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The Shadowgraph Image
A radiograph is essentially a shadow picture produced through point source illumination of an
object. The geometric laws of shadow formation hold for both light and X-rays are illustrated

Fig. 1 The geometric laws of shadow formation are illustrated with a point source of illumination
and an opaque circular object casting its shadow onto a plane.
The circular object and the image plane are parallel for cases (a) and (b) in Fig. 1. Therefore, the
shadow cast by the disc is circular and both shadows have the same diameter. However, in case (c)
all parts of the disc are not equidistant from the image plane. Thus, different parts are magnified to a
different degree, resulting in distortion. In a more complex object this may appear as an elongation,
foreshortening or displacement of object features in the resultant image.
The shadow cast by an object will naturally show some enlargement. The degree of enlargement or
magnification will vary according to the relative distances of the point source to the imaging plane,
(SH = a + b), and from the point source to the object (SH - Z = a), and may be stated quantitatively,
as follows
b a
size Object
size age
ion Magnificat Geometric

= =

However, a physical point source has finite size. The
resultant practical shadowgraph images are thus not
perfectly crisp. This effect is termed geometric
unsharpness, UG, and may cause the loss of image
detail. This is shown in the adjacent Figure 2.
Illustration of geometric unsharpness, UG, shows
the region of total cut off (umbra) and the
intermediate region (penumbra) due to a finite point
source size.
Geometric unsharpness, UG, can be
expressed quantitatively as a function of the
size of the focal spot, f, as:
f U


f = X-ray focal-spot size
a = distance from X-ray source to front surface of object
b = distance from the object to the detector

Geometric Magnification (finite focal spot)
The magnification in an X-ray image that occurs when an X-ray source is employed has to take into
account the finite area of the focal spot.

The image magnification will be increased by a small amount however; it will also exhibit a more
diffuse edge due to the penumbra present.
The magnification is given by:
M = [(a + b)/a] + {[(a + b)/a] - 1} (f/c)
where f is the diameter of the focal area.
Unsharpness refers to the blurring of sharp borders in an image. As such the concept can be
applied to other stages in the imaging process in which blurring of edges or detailed structure may
occur. The terminology of unsharpness is also applied to an effect attributable to the shape of a
structure on the visibility of its borders in an X-ray image. This is called absorption or structural
shape unsharpness. A textbook example of this effect is shown in the following diagram.

Fig. 3 Illustration of the origin of structural unsharpness.
The plot shown in Fig 3 is the comparison of the grey level or density trace obtained from an X-ray
image of (a) truncated focused cone, (b) cube, and (c) sphere, all of which are homogeneous in
nature. The truncated cone of case (a) is special, in that its projected apex will occur at the point
source and is therefore a rather contrived example. However, it serves to illustrate the differences in
edge information produced by shape by displaying crisp (step function) boundary information in the
grey level trace, whilst the cube and sphere display a gradual change in attenuation of the X-ray
beam. The terminology of unsharpness applied to this effect is something of a misnomer, as it is not
a deficiency in technique, and is a natural consequence of using transmitted radiation to produce a
shadow graph image.
Techniques based on the utilisation of X-ray film have been the traditional method of obtaining
radiographic images. The X-ray film is supported in a cassette beneath the object under inspection
and irradiated by a cone of X-rays derived from a point X-ray source, as shown in the following

Fig. 4 Film based X-ray system
X-ray film is a photographic film consisting of a radiation-sensitive (silver halide) emulsion layer
on one or both sides of a transparent plastic sheet or base. All photographic emulsions have some
degree of sensitivity to light, X-rays and gamma rays. Two basic classes of X-ray film are available.
Those designed to be particularly sensitive to direct exposure to X-rays and those made sensitive to
the light from intensifying screens. The disadvantage of direct exposure (non-screen) film is an
increase in exposure time necessary; the advantage is increased image resolution due to the lack of
intensifier screen unsharpness. The latent image formed when the X-ray film is exposed is required
to be developed through a wet chemical process. This amplifies the latent image formed by the
exposure of the film by a factor of the order of 10
, so that a visible image is produced. Radiographs
obtained using film are usually viewed as a transparency because greater variations in tonal range or
density can be recorded than with a normal photographic print.
The amount of radiation scattered on to a film (or any two-dimensional X-ray sensor) increases with
the volume of the object under examination, thus reducing the contrast of the resultant image. A
significant reduction in scatter may be achieved through the use of a radiographic grid. The first
grid was designed by Bucky in 1913. A number of different grids have been developed over the
years. The basic principle employed in a grid is shown in the following diagram.


Fig. 5 Function of a radiographic grid.
The X-ray opaque grid strips (typically lead foil 0.05mm), are separated by a relatively X-ray
transparent material (aluminium, plastic). To remove the unwanted grid shadows a reciprocating
motion is often used. However, a more efficient method is 'moving slit radiography', in which one
or more collimated beams are made to traverse the object in synchronism with a matching
secondary collimator positioned between the object and the film plane as shown in the following

Fig. 6 Moving slit radiography.
The concept of combining 'slit' collimation and relative movement to greatly reduce scatter and
produce an image of increased contrast ratio, is similar in principle to that employed in linear array
Roentgen discovered X-rays because of their ability to cause fluorescence. A basic fluoroscope
consists of two essential components, an X-ray source and a fluoroscopic screen. The X-ray image
may be viewed directly using a mirror to avoid radiation exposure to the observer. However the
images are rather dim and modern systems often incorporate a low light level video camera to
increase the image brightness and contrast, see Fig. 7(a). This technique can be improved further by
incorporating a radiological image intensifier which can be directly coupled to the video camera,
see Fig. 7(b).

Fig. 7 Fluoroscopic X-ray systems, (a) open conversion screen and (b) image intensifier system.
A radiological image intensifier converts an X-ray image into a light image which can be several
thousands of times brighter than those obtained with a conventional open conversion screen. The
intensifier consists of a fluorescent input screen and photocathode, electrostatic lens, accelerating
anode and output fluorescent screen. The input screen absorbs X-ray photons and converts their
energy into light photons which strike a photocathode causing it to emit electrons which are
accelerated away by a high potential anode and focused onto an output fluorescent screen by an
electrostatic lens. Limitations in the electron focusing can produce unequal crossfield magnification
which results in:
♦ geometric distortion of the peripheral image;
♦ reduction in the brightness of the peripheral image (vignetting).
These effects generally become more apparent with increasing input field size (typically 16cm to
32cm). A very important aspect of this technique is its ability to produce 'real time' images of a
dynamic scene.
Linear detector array
Linear X-ray detector arrays consist of a line of discrete semiconductor photodiodes optically
coupled to a strip of scintillation material which is illuminated by a collimated X-ray beam. The
image is formed by cyclically storing the individual signal outputs of each photodiode in digital
memory, during a relative translation of the object under inspection and the detector array.
Therefore, the image is accumulated strip by strip over a time interval determined by the scan
frequency of the photodiodes and the translation speed of the object. The contrast of each 'strip'
image is increased by using a slit collimated X-ray beam greatly to reduce radiation scatter, see the
following diagram.


Fig. 8 Slit collimation of an X-ray beam for use with a linear detector.
The image data is used to produce a standard video signal for display on a video monitor. The
images produced by this technique, are however, fundamentally different from cone beam
projection images. This is because image 'distortions' occurring along the main axis of the linear
array differ from those in the motion axis (i.e. the axis generated by relative movement). This can be
appreciated from the following diagram, which illustrates the region of object space projected onto
an image plane by the two techniques.

Fig. 9 Illustration of the central projection of (a) conic beam, and (b) the combination of parallel (x-
axis) and central projection (y-axis) in a linear array system.
This technique is widely used for routine security X-ray screening at airports as well as the
inspection of food during the manufacturing process and many mass produced items such as
machine parts, etc. The object under inspection is translated by a conveyor belt through an
inspection tunnel in which a collimated curtain of X-rays is arranged at 90° with respect to the
object motion, and illuminates a linear X-ray detector positioned below the conveyor belt, as shown
in Fig. 10. The image signal is usually detected with a strip of scintillation material optically
coupled to a linear photodiode array, as described previously, although the phosphor can be directly
coupled to the photodiodes. Fibre optic image guides or image intensifiers can also be installed
between them as a further option.


Fig. 10 Linear X-ray detector array based screening system.

The important features associated with this technique are presented in the following text.
♦ Image contrast may be increased, due to the reduction in radiation scatter. This is achieved
as only a thin section of the object is irradiated at a given time in the image production.
♦ Correction for the variation in illumination along the main axis of the linear array, is a one
dimensional correction as opposed to a two-dimensional correction necessary for a large
area screen. The correction usually takes the form of normalising the output of each photo
site on the linear array for both dark current and peak output, before the signals are stored in
digital memory.
♦ The amount of radiant power per inspection can be reduced, in turn reducing the amount and
cost of radiological shielding necessary.
♦ The speed of image acquisition and display is very high. Images may be displayed on a
video monitor as the object under inspection traverses the field of view of the linear detector
♦ Linear array systems are not suitable for capturing dynamic events, and require the object to
have no component of movement during the image acquisition process, other than the
induced relative motion.