The Betatron is one type of circular Electron Accelerator. It operates on the design principle of capturing electrons injected into a glass x-ray tube and increasing their energy by accelerating them before focusing the stream of electrons onto a target material producing x-rays in the energy range of 2.5 Mev to 12 Mev. The principle of electron capture in a circular orbit is achieved by a simple transformer action. The accelerator electro magnet forms the primary current winding, this produces an accelerating magnetic field that drives the electron beam to rotate within the vacuum chamber of the glass x-ray tube. The electron beam is basically the secondary current winding when compared to a transformer. The capture and control of the electrons in a controlled orbit is achieved by specially shaped pole pieces.
The Betatron was developed commercially in the late 1940’s and had commercial success until the mid 1960’s when improved technology replaced it with linear accelerators which produced a much higher x-ray dose compared to a Betatron.
Linear accelerators cost twice as much as a Betatron and require a special dedicated building to safely shield and operate them from, this makes them commercially unviable for small businesses.
The Betatron was not quite finished commercially and during the 1980’s, the x-ray dose and energy range available steadily improved, this made the Betatron more suitable and cost effective for industrial Radiography when compared to traditional Gamma Radiography methods.
The Betatron has developed steadily ever since to evolve into new markets such as cargo security scanning, computed tomography and many more uses yet to be defined.
A Betatron typically surpasses Gamma Radiography producing detailed, sharp radio-graphs in a fraction of the time. A standard Gamma x-ray bay requires minimal shielding improvements to run a Betatron at 6 Mev. This removes the cost of building an expensive dedicated building in addition to the purchase price of your Betatron.
Compared with linear accelerators the Betatron wins every time when high dose levels are not as critical as Betatrons produce typically 100 times less dose than a linear accelerator.
In comparison to a linear accelerator a Betatron has few moving parts, requires no water cooling, no complex vacuum system, is easily mobile, weighs much less and is 50% cheaper. It can also run from single or three phase standard power supplies.
The final and most important advantage is that they cost much less to run and maintain with quick cost effective x-ray tube changes.
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