Introduction: Homemade Xray Machine

Picture of Homemade Xray Machine


I'd like to Show you my latest project, a homemade xray machine.

But before I start I have to point out, that xrays are really dangerous! To protect my enviroment, I use plenty of lead. So if you handle with xrays be careful and protect everyone...

Some interesting links:

Step 1: High Voltage Power Supply

Picture of High Voltage Power Supply

To produce xrays using a simple vacuum rectifier tube you'll need a high voltage power supply. I use the popular ZVS-circuit, an AC-flyback transformer and a cascade, to increase the Output-voltage up to 50-60 kV. For the cascade I took 10nF/20kV capacitors and 20kV/5mA diodes. You'll also need a powerful transformer (f.e. a 12V/250VA like mine).

Step 2: The Xray Tube

Picture of The Xray Tube

You can use several vacuum tubes for producing xrays. In my case I use 2x2a recitier. Of cource you can take real xray tubes f.e. from a dentist too. They are offered on ebay for less than 80 USD.

Step 3: The Housing

Picture of The Housing

To protect everyone from the xrays you have to put the vacuum tube in a safe housing. My housing is made of Wood with 3 layers of lead at the outside. Only through a small window covered with thin aluminum foil the xrays can go out.

Step 4: The Photographic Xray Film

Picture of The Photographic Xray Film

To see the xrays you'll need a xray box. Inside there is a xray sensitive foil, which converts the xrays into visible light (f.e. green light). This foil is placed behind the object you want to shine through.

Step 5: The Whole Setup and the First Test

Picture of The Whole Setup and the First Test

As you can see in the circuit, the xray tube is connected to the high voltage. To Limit the current, there should be a 2.2 MOhm resistor (10 W/40kV-type). The Output voltage is being measured with an ammeter and a 1 GOhm resistor. Therefore 1 µA corresponds to 1 kV. The current through the vacuum tube can be read from a 5mA ammeter.

To get the pictures a camera is located behind the xray-foil. I use the 10s-self-timer and 30" exposure. In the mean time I run out of the room and switch on the power with my remote control. Within the 30 seconds I switch on and off 3-4 times to prevent overheating of the vacuum tube and arcs.

Step 6: The Results

Picture of The Results

Maybe you want to take a look at my YouTube-channel:

Here's the video:

Thank's for watching and stay curious ;-)


Kiteman (author)2016-03-03

It would be nice to see some data on the dosages received by users and passers-by...

AirbourneNation (author)Kiteman2016-03-19

He said he uses plenty of lead, which is good for stopping/dampening radioactivity.

Kiteman (author)AirbourneNation2016-03-19

Define "plenty".

Depending on the exact energy of the X-rays, the bare minimum thickness of the lead required varies by a factor of around 200.

Let's be clear here, I am not against the hobbyist building X-ray machines, but they really need to know what they are doing, and if they are going to share what they are doing then it's kind of important that they help their readers to not make their neighbourhood glow in the dark.

stoppi71 (author)Kiteman2016-03-19

Hi Kiteman!

I totally unterstand your point of view. I've taken a look at the absorption coefficient of lead. You're right, that this value changes from 10² cm²/g for 10 keV to 0.1 cm²/g for 1 MeV energies. I suppose an energy of 50 keV, which means a value of 5 cm²/g. With the density of lead (11.3 g/cm³) you get an extinction-coefficient µ = 56 cm^-1.

For 50 keV x-rays the formula for the intensity is: I = I0 * e^-(56 * x [in cm])

So a thickness of 3 mm reduces the intensity to just 4.4 * 10^-6 percent! I use 6 mm lead just around the tube housing. Therefore the absorption is around 1.94 * 10^-13 percent. In front of the housing there are additional lead-plates (3 mm thickness) to avoid any danger or risk ;-)

Kiteman (author)stoppi712016-03-19

But how energetic are your X-rays? You don't specify an energy or a particular tube.

stoppi71 (author)Kiteman2016-03-20

Hi once again!

As I wrote I suppose an energy of about 50 keV. The output voltage of my multiplier should be in that region (flyback 5 kV + 10x Multiplier).

Kiteman (author)stoppi712016-03-20

As you said, suppose. The energy of the X-rays depends also on the nature of the anode, and if your readers don't buy the same anode as you used, how will they know what they are producing?

stoppi71 (author)Kiteman2016-03-20

The shortest wavelength of the xrays only depends on the voltage. And when you accellerate the electrons with 50 kV, the produced xrays won't get over 50 keV. The characteristic xray-lines aren't important for the highest possible energy. Therefore the Material of the Anode isn't really important, as long as the thickness of the lead is calculated for the maximum of the energy.

stoppi71 (author)stoppi712016-03-20

And for the lower energetic characteristic lines the absorbance coefficient will be higher too. So their increased intensity will be compensated by the higher absorbance.

AirbourneNation (author)Kiteman2016-03-19

200 what?

Kiteman (author)AirbourneNation2016-03-19

A factor of 200.

Two hundred times.

If you can't do such basic maths, you're never going to be safe trying projects like this.

AirbourneNation (author)Kiteman2016-03-19

I meant measurement units, like meters and such.

EthanJ39 (author)2017-11-02


About how many watts does this use?


EslamA14 (author)2017-10-17

how i can to make the output high voltage variable

tkalfaoglu (author)2017-05-05

Guys I put 900 kohm resistors after the cascade output to reduce the crazy current, and I get a nice blue glow from the tube. I put 6 resistors: 3 in series and 2 in parallel, that is, they are two by two attached to each other. each is 1 watt, but they keep sparking even under oil. And they develop these black spots on them! What shall I do?

stoppi71 (author)tkalfaoglu2017-05-07

You have to take a lot more resistors in series. I use 100 1/4-Watt resistors...

tkalfaoglu (author)stoppi712017-05-11

Many thanks! I didn't realize I needed so many resistors! Do you have a photo that shows how it should look?

tkalfaoglu (author)tkalfaoglu2017-05-05

PS -- the resistors are all 1 watt. Together they create about 900K ohm.

tkalfaoglu (author)2017-04-28

is your tub oil filled?

stoppi71 (author)tkalfaoglu2017-04-29

No, it's a normal 2X2-vacuum-tube

tkalfaoglu (author)stoppi712017-05-05

I meant the plastic container where the cascade is..

Seems impossible to do this in air..

stoppi71 (author)tkalfaoglu2017-05-07

Do you mean the great plastic container where everything is housed? There's no oil... In air you have to take care of right dimensions (great enough distances between the parts).

mr electro (author)2016-03-02

It would be interesting if you would go into more detail about the x-ray box construction. One idea I would consider is to take the phosphors out of a broken fluorescent light tube (the white powder that is painted on the inside) and deposit them onto a piece of clear plastic or glass. You would then have a fluoroscope where you could remotely view subjects in real time with a camera on your computer screen.

stoppi71 (author)mr electro2016-03-03


To extract the Phosphors is more complicated and not the healthiest way. You just have to buy such a xray photographic Cassette

and take out the xray-sensitive film.

tkalfaoglu (author)stoppi712017-05-06

There are also Scintillation Screens that you could get.. They apparently glow when xray hits them.. like here:

tkalfaoglu (author)2017-05-01

For those not wanting to bother with the ZVS creation, there is this nasty beast as well:
lots of volts and amps :)

tkalfaoglu (author)2017-04-28

Guys, I need some expert advice, I'm afraid of blowing up my circuit.
I have a ZVS that works well, a reliable DC power supply and I just added a Cockroft/Walton that works. I only have a little bit left to do:
The Cockroft/Walton needs a GROUND IN.. Do I connect it to the V- of the power supply? (The power supply also has a ground connector I can connect it there too)? Many thanks for any input.

stoppi71 (author)tkalfaoglu2017-04-29

Hi! I have connected the minus-pole of the cockraft-walton (where you've written IN) to ground of the socket. If your power supply has a separate (green) ground-connector (I don't mean the black V- of the power supply) then you can use that... Therefore your sketch with the ground-symbols at the power-supply and the voltage-multipler is right ;-)

Good luck, Christoph

tkalfaoglu (author)2017-04-25

Where did you find the 2.2MΩ 10W resistor?

stoppi71 (author)tkalfaoglu2017-04-26

Hi! I've soldered many 1/4W-resistors in series ;-)

DenisB89 (author)2017-01-22

I have no clue what the "xray box" is and google is not really helpful. Can somebody explain what is needed to make the images (besides the x-ray source)? I.e. what exactly to get (film, screen, etc), where to get it and what's the process?

stoppi71 (author)DenisB892017-01-24

you'll need such a xray-cassette:

DenisB89 (author)stoppi712017-01-24

That helped, thanks!

b_said (author)2016-10-29

Also, what do you use to heat the filament in this design?

stoppi71 (author)b_said2016-10-30


The 2x2 tube, which I use, isn't a real xray tube. Therefore it doesn't have a filament. You just have to apply the high voltage between the top-pin and the short-circuited bottom Pins.

Concerning the circuit diagram: It's just the ZVS-circuit, followed by the cascade. Behind the cascade I use a 2 MOhm high-voltage-resistor and to measure the Output voltage with am ammeter (100 µA) you Need a 1 Gigaohm resistor before the ammeter to get the relation 1 µA = 1 kV ;-)

b_said (author)2016-10-23

Could you please show a complete circuit diagram of everything connected?

petersoldan (author)2016-09-15

thank you for providing this.

silverplato11 (author)2016-03-04

Is this safe?

"But before I start I have to point out, that xrays are really dangerous!" RTFM!

Kiteman (author)AirbourneNation2016-03-19

How about a slightly different question:

If you follow these instructions, is this safe?

Wrrr 10-G (author)2016-03-10

Wow.. flabbergasted by the in-depth way you are dealing with this interesting but potentially dangerous subject: very nice. Your portfolio of home-builds-physics-projects is humbling. Do you know Ben Krasnow's "Applied Science" channel on youtube?
Keep up the good work, and letting us 'peek along' ;)

stoppi71 (author)Wrrr 10-G2016-03-10

Thank's Wrrr 10-G for your kind words ;-) Yes, I know Ben's channel. I reconstructed his µg-scale to weigh an eyelash.

Greetings from Austria, stoppi

николайм (author)2016-03-04

никто не пробывал вместо флуоресцента сканер поставить?

HoppyH1 (author)2016-03-03

Back in the late '60s I learned to make an X-Ray machine using an original 01A vacuum tube and an old model T ignition coil. The vacuum tube had aluminum foil placed over the top and that was connected to B+ while the filament and cathode was the B-. Because it used aluminum foil and not lead foil it only produced soft X-Rays but it worked. I don't have the kids science book any more but I am sure if you look for it you will find one in an old book store

stoppi71 (author)HoppyH12016-03-03

Thank's for that story, hoppyH1. Good old days, when people had to be more creative ;-)

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-03

X-rays you say? I am interested in building with 10,000 volts and 2 ma from Prolab a special transformer and attaching it to a light bulb. One side would be the light and the other would be aluminum foil to produce x-rays. I want to test them on bacteria cultures.

stoppi71 (author)2016-03-03

thank's ;-)

wold630 (author)2016-03-02

What do you use it for?

stoppi71 (author)wold6302016-03-03

Most of my Projects follow the saying "L'art pour l'art " or in other words "the route is the goal". So I just try to realize it as simple as possible and avoiding commercial Solutions. On the other Hand I can use them for my pupils in the context of Thesis.

ThomasK19 (author)wold6302016-03-02

Obviously to x-ray things like the Sony tablet and the remote control as can be seen in the last step.

I already got my portion of x-ray and am not keen to share Mdm. Curie's fate.

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