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x-ray tube

An X-ray tube is a vacuum tube that produces X-rays. They are used in X-ray machines. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, an ionizing radiation with wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet light. X-ray tubes evolved from experimental Crookes tubes with which X-rays were first discovered in the late 19th century, and the availability of this controllable source of X-rays created the field of radiography, the imaging of opaque objects with penetrating radiation. X-ray tubes are also used in CAT scanners, airport luggage scanners, X-ray crystallography, and for industrial inspection.

Coolidge X-ray tube, from around 1917. The heated cathode is on the left, and the anode is right. The X-rays are emitted downwards.

Coolidge X-ray tube, from around 1917. The heated cathode is on the left, and the anode is right. The X-rays are emitted downwards.

X-ray tube function

 

As with any vacuum tube, there is a cathode, which emits electrons into the vacuum and an anode to collect the electrons, thus establishing a flow of electrical current, known as the beam, through the tube. A high voltage power source, for example 30 to 150 kilovolts (kV), is connected across cathode and anode to accelerate the electrons. The X-ray spectrum depends on the anode material and the accelerating voltage.[1]