• The Micro-X Rover is bringing mobile x-rays to field hospitals and humanitarian missions. (Credit: Micro-X)
    The Micro-X Rover is bringing mobile x-rays to field hospitals and humanitarian missions. (Credit: Micro-X)

Adelaide company Micro-X was one of the recently announced Land Forces 2021 National Innovation Award winners.

The company won the award for inventing and manufacturing Rover, a lightweight go-anywhere X-ray machine ruggedised and optimised for high intensity use in field hospitals and remote locations.

According to the company, prior to the Rover’s development, only small-animal veterinary x-rays units were light enough to be deployed by military forces, as “conventional, hospital-grade mobile x-ray machines are heavy (typically 400 to 600 kilograms), power hungry and very hard to move around on uneven surfaces."

“Defence was looking for ways to bring the standard of deployable imaging up to that of first-tier acute hospitals and in 2016 we were contracted to see if our unique CNT x-ray technology could achieve this,” Peter Rowland, Micro-X Managing Director, said. “The tests were completely successful, and we showed that we could meet all the general radiology needs of a NATO Role 3 deployed medical facility.

“Product development followed trials at Enoggera Barracks in Queensland and with the US Army at Fort Detrick in Maryland we released Rover in 2020.

“Now we are under contract to supply Rover into the ADF’s new deployable medical facility as part of JP2060 – Phase 3 and the World Health Organisation has also bought Rovers for use in Pacific nations.

“We have FDA clearance and now our sights are on selling to other armed forces’ deployable hospitals, particularly the US where we will be conducting evaluation trials on bases later this year.”

Rover weighs 95 kilograms, operates for 10 hours with a five-kilogram battery pack, has a high ground clearance and is ruggedised for military use. It uses materials science designed to improve weight and performance, such as X-ray shielding using a tungsten filled polymer instead of lead, and a carbon fibre monocoque chassis. 

The patented technology that makes Rover possible is inside the 1.5-kilogram x-ray tube which replaces a conventional x-ray tube weighing more than 20 kilograms. 

Traditional x-ray tubes use a hot filament, like an old-fashioned light bulb, to generate the electron stream needed to make x-rays. But Micro-X’s technology applies voltage to an emitter made from Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) to generate the stream of electrons instead, more like a LED, which is reportedly more energy efficient and longer-lasting.

In addition to being much lighter, the devices produce a beam that can be controlled instantly and precisely by adjusting the voltage.

The award will be presented to Micro-X at Land Forces Brisbane expo which runs from 1-3 June 2021 along with the other winners in the Innovation Awards series.

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