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A most powerful X-ray machine.

A most powerful X-ray machine

A nuclear-fission explosion produces an intense flux of X-rays. For decades, scientists and engineers interested in the effects of weaponry have used machines that make X-rays without the explosion to test the effects of bombgenerated X-rays on various objects. This month, researchers began operations of Saturn, the most powerful such X-ray simulator in the United States.

Developed at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturn is designed to produce an X-ray dose of up to 5 trillion rads per second for 15 to 20 nanoseconds, making a peak dose of 100,000 rads. This is four times the dose available in Sandia's previous X-ray simulator, according to James E. Powell, manager of the laboratory's simulation technology department.

In Saturn, 36 independent channels, arranged like spokes of a wheel (seen in top view in the illustration), amplify pulses of electric power, which are then fed to a large diode made of several concentric rings in the center of the circle. The combined power pulse generates a pulse of electrons in the diode, and these electrons strike a heavy-metal foil to produce the X-rays. Saturn as a whole is 96 feet across, and its irradiation chamber and the elevator that lifts objects into it are designed to take loads as large as an entire satellite.

In addition to simulating bomb damage, the machine will serve Sandia's research on X-ray lasers, and it could be available for other scientific research, though expensively. It costs about $70,000 a day to run.
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Title Annotation:Saturn X-ray simulator
Author:Thomsen, Dietrick E.
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 31, 1987
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