X-ray technology is progressing in many "spectral" fields. One of them is associated with compact equipment which is represented in this country by the Flash Electronics R&D company which entered the scene in 1993. Its progress over the past nine years has been really impressive and today it dominates what we call the Russian sector of the market of X-ray diagnostic equipment, including sets for dealing with ecological problems and also terrorism, the smuggling of narcotics and non-destructive control of industrial equipment (defectoscopy).
The name of this company-Flash Electronics-speaks volumes about its specifics- development and construction of impulse X-ray instruments and devices.
The man at the start of this new field of technology was Academician Gennady Mesyats, the Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He substantiated the mechanism of the blast emission-a "product" of X-rays passing between two electrodes to which an electric field of more than 10 8 -10 9 V/cm is applied. This discovery provided the basis for impulse roentgenography engineering.
An interesting feature of our present-day science consists in the fact that as often as not the fundamental discoveries now are "put into practice" not by their authors, or the research centers where they were made. The case in point is the Director of the Flash Electronics, Alexander Buklei, Cand. Sc. (Tech.), who became acquainted with the studies of Acad. G. Mesyats (who made his discovery in Sverdlovsk - now Yekaterinburg) from articles and monographs.
Alexander Buklei began his studies in impulse roentgenography right after college. From 1986 experts of the Institute of Introscopy whom he joined at that time used impulse X-ray techniques for studies of processes of ballistics, of the propagation of cumulativeness upon entering an obstacle and other related processes. But after visits to several of this country's testing sites in 1989, the scientist saw that these studies had no real future. A group of former researchers from academic and specialized institutes decided to set up a center of their own in which they tried to use their knowledge and experience for building impulse roentgen frequency devices for a range of applications. The venture was a success and the new center designed and built the popular Shmel X-ray diagnostic sets which are now very popular among specialists.
First of all, these are what are called roentgeno-TV sets which detect objects incorporated into various bodies. This concerns, above all, instruments for combating terrorism and criminal drugs traffic. At our troubled time police and security agents often have to deal with "unclaimed" luggage left at railway stations, airports or department stores. When this happens security staff has to quickly examine these "gifts" without attracting undue public attention. Such inspections can be conducted with the help of one of the Flash Electronics products-a portable X-ray-TV set Shmel-240 TV. Using this set it takes the security staff some 30 seconds to take a look in-
side a hostless briefcase or package and see whether or not it contains some explosives. After that the suspicious piece of luggage is simply taken away or an alarm is sounded and the visitors are urgently evacuated.
Another, and no less dramatic, application of such detectors are all kinds of suspicious objects (explosives, drugs or weapons) in aircraft passenger sits, wings or fuselage. And the detectors can "take a look" into all kinds of niches, or hollows. Such detectors are also very handy in inspecting foreign passenger liners and/or freighters for undeclared goods right on their arrival in port.
The same detectors can be used to "clear" your office from electronic bugs planted by your rivals.
One of the latest novelties, unprecedented in other countries, is an X-ray scanner of hidden cavities called Watson. Used for the diagnostics in this case is not a TV image of a cavity, but reflected X-rays which detect all kinds of foreign objects. One such example is a car tyre which can be used by smugglers for hiding things like caviar, cigarettes, or narcotics. The Watson detector will even tell you which of these things you are dealing with. A very important advantage of such portable detectors consists in the fact that you, for example, can inspect the whole car (its fuel tank, wheels, doors, etc.) in a matter of only half an hour.
An old problem facing immigration officers is the smuggling of objects of arts, such as icons and paintings. As often as not, smugglers try to hide their real value under a layer of new paint. In cases of this kind inspectors can use the Kolibri portable digital detectors which reveals the original image under all kinds of overpaints.
The question of the true value of a painting is, naturally, left for art experts to decide, but a customs officer armed with the detector knows for sure what he is dealing with. Tests of the new detectors at the Moscow International Airport of Sheremetyevo, for example, made it possible for customs officials to arrest some 70 camouflaged icons.
One more class of such detectors includes portable impulse X-ray units for flaw detection of welding joints. Flash Electronics detectors are used for checking the quality of every third welding joint on Russian gas and oil pipelines which are already in operation or under construction.
All these innovations are the tangible achievements of our academic and industrial R&D centers. Company specialists have been able to put on the market really first- class devices which have received many Russian and international patents. When necessary the company invites the necessary specialists from outside. Three years ago, for example, they announced a grant for the Russian Academy and financed one research project. As a result the Institute of Nuclear Physics named after G. Budker of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy solved the problem of analysis of three- dimensional images in X-rays.
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