X-Ray Improvements Benefit Medicine And Security

By Rafe Telsch 2008-01-26 10:34:34
We’ve all been there. You’ve been on vacation in Hershey, Pennsylvania where you’ve purchased a huge chunk of chocolate to take home. Unfortunately, those darn x-ray machines at the airport can’t tell the difference between your chocolate and a block of C4, leading to an extended time at security as they check your baggage and put on the latex gloves to make sure you don’t have any explosives hidden anywhere else. Why can’t x-ray machines get more precise (and why must chocolate be so tasty)?

Now researchers in Switzerland are working on a new, higher resolution x-ray that can tell the difference between materials currently not so easily differentiated. Called “dark-field x-ray imaging,” the procedure can distinguish between cheese and explosives and creates more precise images of bones. While dark-field imaging itself isn’t new, the procedure has recently benefited from new contrast-enhancing techniques to produce better images. Not only will the improved procedure help with security, but also is expected to benefit mammograms and CT scans.

Technology Review has a more detailed description of how the new process works, but the end result is a more pristine and effective image that will help with cancer detection, finding small fractures and bone spurs, and hopefully keep you from undergoing any embarrassing searches the next time you want to bring some chocolate home.
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