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      Star Trek tech could become reality thanks to invention of portable X-ray

      Some Mizzou engineers have created a new portable X-ray device that could put medical diagnosis and terrorism prevention in the palm of your hand.

      The tiny X-ray machine is the size of a cell phone, but engineers predict its impact on the world will be huge.

      The hand-held scanners, or tricorders, of the Star Trek movies and television series are one step closer to reality now that a University of Missouri engineering team has invented the compact source of X-rays and other forms of radiation. The radiation source, which is the size of a stick of gum, could be used to create inexpensive and portable x-ray scanners for use by doctors, as well as to fight terrorism and aid exploration on this planet and others. And just like penicillin, it was discovered by accident.

      MU Researcher Scott Kovaleski said, â??We thought, if we could make 10,000 volts for space propulsion, then maybe we could do 100,000 volts and make x-rays. Thatâ??s how we got started. It was all an accident in the lab.

      Todayâ??s X-ray machines are huge and require tremendous amounts of electricity. This device can run on a small battery and never needs plugging into a wall.

      MU Researcher Brady Gall said, â??This would apply to people in the medical profession who are in a remote location who donâ??t have access to high power circuits or electrical grids that they could they could plug into.â??

      At ports and border crossings, portable scanners could search cargoes for contraband, which would both reduce costs and improve security.

      Getting back to Star Trek, interplanetary probes like the Mars Curiosity Rover could be equipped with the compact sensors, which otherwise would require too much energy.

      Researchers said a prototype hand-held X-ray scanner could be on the market within the next three years.