Scientists Upgrade Century-Old X-Ray Tech
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2009 12:06 PM CDT
X-rays are currently produced by heating a metal filament inside a vacuum tube to a temperature of around 2,000º F.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
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(Newser) – A team of University of North Carolina scientists are working to bring X-ray technology into the 21st century, the Economist reports. The X-ray machines commonly used today rely on vacuum-tube technology little changed from a century ago, but physicist Otto Zhou and his colleagues have used nanotechnology to create smaller, far more efficient machines with a wealth of uses in cancer research and treatment.

The scientists replaced the metal filaments used in X-ray machines, similar to those found in incandescent light bulbs, with carbon nanotubes that don't generate heat. The micro-sized scanners this made possible can be controlled with great precision, allowing far more effective imaging to check for cancer growth. The team believes the technology can be further refined to zap cancer tumors cell-by-cell.