Reinventing the X-Ray Machine


Tribogenics chief scientist, Carlos Camara, and the firm’s miniature X-ray source.

There have been portable X-ray machines for about a century, but most are heavy and large and require as much power as an electric-fired home water heater.

Tribogenics is trying to replace those clunky machines with devices no larger than laptops. The company wants to create tiny X-ray generators the length of a stick of gum that could power small, battery-powered X-ray machines. These devices could then be used on the front lines of combat zones, in disaster areas and at remote locations far from hospitals without needing to transport patients.


Tribogenics is developing a small X-ray emitter, which will be a breakthrough in new metal-polymer technology. The technology is still in pre-production, so the company hasn’t announced the exact details, but their chief scientist claims that they are reinventing the X-ray device.

They’ve made it tiny and very energy-efficient. Their X-ray emitters are using tribocharging, an electrical charge generated by friction, to generate electricity. The devices should generate enough power for themselves, requiring only minimal outside power to keep a portable X-ray machine going.

Truly portable X-ray machines are still a few years away into the future, but there will be many applications and uses for them. A current mockup of the technology is the size of a computer monitor that hooks up to a laptop computer and scans a man chest’s while he lies in the field.

Tribogenics is currently focused on emitters of X-ray fluorescence, which use secondary X-rays to detect and analyze chemicals, heavy metals, and other compounds, but their ultimate goal is an X-ray machine that is truly portable.

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