Radiation is a type of energy that has the ability to travel through space. It can travel in the form of a waves, at times. This is known as electromagnetic radiation. It can travel as a beam of fast-moving particles at times. This is known as particle radiation. Radiation surrounds you everywhere throughout your life. In this article, we will discuss about the main types of radiation.
What is radiation?
Radiation is the name given to energy that travels through space. One of the most common types of radiation that delivers heat and light is sunlight. While we enjoy and rely on it, we also have control over our exposure to it. This is due to the fact that prolonged exposure to certain radiations can cause health problems, which can eventually lead to death. Higher-energy radiation exists in addition to ultraviolet radiation and is used in medicine. These radiations reach us in low doses from space, the air, the earth, and rocks. Let us look at the various types of radiation in this article.
What are the different types of radiation?
Radiation, as we all know, is energy that is emitted by a source and then travels through a medium, such as air, until it is absorbed by matter. They are classified as follows based on the energy of the radiated particles:
- Ionizing radiation
- Non-ionizing radiation
What is ionizing radiation?
Ionizing radiation is a high-energy radiation that interacts with matter and produces ions at the molecular level. In other words, it has the ability to remove tightly bound electrons from an atom’s orbit, causing the atom to become charged or ionized. If the interacting matter is a human body, significant damage can occur, including DNA damage and protein denaturation.
These types of high-energy radiation can cause cancer and even directly kill cells. That is why, when having a dental X-ray, you must wear a lead apron. The radiation in a single X-ray is not harmful! However, the radiation emitted by a large number of X-rays could be hazardous. That is why those who operate X-ray machines must leave the room. Ionizing radiation are caused by the unstable atoms with excess energy, mass, or both. They must release the extra mass or energy in the form of radiation in order to return to a stable state. That’s why they emit radiations. The following are the various types of ionizing radiation:
- Alpha particles
- Beta particles
- Gamma rays
Types of ionizing radiation
What are alpha particles?
Alpha particles are also named as helium nuclei as they are made up of two protons and two neutrons that are bound together. These particles, which are identical to helium atoms, are emitted during radioactive decay which is referred to as alpha decay. The charge on alpha particles is positive and they are massive.
What are beta particles?
Beta particles are also known as a stream of fast moving electrons. These are the particles with high energy electrons or positrons. The process by which they are ejected is known as beta decay. They have negative charge on them, just as electrons and they are much lighter than alpha particles.
What are gamma rays?
Although alpha and beta particles have charge, so they are categorized as ionizing radiations but gamma rays have no charge even then they can ionize matter. During radioactive decay, the nucleus emits a packet of electromagnetic energy known as a gamma-ray. Gamma photons are the most energetic photons in the electromagnetic spectrum.
What are X-Rays?
Just like gamma rays, X-rays don’t have any charge but due to abundant energy, they can cause ionization. An X-ray is a photon packet produced by electrons that are not inside the nucleus. They are derived from an atom’s electronic cloud.
What is non-ionizing radiation?
Non-ionizing radiation is the term given to the radiation that has insufficient energy to cause ionization. That means it can’t cause atoms to gain or lose electrons. These kinds of radiations contradict with ionizing radiation like x-rays, gamma rays, and alpha particles, which are on the other end of the spectrum and are unstable and reactive. Even if non-ionizing radiations cannot ionize atoms, this type of radiation is not entirely harmless. Microwaves, for example, have enough energy to cook your food. In addition, ultraviolet light can cause sunburn.
Humans and other organisms can see some types of non-ionizing radiation, such as visible light and infrared light. Following are the types of non-ionizing radiation:
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Visible light
- Infrared rays
- Radio waves
- Thermal radiation
- Black-body radiation
Types of non-ionizing radiation
What is ultraviolet radiation?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation has wavelengths ranging from 10 nm to 400 nm, which is shorter than visible light but longer than X-rays. UV radiation is present in sunlight and accounts for about 10% of the total electromagnetic radiation emitted by the Sun. Electric arcs and specialized lights, such as mercury-vapor lamps, tanning lamps, and black lights, can also produce it. Although long-wavelength ultraviolet does not qualify as ionizing radiation because its photons lack the energy to ionize atoms, it can cause chemical reactions and cause many substances to glow or fluoresce.
What is visible light?
The electromagnetic spectrum visible to the human eye is defined as visible light. When the entire spectrum is passed through the prism, it separates into the rainbow colors based on their wavelength. Violet has the shortest wavelength (380 nm) and red has the longest wavelength (700 nm).
What is Infrared radiation?
Infrared (IR) radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than visible light. As a result, it is invisible to the naked eye. IR wavelengths are generally thought to range from the nominal red edge of the visible spectrum around 700 nanometers to 1 millimeter. Near-room-temperature black-body radiation is almost entirely at infrared wavelengths. As it is a type of electromagnetic radiation, infrared (IR) radiations propagates energy and momentum with properties similar to both a wave and a particle, the photon.
What are microwaves?
Microwaves are electromagnetic waves with shorter wavelengths that radiate electromagnetic energy. Microwaves travel in a straight line and are reflected by conductors. Within short distances, microwaves are easily attenuated. Metal surfaces reflect the microwaves. They are able to pass through glass and plastics. They have the ability to travel through the atmosphere. Water and fat absorb a specific frequency of microwaves which is a basic principle behind microwave ovens.
What are radio waves?
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than infrared light in the electromagnetic spectrum. Radio waves have frequencies ranging from 300 gigahertz to 30 hertz. Radio waves, like all the electromagnetic waves, travel at the speed of light in a vacuum and at a close but slightly slower speed in the Earth’s atmosphere. Charged particles undergoing acceleration, such as time-varying electric currents, generate radio waves.
What is thermal radiation?
Thermal radiation is an electromagnetic radiation produced by the thermal motion of matter particles. When heat from the movement of charges in a material is converted to electromagnetic radiation, thermal radiations are produced. Thermal radiation is emitted by all matter with a temperature greater than absolute zero.
What is black body radiation?
Black-body radiation is the electromagnetic radiation emitted by a black body within or surrounding a body in thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment. It has a specific spectrum of wavelengths that are inversely related to intensity and are only affected by the body’s temperature, which is assumed to be uniform and constant for the sake of calculations and theory. Many ordinary objects emit thermal radiation that can be approximated as black-body radiation.
Apart from the ionizing and non-ionizing radiations, radiations can also be classified into electromagnetic and particle radiations.
What is electromagnetic radiation?
All the radiations that travel at speed of light and need no medium to travel are known as electromagnetic radiations. As can be seen in electromagnetic spectrum.
What are particle radiations?
Atomic or subatomic particles make up particle radiation. Protons, neutrons, and electrons are examples of these particles. They are all full of kinetic energy. That is the energy that an object has when it is in motion. Alpha particles, beta particles and neutrons are the examples of particle radiations.