X-rays are electromagnetic radiations that fall within the frequency range of 30 EHz – 30 PHz. They have a wavelength ranging from 0.01 nanometres to 10 nanometres. In the electromagnetic spectrum, X-rays are located between ultraviolet light and gamma rays. X-rays are broadly classified into soft X-rays and hard X-rays. Hard X-rays have wavelengths of about 100 picometers, while soft X-rays have relatively shorter wavelengths of about 10 nanometers. X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röentgen, a professor at Würzburg University in Germany. X-rays are produced by accelerating electrons and directing them towards a target. On hitting the target, the electrons decelerate, thereby converting a major portion of the energy into heat and the rest portion into x-rays.
Uses of X-Rays
1. Medical Imaging
X-rays can penetrate through the flesh and the bones very easily. This property of X-rays is utilized by the medical industry to obtain images of the bones and internal organs, thereby helping the medical professionals to detect broken bones, the presence of foreign particles, and diseased organs with great ease. CT or computed tomography also makes use of multiple X-rays to provide a 3-dimensional view of the internal organs.
One of the major applications of x-rays can be seen in airport security systems. These security systems make use of X-rays to scan the contents present inside a suitcase without opening it. Some of the high-security places also perform the full-body scan with the help of X-rays to ensure safety and detect the presence of harmful substances.
3. Radiation Therapy
X-rays play a very important role in radiation therapy, i.e., in the treatment of cancer. The cancerous cells present in the body are exposed to X-rays. The high energy possessed by the X-rays helps in the destruction of the infected cells. The only side effect of using X-rays in radiation therapy is that it may also harm healthy cells and tissues, which is highly undesirable. Hence, X-rays must be used with utmost caution to avoid any injury or mishap.
4. Checking Authenticity of Art Pieces
X-rays are used by historians to determine the originality or authenticity of an art piece. A beam of X-ray is used to scan a picture to check if the picture has been painted on top of another. This helps to eliminate the piracy of historic pictures and art pieces.
5. Engineering Applications
X-rays are used in numerous engineering applications. They help the engineers and builders locate the flaws and cracks present in a building. The ability of X-rays to penetrate through rigid surfaces easily is used to get an insight into the internal structure of metal without destroying its original structure.
X-rays are used in a number of industries including the chemical industry, food industry, medical industry, communication industry, etc. One of the major applications of X-rays in the automobile industry lies in detecting defects in motor tires. They are also used to determine the presence of pearls in oysters.
7. Research and Development
The research and development domain also makes use of X-rays. These radiations are used to study the structure and properties of atoms of an element. It also helps to study the composition of crystals. Also, the arrangement and behaviour of molecules of a compound can be observed easily with the help of X-rays.
X-rays are widely used in astronomy. To get a better and enhanced view of the stars and other celestial objects, X-ray telescopes are used. They also help the physicists study the behaviour of black holes as the supermassive black holes located in the middle of spiral galaxies tend to emit X-rays as they absorb stars and gas clouds. X-rays are also used to get a clear inside view of a meteor without destroying its original shape and structure.
9. Criminal Investigation Centres
X-rays are used by the detectives and the police department officials to detect the presence of illicit substances such as explosive drugs, etc. They are also used to locate metals like silver, gold, etc., by performing an X-ray scan of the smuggler’s body and baggage. X-rays are also used to differentiate between the real and the fake diamonds.
X-rays are used in crystallography to obtain an accurate 3-dimensional impression of the molecular structure of a crystal. These radiations are also used in X-ray diffraction and in spectroscopy.