What are the Properties of X-Ray


X-ray has a long history and it was back in the 18th century when Sir William Morgan unknowingly produced X-ray while conducting one of his experiments. Then, Professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen made the most important discovery striking and outstanding the property of cathode ray. So, the discovery of X-rays is credited to WC Roentgen in 1895.

X-rays form part of the electromagnetic spectrum and the properties they possess make them a very useful component in the field of medicine. X-rays not just help in diagnosing diseases but the high energy X-rays are used to treat cancers. However, X-rays are to be used with safety measures and precautions as they can be equally harmful.

Dental X-ray machine

Properties of X-Rays

The X-rays are a weightless package that carries energy (Photon) and they are said to be traveling in waves along straight lines. They have specific frequency and speeds while they travel. Below, we discuss the different properties of X-rays, which are categorized into four types – Physical, Chemical, Biological, and Physiochemical.

Physical Properties of X-ray

  • X-rays are electromagnetic radiations that have a wavelength between 10A and 0.01A
  • The speed of X-rays is similar to the speed of light – 186000 miles per second
  • X-rays cannot be forced on a single point
  • In a free space, X-rays travel in a straight line
  • X-rays do not carry any sound or smell
  • Any magnetic or electric field cannot deflect, reflect or refract the X-ray
  • The X-rays don’t require any medium for propagation
  • While traveling, the X-rays create an electric field in right angles to the path of propagation
  • In the same path of propagation, X-rays create a magnetic field at right angle to the electric field
  • X-ray possesses properties of Interference, Diffraction, and Refraction similar to visible light
  • Penetration property – The X-rays can penetrate liquids, solids, and gases and the amount of penetration depends on the quality, intensity, and the wavelength of the rays.
  • Absorption property – The X-rays can be absorbed by matter, and this depends on the anatomic structure of the matter, and wavelength of the X-rays.
  • X-ray can interact with the materials that they penetrate and cause ionization
  • Upon falling on certain materials, X-rays produce visible light and this is called Fluorescence
  • X-rays have a heating effect
  • The rays possess properties like Attenuation, Absorption, and Scattering

Chemical Properties of X-ray

  • The X-rays can induce color changes of substances in solutions when it passes through them. For example, X-ray can cause bleaching of Methylene blue.
  • X-rays produce highly active radical ions in water, and this leads to chemical changes in the solution it passes through.

Biological Properties of X-ray

  • X-rays have germicidal or bactericidal effect
  • The excitation property that is possessed by these X-rays is used in the treatment of malignant lesions and tumors
  • The biological effects of the X-rays can be classified into Somatic and Genetic effects
  • X-ray can cause biological changes in living things

Physiochemical Properties of X-ray

  • The photographic film or paper, when exposed to X-ray and then developed, will be found blackened
  • The degree of blackening depends on the amount of radiation, quality of radiation, characteristic of the film, age and concentration of the developing solution, length of developing time, and use of intensifying screens
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