A study of a 2 kJ, 200 kA, table top plasma focus device as an intense x-ray source is reported. The x-ray yield from a number of gases, (deuterium, nitrogen, neon, argon, and xenon) is measured as a function of filling pressure and in neon as a function of anode length. In gases with Z≪18, the plasma implodes to form a uniform cylindrical column, whereas for Z≥18, the plasma consists of a number of hot spots. A maximum x-ray yield of 16.6 J and pulse length of 10–15 ns was obtained in neon. The x-ray emission was established to be due to H- and He-like line radiation. The temperature estimated from spectroscopic observations was about 300–400 eV at an electron density of (3–5)×1020 cm-3 in neon. At low pressures in neon, hard x-ray radiation, presumably due to electron beams was dominant. Mesh images of different wire materials were recorded at the optimum pressure in neon as a proof of principle for x-ray backlighting. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.