Innovations in x-ray technology

Röntgen rays were discovered over 100 years ago, and yet, even now, improvements on its application are still being made.

I’ve read an interesting article about a new technique researched by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to improve measurements of x-rays by reducing the error on the measurements.

Almost every material has its own, unique energy signature. This makes it possible for the police to distinguish between different materials in suitcases (as mentioned in my previous post). But to measure this “signature” accurate measurement of angles is of utmost importance. each material actually absorbs some of the wave, but reflects the rest, and it’s by measuring the angle at which the waves are reflected, scientists can determine what material it is they are scanning.

Using the new technique, the first major improvement since the 1970’s, it’s possible to measure the angles with an uncertainty of only 0,06 arcseconds or as the author of the article said

If a giant windshield wiper stretched from Washington D.C. to New York City (364 kilometers) and were to sweep out the angle of one of these errors, its tip would move less than the width of a DVD

To me, this is very hard to imagine something that precise, but I’m amazed at what accuracy can be achieved and I hope this new method will make a lot of new techniques possible or improve detection methods as used in  several areas of science such as astronomy, physics, chemistry,…

For those who want to read more about this, with a more detailed explanation of the old and new technique, the article can be found in the link below


2 thoughts on “Innovations in x-ray technology

  1. Are you sure that these accuracies are practically possible? It seems to me that the theory seems nice and all, but which measurement system is capable of measuring a difference of 0.06 arcseconds?


    1. I know it’s very hard to believe, but it is stated in the article linked
      “With new NIST sensing instrumentation and analysis, X-ray angles can now be measured routinely with an uncertainty of 0.06 arcseconds—an accuracy more than three times better than the uncalibrated encoder.”
      The orginal publisher of the article is the NIST, an official government organisation, so I think the results are checked and double checked.
      I haven’t been able to find the scientific paper behind it, but I’ll link it if I find it.


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