In the 1990s, the founders of today’s Rigaku Innovative Technologies Europe (RITE) built upon a nearly 30-year tradition of X-ray technology development at the Academy of Sciences. Having started in the basement of an apartment house, they eventually participated in the development of sample optics for an X-ray source with unique properties with researchers from Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK. It was there that later Nobelists Watson and Cricks discovered DNA structure using X-ray diffraction.
Later, when the collaboration with Cambridge came to an end, the company accepted an offer to continue evolving its capabilities within a new Czech subsidiary of Rigaku of Japan, a manufacturer of X-ray devices. This was the beginning of Rigaku Innovative Technologies Europe ten years ago. Besides RITE in Dolní Břežany just outside capital Prague, Rigaku operates research centers in Tokyo, Japan, and Detroit, Michigan.
The company not only develops new technologies but also manufactures its products in Dolní Břežany to deliver them around the world. The Czech Rigaku teams owns multiple patents. For instance, their X-ray camera boasts the highest resolution on the market, enabling to study objects half a micrometer large, which is half a millionth of a millimeter. This technology that has originated in Central Bohemia has been the absolute cutting edge in the industry for several year and the Japanese company has leveraged it in its microtomograph. The first microtomograph in Europe was installed in the city of Brno where Rigaku established a joint research lab with the Brno Technical University. The microtechnology from Břežany finds its application also in various detectors, precise radiation meters, in life sciences, nanotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry. “It allows to see inside pills to check if the substances transmute with time and to determine how thick the coating needs to be made,” Ladislav Pína explains the capabilities of his company’s product.
The Czech team that explores X-ray technologies within the Japanese company also works with a laser research center located in Břežany. They received a grant for their joint research in the form of an innovation voucher from the Central Bohemian Innovation Center (CBIC).
“Each partnership with the science and university sector is highly appreciated by the industry and grant agencies. Those who can show such connections and collaborations are regarded as high-quality projects. Joint research between the industry and academia benefits both sides. HiLASE offers equipment that we do not possess and that we could use thanks to the innovation voucher. Without it, we would not have been able to get access to such equipment. And that’s real value,” says Ladislav Pína, and applied physics expert and one of the founders of the company in Dolní Břežany. Rigaku works also with other research centers.
At HiLASE, Rigaku experts conducted research into the effects of a laser beam on functional surfaces of various materials in order to refine the surface. “This may help improve the competitiveness of our products. We will apply the experience in the development of innovative X-ray devices that will leverage such refined materials. In the research supported by the innovation voucher, we tested the effects of a laser beam on a copper part we use in our devices. “The result should be an improvement of the functional properties of its surface,” explains Ladislav Pína who also lectures at the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague.
The article was originally published in Region STAR magazine.