June 22, 2009

Scientists find a way to hike X-ray power

U.S. and Russian scientists say they have developed a technology that can create coherent, high-powered X-rays.

Scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russia's Voronezh State University said their achievement moves three-dimensional, real-time X-ray imaging closer to reality.

University of Nebraska Professor Anthony Starace said the new technology could be a contributor to a number of innovations.

Starace's work focuses on a process called high-harmonic generation. The HHG process, in which energetic X-ray radiation is created by focusing an optical laser into atoms of gaseous elements, has been used since 1988. However, HHG has one major problem: the X-ray light produced by the atoms is very weak.

But Starace's group solved the problem by applying HHG theory to heavier gaseous atoms having many electrons "“ elements such as xenon, argon and krypton. They discovered the process would unleash high-energy X-rays with relatively high intensity.

Starace said the achievement could lead one day to more powerful and precise X-ray machines. For instance, he said, heart doctors might conduct an exam by scanning a patient and creating a 3D hologram of that patient's heart beating in real time.

The research is to be reported in the journal Physical Review Letters.