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Radiation Safety Training Module
Radiographic Sciences and Analytical X-ray Machines
Study Guide
ISU Technical Safety Office, Campus Box 8106
Pocatello, ID 83209
(208) 282-2311/2310

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Concepts in radiation physics

Atomic structure

The basic particles of the atom:
  • Protons
  • Neutrons
  • Electrons
Only certain combinations of neutrons and protons in the nucleus result in stable atoms;  unstable atoms will emit particles or energy to become stable and are referred to as radioactive.

Types of radiation
Radiation is classified as either ionizing or non-ionizing. Ionization occurs when enough energy is supplied to an atom and an electron is removed from the atom.  The resulting atom will have a positive charge. Non-ionizing radiation includes radiant heat, radio waves, ultraviolet radiation, and light.

 
Common ionizing radiation includes:
  • Alpha particles
  • Beta particles
  • Photons (gamma rays and x-rays)
  • Neutrons

Only x-rays from radiation producing devices are discussed here.


X-ray radiation

X-rays are generated when energetic electrons strike a target. They result from shell transitions of orbital electrons in the target.  They are also formed from the deceleration of electrons interacting with matter (this is known as bremsstrahlung).

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