In some much-needed innovation a Swedish company has taken inspiration from an advanced technique used for miniaturising space hardware to make a visit to the dentist a little more comfortable.
The tiny new high-resolution X-ray camera captures pictures that are dramatically more detailed and with higher contrast than the conventional X-ray machines widely used.
The heart of the camera is a tiny 'structured scintillator' device that converts X-rays to visible light. The camera was designed by Scint-X and the scintillator was built by Swedish company Nanospace.
In fact, the production technology has already been used by Nanospace to cut the world's smallest rocket motor out of silicon wafers.
"Our scintillator uses a specially structured silicon substrate and with this unique and patented manufacturing technique we can obtain substantially higher resolution than what is on the market today," explained Per Wiklund of Scint-X.
The X-ray unit inserted into the patient's mouth is much thinner than today's models, making the procedure more comfortable.
Scint-X's innovative technology also has potential for use in space. The Swedish Space Corporation is planning to use the camera aboard a rocket in May 2011 by ESA.
"Our camera provides a resolution that is better than five microns and will be used to study the melting and solidification of metals when producing exotic materials in weightlessness," explained Wiklund.