X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation which has a wavelength from about 10 nanometers to about 100 picometers. They have been made artificially by machines since 1895 and have found numerous uses including in medical imaging, astronomy, and security scanning at airports or other critical locations where security is essential. X-rays can pass through many materials but will be absorbed to a greater degree by higher-density materials such as lead or uranium. This means that x-ray beams can be used to detect these denser elements even when they are hidden behind other matter.
So, what can X Rays detect? X-ray machines are often classified according to the amount of energy they put out which is measured in kilo electron volts (keV). Very few x rays make it down to keV energies; the vast majority are in the MeV range. The most common medical x-rays operate at around 30 keV while airport security machines typically use around 150 keV.
- Medical Imaging
X-rays have been used for medical imaging since their invention over 100 years ago. The very first x-ray photograph of a human was taken in 1895 of the hand of Wilhelm Roentgen’s wife. Today, x rays are still an important tool for diagnosing many different types of illnesses and injuries. Some of the most common uses include:
- Determining the nature and extent of bone fractures
- Detecting cancerous tumors
- Seeing inside organs to look for abnormalities
X-rays are also an important tool for astronomers. By studying the x-ray emissions from different objects in space, astronomers can learn a great deal about their internal structure and composition. For example, x rays have been used to study the disks of gas and dust that surround young stars as well as the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.
- Airport Security
X-rays are commonly used in airport security to detect hidden objects on people or in their luggage. These machines use higher energy x rays than those found in medical settings to penetrate deeper into materials. This allows them to see items that might be hidden behind other objects such as clothing or luggage.
- Industrial Inspection
X-rays are also used for industrial inspection of materials. This can include things such as inspecting welds for defects, finding cracks in metal parts, or detecting foreign objects in food products.
- Dental Imaging
X-rays are an important tool for dentists for diagnosing and treating dental problems. They can be used to see inside teeth to look for cavities, infections, and other problems.
- Veterinary Imaging
X-rays are also used for veterinary imaging to diagnose and treat medical conditions in animals. This includes everything from looking for broken bones to diagnosing heart conditions.