Digital X-Ray Photography

Project Type: Applied Physics

Project Information

Project Description:

Digital X-Ray PhotographyThe task is to design and build an x-ray machine capable of imaging low-density inanimate objects.  The machine consists of a commercial x-ray tube connected to a high-voltage, low-current power supply.  X rays pass through the object and project an image on a fluorescent screen that is recorded with a digital camera.  The camera is protected from the low-energy x rays by a thick pane of leaded glass.  The digital image is post processed to remove saturation effects from prolonged exposure and enhance contrast.  Image products from the machine will be collected and mounted for a gallery show.  Living creatures and human subjects will NOT become x-ray objects.

Level of Difficulty: High


anode, hot cathode, Bremsstrahlung, Roentgen (R), Rem, Grey (Gy), Rad, Sievert (Sv), dose, effective dose, ALARA, Curie (Ci), electronvolt (eV), Joule (J), scintillator


“High Voltage and X-Ray Experiments,” by Henning Umland,

“Radiation, How Much is Considered Safe for Humans?” MIT News, January 5, 1994

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Radiation Control, See Part 8,

Team Roles

Multimedia Artist (2) – The Multimedia Artists on the project select images produced by the machine for mounting and presentation.  In addition to the normal team responsibilities of maintaining the project’s progress on the website and presence on social media, the Artists will also design, organize, and host a public showing of the high-tech art.

Electrical Engineer (2) – The Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of an adjustable high-voltage, low-current power supply.  The design can be a voltage multiplier style (Cockcroft Walton) with a high intrinsic impedance and low internal energy storage.  Furthermore, the Electrical Engineers are responsible for the machine’s safety systems (interlocks), as outlined in Part 8 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Mechanical Engineer (2) – The Mechanical Engineers on the project are responsible for integrating the x-ray tube, interlocks, power feed and the imaging assembly that holds the object against a fluorescent screen.  Additionally, these components are housed in a steel enclosure that shields the outside environment from the x-ray flux.  The enclosure must not leak x rays but still be easily accessible to change objects for a new image.

Health Physicist (2) – The Health Physicists on the project will establish design guidelines so that the machine will conform to Part 8 and minimize radiation exposure outside the enclosure.  Setting the guidelines will require shielding calculations for the enclosure’s wall thickness and safe operating distances.  Further, the Health Physicists will arrange for the machine’s initial radiation survey and oversee the monitoring devices to be worn by Team members and advisors.

Designer (2) – Designers on the project will work closely with the Mechanical Engineers and Health Physicists to assure the enclosure is manufactured to contain the radiation yet have easy access and portability.  Additionally, Designers validate system designs via CAD illustrations, supervise component manufacturing, and resolve operational problems that require modifications.

Computer Scientist (1) – The Computer Scientists is in charge of the overall control system that keeps the operators safe while managing the machine’s radiation energy and exposure time.  Further, the Computer Scientist assists the Artists in refining digital images for display.

Journalist (1) – The Journalist documents the project’s progress on the website, communicates with the local media, and is responsible for a final report to the principal sponsors and Power Mountain Engineering.  The Journalist also works closely with the Multimedia Artist to provide video and graphic art displays for demonstrations that explain the project to the public.  The whole project is your project.

Business Manager (1) – The Business Manager is responsible for reporting the project’s progress against a predetermined schedule, determines critical path items to completion, and tracks project spending to assure that costs remain within a fixed budget.  The Manager works with all team members to identify problems early and resolve them quickly.  The whole project is your project.

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