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  • Forms of Radiation

    Posted on May 21st, 2009 Vadim 2 comments Link to post

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    Radiation takes many forms, including both electromagnetic waves and sub-nuclear particles. The electromagnetic spectrum consists of light waves ranging in length from very short (10−16 meters, or 3.937 × 10−15 inches) to very long (108 meters, or 621,400 miles). The product of the velocity of electromagnetic waves and their wavelength is a constant equal to the velocity of light, 3 × 108 meters per second (m/s); therefore, as the length of waves increases, the frequency decreases. Thus, if the waves were 1 meter(3.3 feet) long, the frequency would be 3 × 108 hertz (Hz) or 300,000,000/s (meaning 300,000,000 light waves would pass by each second). The electromagnetic spectrum consists of light waves ranging in length from very short γ (gamma) rays through x rays, ultraviolet (UV) rays, the spectrum of visible light, infrared (IR) rays, and microwaves, to very long radio and television waves.

    The shortest electromagnetic waves are classified as γ rays. One of the forms of energy emanating from natural sources of radioactivity here on Earth and also from energy sources in space, γ rays can be thought of as very short x rays. Discovered by the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, the remarkable penetrating effect of rays and x rays results from their very short wavelength (from about 10−12 to 10−8 meters, or 3.28 × 10−11 to 3.28 × 10−7 feet). The waves are so small that they can pass through many substances with little interaction. X rays pass through skin and organs with little effect but are diffracted somewhat when they pass through denser materials such as bone; the resulting pattern enables technicians to make xray images of bones and of the contents of packages in airport scanners.

    The energy of electromagnetic radiation is directly proportional to the frequency. Since both x rays and γ rays have very high frequencies, they carry large amounts of energy, and high intensities of x rays and γ rays can damage many materials (including living tissue). The rays may be focused by special lenses and used to kill cancer cells or organisms that might cause disease or hasten spoilage in food.


     

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