of numerous potential applications," Zhou said. "They are very strong tubular structures formed from a single layer of carbon atoms and are only about a billionth of a meter in diameter."

In the past, UNC scientists and others have used carbon nanotubes to produce electrons, he said. What’s new is that until now, no one could generate enough electrons to create distinct images like conventional X-rays do. Nanotubes replace traditional metal filaments that must be heated to high temperatures before being subjected to an electric field. The tubes shed electrons easily because, being so small, they are extremely sharp.

"We already have taken pictures of human hands and fish that are as good as standard X-rays," Zhou said. "We think our images eventually will be clearer than conventional ones since we have a more pointed, tunable source of electrons. That would help doctors, for example, get more useful information from pictures of broken bones, for example."

The physicists are working with manufacturers to turn their discovery into working machines and expect to have them on the market within a year or two, he said.

Being able to miniaturize X-ray devices could have more major benefits, Zhou said, including allowing technicians to take X-rays inside or outside ambulances before ever leaving the scenes of accidents. No major technical obstacles remain in their way.

In addition, the new X-ray technology will allow manufacturing of large-scale X-ray scanning machines for industrial inspections, airport security screening and customs inspections.

Other uses of carbon nanotubes include flat panel display and telecommunications devices, fuel cells, high-strength composite materials and novel molecular electronics for the next generation of computers, he said. People have raised the possibility of using them to improve batteries, but no one demonstrated that they might work better than conventional materials until Zhou and his UNC team published a paper on the subject in January in Physical Review Letters.

That paper showed they could potentially improve electric batteries by using single-wall carbon nanotubes to help store electrical charges. They have patented the process of creating such nanotubes.


Zhou directs the N.C. Center for Nanoscale Materials at UNC. Applied Nanotechnologies Inc., which seeks to develop new industrial and medical applications for carbon nanotubes, is a new spin-off company resulting from his group’s work. Support for the experiments came from the Office of Naval Research and private sources.

Note: Zhou can be reached at (919) 962-3297 or Zhou@email.unc.edu
Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596

David Williamson | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>