X-Ray technology is most commonly found in the medical industry, but its use has expanded since its discovery more than 100 years ago. X-Ray technologists now work in a variety of other fields including astronomy and food service, and new uses are still being discovered. [via]
From exploring Space, examining our food, looking through lost works of art and understanding our earth there are many, many new ways we are using x-rays to enhance our world.
Check out these eight interesting ways x-rays are utilized outside of the medical world.
Unlocking Mysteries in Space
With the help of satellite technology, astronomers are able to capture x-ray images of objects in space. X-rays expose the energy emitted from these objects, helping scientists understand their geometry, activity, and temperature. This technology is accredited for numerous discoveries and is instrumental in researching how stars live and die.
Protecting the Country
Two major developments in x-ray technology are changing in the way the government monitors potential security threats. Most commonly used in airports, full body scanners use a type of x-ray to reveal concealed objects as individuals pass through security checkpoints. In another attempt to increase security, law enforcement agencies have invested in mobile x-ray units called ZBVs, or Z backscatter vans. These vehicles enable operators to look through surfaces for explosive devices and other possible hazardous materials.
Building Safe Structures
Construction and inspection crews use x-ray technology to detect cracks, bad welds, and other structural deficiencies in buildings and bridges. X-rays are also used to test the composition of building materials to make sure they are strong enough for the job at hand. In recent years, lawyers have relied on these x-rays as evidence in lawsuits against dishonest contractors.
Finding Lost Works of Art
Recent advances in x-ray technology have given researchers the ability to look beneath the surface of paintings, revealing hidden treasures from famous artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Picasso. It has been common practice throughout history for artists to reuse canvases, painting new images over existing works. This technology is also used to identify counterfeit paintings, catching con artists who replicate well-known paintings on antique canvases.
Inspecting Food Products
X-rays are commonly used on the assembly line to weed out food products that contain foreign objects or do not meet a company’s quality standards. This process has been in use since the 1960s, when the FDA approved the use of x-rays in food processing. New technology is being developed to decontaminate food products as they are x-rayed, and although some of the nutrients are lost through this process, the final product has a reduced risk of causing foodborne illness and boasts a longer shelf life.
Understanding the Earth
For many years, scientists have used x-ray technology to identify minerals and the composition of rocks. X-rays are also used to find water inside of geological formations, a technique that will soon be used on Mars. In 2007, Japanese researchers created the first x-rays of an active volcano, allowing scientists to monitor the activity of the magma inside and predict when eruptions will occur.
Catching a Killer
X-rays are commonly used in crime scene investigations to identify human remains and determine causes of death, and their newest use is worthy of a feature on primetime television. Investigators are utilizing x-ray technology to find fingerprints that in the past would have been missed by traditional techniques. In addition to discovering the fingerprints, scientists are able to identify the composition of the residue on the person’s finger at the time the print was left, adding another dimension to fingerprint analysis.