January 10, 2013 by MARCO TORRES
Hand Held X-ray Devices on The Horizon As Engineers Develop Compact Sources of Radiation Emitting Scanners
Scientists and engineers appear to be playing a very dangerous game when it comes to scanning technology. How many more radiation emitting devices can people take? A University of Missouri engineering team has invented a compact source of X-rays and other forms of radiation.
The radiation source, which is the size of a stick of gum will be incorporated in devices as small as a cell phone, but emitting ionizing radiation while allowing the device to be easily portable.
Currently, X-ray machines are huge and require tremendous amounts of electricity," said Scott Kovaleski, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU. "In approximately three years, we could have a prototype hand-held X-ray scanner using our invention.
This could allow any person with access to potentially X-ray any person in a public area without even having their informed consent on the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, especially if used by border officials which are one of the intended targets for application.
The device uses a crystal to produce more than 100,000 volts of electricity from only 10 volts of electrical input. Having such a low need for power could allow the crystal to be fueled by batteries so that it may be completely portable. The crystal, made from a material called lithium niobate, uses the piezoelectric effect to amplify the input voltage.
Although the device emits harmful radiation, the inventors shun the charges by critics who insist such a device is a portable cancer machine. "Our device is perfectly harmless until energized, and even then it causes relatively low exposures to radiation," said Kovaleski. "The potential for innovation is very exciting."
"Once again we have engineers playing God with inventions which flaunter ionizing radiation like a small child exhibits his new skills riding a bike," said Professor of Environmental Science, Zeljko Markovic. "The potential lethality of this type of radiation is not something that should be compact, portable or accessible, which eventually it will be," he stated.
Airport X-Ray machines already violate a longstanding principle in radiation safety -- that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit. Although they've been approved all over the world, there is now overwhelming evidence that the naked body airport scanners are exposing millions to super high frequency microwave radiation.
Kovaleski suggested other uses for the device. At ports and border crossings, as well as to fight terrorism, portable scanners could search cargoes for contraband.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.