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What are the 2 internal primary parts of the xray tube?

Cathode -- negative end, consists of filaments, focusing cup, and the source of electrons needed for x-ray production
Anode -- positive end

Both cathode and anode are an?

electrode; 2 or more equals diode

3 parts of the external structures of the xray tube

support structure, protective housing, glass or metal enclosure

3 types of support structures

Floor to ceiling

Most frequently used support structure
Has 2 perpendicular sets of ceiling mounted rails (allows for long. and transverse travel of xray tube)

Ceiling support structures

Support structure with single column with rollers at each end
1 attached to a ceiling mounted rail and the other attached to a floor mounted rail

Floor to ceiling support structures

Support structure used in angiointerventional radiology suites
Ceiling mounted, flexible
Variations called L-arm or U-arm

C-arm support structures

Position when the x-ray tube is centered above the exam table at SID

Preferred detent

Properly designed protective housing reduces the level of radiation to less than

100 mR/hr at 1m, when operated at maximum conditions

X-rays that escape through protective housing and contribute to nothing

Leakage radiation

When x-rays are produced, they are emitted _____, which means equal intensity in all directions


X-rays used only thru this special section


X-rays emitted thru the window are called

Useful beam

Protective housing guards against these 2 things

Excessive radiation
Electric shock

Protective housing also provides

Mechanical support for the xray tube; protects from damage caused by rough handling

The protective housing around some x-ray tubes contains oil that serves as both an ______ and _______ to dissipate heat.

Thermal cushion

Some protective housings have a ____ ____ to air-cool the tube or the oil in which the xray tube is immersed.

Cooling fan

An x-ray tube is an electronic vacuum tube with components contained with in a _____ or ____ enclosure

Glass or metal

What is a glass enclosure made of?

Made of Pyrex to enable it to withstand the heat generated

What does a metal enclosure do?

Maintains constant electric potential between the electron of the tube current and the enclosure

Why is a metal enclosure preferred?

Longer life
Less likely to fail

As glass tubes age, what happens?

Some tungsten vaporizes and coats the inside of the glass enclosure
This alters the electrical properties of the tube
Results to arcing and tube failure

2 types of internal components


2 filaments supply separate electron beams to produce ____ _____ ____

2 focal spots

What is a filament?

Coil of wire made of tungsten w/ 1%-2% thorium added
2 mm diameter 1-2 cm long
Emits electrons when heated

What is thermionic emission?

The filament is heated and electrons are boiled off (electrons are emitted)

What are filaments made of ?

Thoriated tungsten

Why use thoriated tungsten?

Provides for a higher thermionic emission

What has:
Melting point 3410 degrees Celsius;
Doesn't vaporize easily
Enhances the efficiency of thermionic emission Prolongs tube life


2 disadvantages of Tungsten

Does vaporize
Upsets some of the electric characteristics of tube which can cause arcing and lead to tube failure

What if the focusing cup?

Metal cup, made of nickel
Holds the filament
Has a negative charge so that it electrostatically confines the electron beam to a small area of the anode

Effectiveness of the focusing cup is determined by these factors

Its charge
Filament size and shape
Position of the filament in the focusing cup

What is designed to be turned off and on very rapidly?

Grid controlled x-ray tube

What is a grid controlled x-ray tube used in?

Portable capacitor discharge imaging systems, digital subtraction angiography

What does the term "grid" refer to ?

Refers to an element in the tube that acts as the switch

The term "grid" refers to an element in the tube that acts as the switch.

In a grid controlled x-ray tube the ___ ___ is the ____ , and therefore, the exposure switch.

Focusing cup; grid

What is the filament current?

The current used to the heat the cathode to the operating temperature

At low filament current, there is no _____ ____ because the filament does not get hot enough for the thermionic emission.

Tube current

The x-ray tube current is adjusted by controlling what?

Filament current

What is the space charge effect?

The excess of electrons or ions in a given volume

Define saturation current

Increasing the kVp does not result in a higher mA because all of the available electrons have been used. In general, it means the maximum current which can be obtained under certain conditions.

________ is not reached at lower kVp because of space charge limitation

Saturation current

Name 2 focal spot sizes


* usually made with the mA station selector on the operating console.

Large focal spot size is used for?

Used when large body parts are imaged

Small focal spot size used for?

Used when better spatial resolution is required

What is an anode?

Positive side of the x-ray tube

It conducts electricity, radiates heat and contains the target

Name 2 types of anodes


What type of anode is used in dental x-rays (some portable)?

Stationary anode

What type of anode is capable of producing high intensity x-ray beams in short time?

Rotating Anode

List 3 functions of the anode

Electrical conductor - receives electrons emitted by the cathode
Mechanical support for target
Thermal dissipator (dissipates heat)

3 most common anode materials


What is the target?

The area of the anode struck by the electrons from the cathode

Stationary anode target consists of what materials?

Tungsten alloy embedded in the copper anode

What is the target in a rotating anode tube?

The entire rotating disc is the target

What materials does high capacity x-ray tubes have layered under the Tungsten target?


Why is molybdenum and graphite used in high-capacity x-ray tubes?

Because they have lower mass density than tungsten, making the anode lighter and easier to rotate

Name 3 reasons why tungsten is the material of choice for the target

- Atomic number (high, 74)
- Thermal conductivity (nearly equal to copper, efficient for heat dissipation)
- High melting point (3400 C)

What allows the electron beams to interact with a much larger target area as opposed to stationary; and is not confined to one small spot?

Rotating anode

Heat capacity can be further improved by increasing the speed of

Anode rotation.

Most rotating anode revolve at 3,600 rpm; or up to 10,000 rpm for high-capacity tubes

What is an induction motor?

Electromagnetic induction motor used to turn the anode.

What is the outside enclosure of the induction motor?


Consists of a series of electromagnets, equally spaced around the neck of the tube

What is the inside enclosure of the induction motor?


Shaft made of bars of copper and soft iron fabricated into one mass

What is coast time?

"coasting to rest" after use.

In a new x-ray tube, the cost time is approximately 60s

With age, what happens to the coast time?

The coast time is reduced because of wear of the rotor bearings

What is the line-focus principle?

Results in an effective focal spot size smaller than actual focal spot by angling the target

What is the actual x-ray source?

Focal spot

Diagnostic x-ray tubes have target angles that vary from approx. _____ degrees.

5-20 degrees

Define the heel effect

Intensity of x-rays that are emitted through the "heel" of the target is reduced because they have longer path through the target, and therefore increased absorption

The smaller the anode ____, the larger is the heel effect


What is the source of electrons?


In the useful beam, what is the imaginary line generated by the centermost x-ray in the beam?

Central ray

Central ray = 100%
Intensity on cathode side = 120%
Intensity on anode side = 75%

Define off-focus radiation

X-ray created in areas outside the actual focal spot

The use of a _____ doesn't reduce off focus radiation


How is the x-ray tube life extended?

By using minimum radiographic factors of mA, kVp, and exposure time appropriate for each exam

Heat is generated in the ____ during exposure


Must be dissipated for it to continue

List 3 ways heat is dissipated


What is the transfer of heat by emission on infrared radiation?


* most of the heat is dissipated by radiation during exposure

What is the transfer of energy from one area of an object to another?


What is the transfer of heat by the movement of a heated substance from one place to another?


Define open filament

With excessive heat of the filament, the filament wire becomes thinner and eventually breaks

List the 3 types of x-ray tube rating charts

Radiologic radiation chart
Anode cooling chart
Housing cooling chart

Which chart is most important because it conveys which technique is safe to use and which is not?

Radiologic radiation chart

* combination of kVp and time that lie below the mA curve is safe

The thermal capacity of an anode and its heat dissipation characteristics are contained in which rating chart?

Anode cooling chart

* also used to determine length of time required for complete cooling after high-heat input

What does a housing cooling chart tell you?

Complete cooling required for the x-ray tube housing

* after maximum heat capacity, requires 1-2 hours, and twice that amount of time without fan-powered air circulation.

What is the measure for thermal energy?

Heat units (HU)

Size of the x-ray tube window


Higher tube currents and shorter exposure times are possible with what?

Rotating anode

What is the formula for heat units?

1 kVp x 1 mA x 1 s

What is the HU formula for a single phase?

kVp x mA x s

What is the HU formula for a 3-phase/high-frequency?

1.4 x kVp x mA x s

What is the area being bombarded by the filament electrons?

The actual focal spot

What is the effective focal spot?

The origin of the x-ray beam and is the area as seen from the patient's perspective

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