Light - Gamma/X-Rays - 14-16

This collection of resources explores Gamma and X-Rays, suitable for ages 14-16.

About Gamma Radiation: Gamma radiation, also known as gamma rays, and denoted by the Greek letter γ, refers to electromagnetic radiation of an extremely high frequency and therefore consists of high-energy photons. Gamma rays are ionizing radiation, and are thus biologically hazardous. They are classically produced by the decay of atomic nuclei as they transition from a high energy state to a lower state known as gamma decay, but may also be produced by other processes. Paul Villard, a French chemist and physicist, discovered gamma radiation in 1900, while studying radiation emitted from radium. Villard's radiation was named "gamma rays" by Ernest Rutherford in 1903.

About X-Rays: X-radiation (composed of X-rays) is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Most X-rays have a wavelength ranging from 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz (3×10^16 Hz to 3×10^19 Hz) and energies in the range 100 eV to 100 keV. X-ray wavelengths are shorter than those of UV rays and typically longer than those of gamma rays. In many languages, X-radiation is referred to with terms meaning Röntgen radiation, after Wilhelm Röntgen, who is usually credited as its discoverer, and who had named it X-radiation to signify an unknown type of radiation.

Resources in this collection:

  • Diamond's Brilliant Light: A Catalyst article about a brilliant new light source under construction in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside - the Diamond Light Source. Diamond will be a source of synchrotron light. This article describes how this giant machine works and what it will be used for.
  • Gamma Cameras: This resource from the Institute of Physics (IOP), describes how cameras sensitive to gamma radiation can be used to image the body.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET): This resource from the Institute of Physics (IOP) includes information and activities related to Positron Emission Tomography (PET). The video describes how annihilation of electrons and positrons can be used to produce X-rays and image the body to find cancers.
  • X-Ray Imaging: This resource from the Institute of Physics (IOP), describes how X-rays can be used to image the body. The X-rays video, taken from an IOP Schools and Colleges lecture, describes how Roentgen discovered how to image using X-rays, in his lab. The lecture also describes how barium and iodine can be used to to image parts of the body, using X-rays.
  • X-Rays at work: A Catalyst article about X-rays. The medical profession does its best to avoid X-raying young people, but sometimes the benefits outweigh the hazards. The benefits go beyond discovering broken bones; X-rays have played a major part in discovering the structure of DNA. The article looks at the history of X-rays, how they are made and the hazards in using them.