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What Has X Ray Vision And Stops Car Crashes?

What Has X Ray Vision And Stops Car Crashes?

In fairy tales, pixies are lighter than air. Not the one at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Los Alamos PIXY is a pulsed intense X-ray facility that can pump X-rays through 12 inches of solid steel. Its cold war function was to test the strength of tanks. Now, Los Alamos is making the $7.5 million facility available to car makers for crash testing. PIXY can see right through a car, showing the deformation of the engine block and frame in midcrash. Because PIXY's laser pulses are so brief, they can grab time slices as short as 50 billionths of a second, eliminating blur.

Computer simulations are widely used today to test crash-worthiness because real-life crashes can cost $500,000 and up. PIXY captures information that helps calibrate simulations to make them more true to life. One drawback: The X-ray pulse takes so much energy that it's only possible to capture a single still image per crash. Still, Los Alamos says one auto maker has already expressed interest in PIXY.