Producing X-rays inside small devices is normally difficult because of high power electronics and vacuum tubes involved. Engineers at University of Missouri have developed a brand new way of generating X-rays using the piezolectric effect. It involves exciting a lithium niobate crystal using 10 volts of electricity and then releasing bursts of 100,000 volts of output that are converted into X-ray flashes.
The team believes that this technology may provide the opportunity for poorer regions of the world to have access to small and cheap X-ray devices, be a safer alternative in certain situations where medical radioisotopes are used, and maybe even lead to new dental X-ray scanners that are placed inside the mouth to fire the radiation outward.
Some more details behind the technology from the study abstract:
A mass of crystalline piezoelectric material is used to convert a low-voltage input electrical signal into a high-voltage output signal by storing energy in alongitudinally vibrating mechanical wave. Output energy is extracted in the form of a high-voltage electron beam using a field-emission diode mounted on the surface of the crystal. The electron beam produces X-rays via bremsstrahlung interactions with a metallic surface
Paper in IEEE Transaction on Plasma Science: Investigation of the Piezoelectric Effect as a Means to Generate X-Rays