The technology is called APOLLO, and the patent is titled “Long-Lasting Pulseable Compact X-Ray Tube with Optically Illuminated Photocathode”. As you can probably figure out from the title, APOLLO does not rely on a heated filament to generate the electrons needed to make x-rays. Instead, APOLLO uses a special laser to shine a region of the cathode to create free electrons. The material you need to deposit on the cathode can be ytterbium (Yb), gallane-arsenide (Ga-As), cesium-antimony (Cs-Sb), or any variation of all these and other materials. We use a fiber optic to bring the laser into the vacuum-sealed tube, which makes it easy to focus on the cathode target. Some of the things that APOLLO enables us to do is to build an x-ray tube that can produce multiple x-ray beams, to change the focus of the x-ray beam as needed, and to pulse the x-ray beam as much and as fast as needed. And what’s going to make our customers very happy is that no heated filament means there are no parts to break inside the tube. In other words: we can make an x-ray tube that lasts for generations!
Why is APOLLO a breakthrough? The general idea behind the construction of an x-ray tube has not changed significantly in the last 100 years: an electron source is placed in an electric field that accelerates electrons towards a target (anode). If the electrons have enough energy, they will generate x-rays when they hit the target. Commercial x-ray tubes utilize a heated filament – which has a limited lifespan – as the electron source. This heated filament is not much different from the filament in the old light bulbs (remember them?). Refurbishing the filament in an x-ray tube is a very expensive process. Other than cost, other major limitations of the heated filament technology are the creation of pulsed x-rays or the changing of the focus of the electron beam. Both properties are highly desirable in a number of scientific and industrial applications.
APOLLO will change how x-ray tubes are made! For more information do not hesitate to contact us.