X-ray
Overview
 
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

. X-rays have a wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies
Frequency
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

 in the range 30 petahertz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 to 30 exahertz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 (3×1016 Hz to 3×1019 Hz) and energies in the range 120 eV
Electronvolt
In physics, the electron volt is a unit of energy equal to approximately joule . By definition, it is equal to the amount of kinetic energy gained by a single unbound electron when it accelerates through an electric potential difference of one volt...

 to 120 keV
Kev
Kev can refer to:*Kev Hawkins, a fictional character.*Kevin, a given name occasionally shortened to "Kev".*Kiloelectronvolt, a unit of energy who symbol is "KeV".* Krefelder Eislauf-VereinKEV can refer to:...

. They are shorter in wavelength than UV
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 rays and longer than gamma ray
Gamma ray
Gamma radiation, also known as gamma rays or hyphenated as gamma-rays and denoted as γ, is electromagnetic radiation of high frequency . Gamma rays are usually naturally produced on Earth by decay of high energy states in atomic nuclei...

s. In many languages, X-radiation is called Röntgen radiation, after Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who is usually credited as its discoverer, and who had named it X-radiation to signify an unknown type of radiation.
Encyclopedia
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

. X-rays have a wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies
Frequency
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

 in the range 30 petahertz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 to 30 exahertz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 (3×1016 Hz to 3×1019 Hz) and energies in the range 120 eV
Electronvolt
In physics, the electron volt is a unit of energy equal to approximately joule . By definition, it is equal to the amount of kinetic energy gained by a single unbound electron when it accelerates through an electric potential difference of one volt...

 to 120 keV
Kev
Kev can refer to:*Kev Hawkins, a fictional character.*Kevin, a given name occasionally shortened to "Kev".*Kiloelectronvolt, a unit of energy who symbol is "KeV".* Krefelder Eislauf-VereinKEV can refer to:...

. They are shorter in wavelength than UV
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 rays and longer than gamma ray
Gamma ray
Gamma radiation, also known as gamma rays or hyphenated as gamma-rays and denoted as γ, is electromagnetic radiation of high frequency . Gamma rays are usually naturally produced on Earth by decay of high energy states in atomic nuclei...

s. In many languages, X-radiation is called Röntgen radiation, after Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who is usually credited as its discoverer, and who had named it X-radiation to signify an unknown type of radiation. Correct spelling of X-ray(s) in the English language includes the variants x-ray(s) and X ray(s). XRAY is used as the phonetic pronunciation
NATO phonetic alphabet
The NATO phonetic alphabet, more accurately known as the NATO spelling alphabet and also called the ICAO phonetic or spelling alphabet, the ITU phonetic alphabet, and the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet, is the most widely used spelling alphabet...

 for the letter x.

X-rays from about 0.12 to 12 keV (10 to 0.10 nm wavelength) are classified as "soft" X-rays, and from about 12 to 120 keV (0.10 to 0.01 nm wavelength) as "hard" X-rays, due to their penetrating abilities.

Hard X-rays can penetrate solid objects, and their most common use is to take images of the inside of objects in diagnostic radiography
Radiography
Radiography is the use of X-rays to view a non-uniformly composed material such as the human body. By using the physical properties of the ray an image can be developed which displays areas of different density and composition....

 and crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

. As a result, the term X-ray is metonymically used to refer to a radiographic image produced using this method, in addition to the method itself. By contrast, soft X-rays hardly penetrate matter at all; the attenuation length
Attenuation length
In physics, the attenuation length or absorption length is the distance \lambda into a material when the probability has dropped to 1/e that a particle has not been absorbed...

 of 600 eV (~2 nm) X-rays in water is less than 1 micrometer.

The distinction between X-rays and gamma rays has changed in recent decades. Originally, the electromagnetic radiation emitted by X-ray tube
X-ray tube
An X-ray tube is a vacuum tube that produces X-rays. They are used in X-ray machines. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, an ionizing radiation with wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet light...

s had a longer wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 than the radiation emitted by radioactive nuclei
Atomic nucleus
The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

 (gamma rays). Older literature distinguished between X- and gamma radiation on the basis of wavelength, with radiation shorter than some arbitrary wavelength, such as 10−11 m, defined as gamma rays.
However, as shorter wavelength continuous spectrum "X-ray" sources such as linear accelerators and longer wavelength "gamma ray" emitters were discovered, the wavelength bands largely overlapped. The two types of radiation are now usually distinguished by their origin: X-rays are emitted by electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s outside the nucleus, while gamma rays are emitted by the nucleus.

Units of measure and exposure

As electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

, X-rays follow the following laws:
  • as a wave, the wavelength where is the frequency of the radiation and is its phase velocity (in a vacuum, , the speed of light, metres per second);
  • as a particle, the energy of a photon
    Photon
    In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

     is where is the frequency and is Planck's constant
    Planck constant
    The Planck constant , also called Planck's constant, is a physical constant reflecting the sizes of energy quanta in quantum mechanics. It is named after Max Planck, one of the founders of quantum theory, who discovered it in 1899...

    , in units of electron-volt · seconds; combined, ;

The measure of X-rays ionizing
Ionization
Ionization is the process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or other ions. This is often confused with dissociation. A substance may dissociate without necessarily producing ions. As an example, the molecules of table sugar...

 ability is called the exposure:
  • The coulomb per kilogram
    Kilogram
    The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

     (C/kg) is the SI unit of ionizing radiation
    Ionizing radiation
    Ionizing radiation is radiation composed of particles that individually have sufficient energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. This ionization produces free radicals, which are atoms or molecules containing unpaired electrons...

     exposure, and it is the amount of radiation required to create one coulomb of charge of each polarity in one kilogram of matter.
  • The roentgen (R) is an obsolete traditional unit of exposure, which represented the amount of radiation required to create one electrostatic unit of charge of each polarity in one cubic centimeter of dry air. 1.00 roentgen = 2.58×10−4 C/kg


However, the effect of ionizing radiation on matter (especially living tissue) is more closely related to the amount of energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

 deposited into them rather than the charge generated
Electric charge
Electric charge is a physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when near other electrically charged matter. Electric charge comes in two types, called positive and negative. Two positively charged substances, or objects, experience a mutual repulsive force, as do two...

. This measure of energy absorbed is called the absorbed dose
Absorbed dose
Absorbed dose is a measure of the energy deposited in a medium by ionizing radiation per unit mass...

:
  • The gray
    Gray (unit)
    The gray is the SI unit of absorbed radiation dose of ionizing radiation , and is defined as the absorption of one joule of ionizing radiation by one kilogram of matter ....

     (Gy), which has units of (joules/kilogram), is the SI unit of absorbed dose
    Absorbed dose
    Absorbed dose is a measure of the energy deposited in a medium by ionizing radiation per unit mass...

    , and it is the amount of radiation required to deposit one joule
    Joule
    The joule ; symbol J) is a derived unit of energy or work in the International System of Units. It is equal to the energy expended in applying a force of one newton through a distance of one metre , or in passing an electric current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm for one second...

     of energy in one kilogram
    Kilogram
    The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

     of any kind of matter.
  • The rad
    Rad (unit)
    The rad is a unit of absorbed radiation dose. The rad was first proposed in 1918 as "that quantity of X rays which when absorbed will cause the destruction of the malignant mammalian cells in question..." It was defined in CGS units in 1953 as the dose causing 100 ergs of energy to be absorbed by...

     is the (obsolete) corresponding traditional unit, equal to 10 millijoules of energy deposited per kilogram. 100 rad = 1.00 gray.


The equivalent dose
Equivalent dose
The equivalent absorbed radiation dose, usually shortened to equivalent dose, is a computed average measure of the radiation absorbed by a fixed mass of biological tissue, that attempts to account for the different biological damage potential of different types of ionizing radiation...

 is the measure of the biological effect of radiation on human tissue. For X-rays it is equal to the absorbed dose
Absorbed dose
Absorbed dose is a measure of the energy deposited in a medium by ionizing radiation per unit mass...

.
  • The sievert
    Sievert
    The sievert is the International System of Units SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation as opposed to just the absorbed dose of radiation energy, which is measured in gray...

     (Sv) is the SI unit of equivalent dose, which for X-rays is numerically equal to the gray
    Gray (unit)
    The gray is the SI unit of absorbed radiation dose of ionizing radiation , and is defined as the absorption of one joule of ionizing radiation by one kilogram of matter ....

     (Gy).
  • The Roentgen equivalent man (rem) is the traditional unit of equivalent dose. For X-rays it is equal to the rad
    Rad (unit)
    The rad is a unit of absorbed radiation dose. The rad was first proposed in 1918 as "that quantity of X rays which when absorbed will cause the destruction of the malignant mammalian cells in question..." It was defined in CGS units in 1953 as the dose causing 100 ergs of energy to be absorbed by...

     or 10 millijoules of energy deposited per kilogram. 1.00 Sv = 100 rem.


Medical X-rays are a significant source of man-made radiation exposure, accounting for 58% in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1987, but since most radiation exposure is natural (82%), medical X-rays only account for 10% of total American radiation exposure.

Reported dosage due to dental X-rays seems to vary significantly. Depending on the source, a typical dental X-ray of a human results in an exposure of perhaps, 3, 40, or as many as 900 mrems (30 to 9,000 μSv).

Sources

X-ray K-series spectral line wavelengths (nm) for some common target materials.
Target Kβ₁ Kβ₂ Kα₁
K-alpha
In X-ray spectroscopy, K-alpha emission lines result when an electron transitions to the innermost "K" shell from a 2p orbital of the second or "L" shell...

Kα₂
Fe 0.17566 0.17442 0.193604 0.193998
Co 0.162079 0.160891 0.178897 0.179285
Ni 0.15001 0.14886 0.165791 0.166175
Cu 0.139222 0.138109 0.154056 0.154439
Zr 0.70173 0.68993 0.78593 0.79015
Mo 0.63229 0.62099 0.70930 0.71359

There are a number of sources of X-ray radiation. In 2006 in the United States the environment (outer space and the earth) and medical imaging accounted for nearly 50% of exposure each. X-rays can be generated by an X-ray tube
X-ray tube
An X-ray tube is a vacuum tube that produces X-rays. They are used in X-ray machines. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, an ionizing radiation with wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet light...

, a vacuum tube
Vacuum tube
In electronics, a vacuum tube, electron tube , or thermionic valve , reduced to simply "tube" or "valve" in everyday parlance, is a device that relies on the flow of electric current through a vacuum...

 that uses a high voltage to accelerate the electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s released by a hot cathode
Hot cathode
In vacuum tubes, a hot cathode is a cathode electrode which emits electrons due to thermionic emission. In the accelerator community, these are referred to as thermionic cathodes. The heating element is usually an electrical filament...

 to a high velocity. The high velocity electrons collide with a metal target, the anode
Anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

, creating the X-rays. In medical X-ray tubes the target is usually tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

 or a more crack-resistant alloy of rhenium
Rhenium
Rhenium is a chemical element with the symbol Re and atomic number 75. It is a silvery-white, heavy, third-row transition metal in group 7 of the periodic table. With an average concentration of 1 part per billion , rhenium is one of the rarest elements in the Earth's crust. The free element has...

 (5%) and tungsten (95%), but sometimes molybdenum
Molybdenum
Molybdenum , is a Group 6 chemical element with the symbol Mo and atomic number 42. The name is from Neo-Latin Molybdaenum, from Ancient Greek , meaning lead, itself proposed as a loanword from Anatolian Luvian and Lydian languages, since its ores were confused with lead ores...

 for more specialized applications, such as when soft X-rays are needed as in mammography. In crystallography, a copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 target is most common, with cobalt
Cobalt
Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. It is found naturally only in chemically combined form. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal....

 often being used when fluorescence from iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 content in the sample might otherwise present a problem.

The maximum energy of the produced X-ray photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

 is limited by the energy of the incident electron, which is equal to the voltage on the tube, so an 80 kV tube cannot create X-rays with an energy greater than 80 keV. When the electrons hit the target, X-rays are created by two different atomic processes:
  1. X-ray fluorescence
    X-ray fluorescence
    X-ray fluorescence is the emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays...

    : If the electron has enough energy it can knock an orbital electron out of the inner electron shell
    Electron shell
    An electron shell may be thought of as an orbit followed by electrons around an atom's nucleus. The closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1 shell" , followed by the "2 shell" , then the "3 shell" , and so on further and further from the nucleus. The shell letters K,L,M,.....

     of a metal atom, and as a result electrons from higher energy levels then fill up the vacancy and X-ray photons are emitted. This process produces an emission spectrum
    Emission spectrum
    The emission spectrum of a chemical element or chemical compound is the spectrum of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the element's atoms or the compound's molecules when they are returned to a lower energy state....

     of X-rays at a few discrete frequencies, sometimes referred to as the spectral lines. The spectral lines generated depend on the target (anode) element used and thus are called characteristic lines. Usually these are transitions from upper shells into K shell (called K lines
    K-alpha
    In X-ray spectroscopy, K-alpha emission lines result when an electron transitions to the innermost "K" shell from a 2p orbital of the second or "L" shell...

    ), into L shell (called L lines) and so on.
  2. Bremsstrahlung
    Bremsstrahlung
    Bremsstrahlung is electromagnetic radiation produced by the deceleration of a charged particle when deflected by another charged particle, typically an electron by an atomic nucleus. The moving particle loses kinetic energy, which is converted into a photon because energy is conserved. The term is...

    : This is radiation given off by the electrons as they are scattered by the strong electric field near the high-Z (proton
    Proton
    The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

     number) nuclei. These X-rays have a continuous spectrum
    Continuous spectrum
    The spectrum of a linear operator is commonly divided into three parts: point spectrum, continuous spectrum, and residual spectrum.If H is a topological vector space and A:H \to H is a linear map, the spectrum of A is the set of complex numbers \lambda such that A - \lambda I : H \to H is not...

    . The intensity of the X-rays increases linearly with decreasing frequency, from zero at the energy of the incident electrons, the voltage on the X-ray tube
    X-ray tube
    An X-ray tube is a vacuum tube that produces X-rays. They are used in X-ray machines. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, an ionizing radiation with wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet light...

    .

So the resulting output of a tube consists of a continuous bremsstrahlung spectrum falling off to zero at the tube voltage, plus several spikes at the characteristic lines. The voltages used in diagnostic X-ray tubes, and thus the highest energies of the X-rays, range from roughly 20 to 150 kV.

Both of these X-ray production processes are significantly inefficient, with a production efficiency of only about one percent, and hence, to produce a usable flux of X-rays, most of the electric power
Electric power
Electric power is the rate at which electric energy is transferred by an electric circuit. The SI unit of power is the watt.-Circuits:Electric power, like mechanical power, is represented by the letter P in electrical equations...

 consumed by the tube is released as waste heat. The X-ray tube must be designed to dissipate this excess heat.

In medical diagnostic applications, the low energy (soft) X-rays are unwanted, since they are totally absorbed by the body, increasing the dose. Hence, a thin metal sheet, often of aluminum, called an X-ray filter
X-Ray filters
An X-ray filter is a device to block or filter out some or all wavelengths in the X-ray spectrum.X-ray filters are used to block low-energy X-rays during medical x-ray imaging. Low energy X-rays are more likely to be absorbed by the patient's soft tissues...

, is usually placed over the window of the X-ray tube, filtering out the low energy components in the spectrum. This is called hardening the beam.

Radiographs obtained using X-rays can be used to identify a wide spectrum of pathologies. Because the body structures being imaged in medical applications are large compared to the wavelength of the X-rays, the X-rays can be analyzed as particles rather than waves. (This is in contrast to X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

, where their wave-like nature is more important because the wavelength is comparable to the sizes of the structures being imaged.)

To make an X-ray image of human or animal bones, short X-ray pulses illuminate the body or limb, with radiographic film placed behind it. Any bones that are present absorb most of the X-ray photons by photoelectric processes. This is because bones have a higher electron density than soft tissues. Note that bones contain a high percentage of calcium (20 electrons per atom), potassium (19 electrons per atom) magnesium (12 electrons per atom), and phosphorus (15 electrons per atom). The X-rays that pass through the flesh leave a latent image in the photographic film
Photographic film
Photographic film is a sheet of plastic coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver halide salts with variable crystal sizes that determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film...

. When the film is developed, the parts of the image corresponding to higher X-ray exposure are dark, leaving a white shadow of bones on the film.

To generate an image of the cardiovascular system, including the arteries and veins (angiography) an initial image is taken of the anatomical region of interest. A second image is then taken of the same region after iodinated contrast material has been injected into the blood vessels within this area. These two images are then digitally subtracted, leaving an image of only the iodinated contrast outlining the blood vessels. The radiologist or surgeon then compares the image obtained to normal anatomical images to determine if there is any damage or blockage of the vessel.

A specialized source of X-rays which is becoming widely used in research is synchrotron radiation
Synchrotron radiation
The electromagnetic radiation emitted when charged particles are accelerated radially is called synchrotron radiation. It is produced in synchrotrons using bending magnets, undulators and/or wigglers...

, which is generated by particle accelerator
Particle accelerator
A particle accelerator is a device that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams. An ordinary CRT television set is a simple form of accelerator. There are two basic types: electrostatic and oscillating field accelerators.In...

s. Its unique features are X-ray outputs many orders of magnitude greater than those of X-ray tubes, wide X-ray spectra, excellent collimation, and linear polarization
Linear polarization
In electrodynamics, linear polarization or plane polarization of electromagnetic radiation is a confinement of the electric field vector or magnetic field vector to a given plane along the direction of propagation...

.

Photographic plate

The detection of X-rays is based on various methods. The most commonly known methods are photographic plate
Photographic plate
Photographic plates preceded photographic film as a means of photography. A light-sensitive emulsion of silver salts was applied to a glass plate. This form of photographic material largely faded from the consumer market in the early years of the 20th century, as more convenient and less fragile...

s, photographic film
Photographic film
Photographic film is a sheet of plastic coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver halide salts with variable crystal sizes that determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film...

 in cassettes, and rare earth
Rare earth element
As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium...

 screens. Regardless of what is "catching" the image, they are all categorized as "Image Receptors" (IR).

Before the advent of the digital computer and before the invention of digital imaging, photographic plates were used to produce most radiographic images. The images were produced right on the glass plates. Photographic film largely replaced these plates, and it was used in X-ray laboratories to produce medical images. In more recent years, computerized and digital radiography has been replacing photographic film in medical and dental applications, though film technology remains in widespread use in industrial radiography processes (e.g. to inspect welded seams). Photographic plates are mostly things of history, and their replacement, the "intensifying screen", is also fading into history. The metal silver (formerly necessary to the radiographic & photographic industries) is a non-renewable resource
Non-renewable resource
A non-renewable resource is a natural resource which cannot be produced, grown, generated, or used on a scale which can sustain its consumption rate, once depleted there is no more available for future needs. Also considered non-renewable are resources that are consumed much faster than nature...

. Thus it is beneficial that this is now being replaced by digital (DR) and computed (CR) technology. Where photographic films required wet processing facilities, these new technologies do not. The digital archiving of images utilizing these new technologies also saves storage space.

Since photographic plates are sensitive to X-rays, they provide a means of recording the image, but they also required much X-ray exposure (to the patient), hence intensifying screens were devised. They allow a lower dose to the patient, because the screens take the X-ray information and intensify it so that it can be recorded on film positioned next to the intensifying screen.

The part of the patient to be X-rayed is placed between the X-ray source and the image receptor to produce a shadow of the internal structure of that particular part of the body. X-rays are partially blocked ("attenuated") by dense tissues such as bone, and pass more easily through soft tissues. Areas where the X-rays strike darken when developed, causing bones to appear lighter than the surrounding soft tissue.

Contrast compounds containing barium
Barium
Barium is a chemical element with the symbol Ba and atomic number 56. It is the fifth element in Group 2, a soft silvery metallic alkaline earth metal. Barium is never found in nature in its pure form due to its reactivity with air. Its oxide is historically known as baryta but it reacts with...

 or iodine
Iodine
Iodine is a chemical element with the symbol I and atomic number 53. The name is pronounced , , or . The name is from the , meaning violet or purple, due to the color of elemental iodine vapor....

, which are radiopaque
Radiodensity
Radiodensity refers to the relative inability of electromagnetic radiation, particularly X-rays, to pass through a particular material. Radiolucency indicates greater transparency or "transradiancy" to X-ray photons...

, can be ingested in the gastrointestinal tract (barium) or injected in the artery or veins to highlight these vessels. The contrast compounds have high atomic numbered elements in them that (like bone) essentially block the X-rays and hence the once hollow organ or vessel can be more readily seen. In the pursuit of a non-toxic contrast material, many types of high atomic number elements were evaluated. For example, the first time the forefathers used contrast it was chalk, and was used on a cadaver's vessels. Unfortunately, some elements chosen proved to be harmful – for example, thorium
Thorium
Thorium is a natural radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder....

 was once used as a contrast medium (Thorotrast
Thorotrast
Thorotrast is a suspension containing particles of the radioactive compound thorium dioxide, ThO2, used as a contrast medium in X-ray diagnostics in the 1930s and 40s ....

) – which turned out to be toxic in some cases (causing injury and occasionally death from the effects of thorium poisoning). Modern contrast material has improved, and while there is no way to determine who may have a sensitivity to the contrast, the incidence of "allergic-type reactions" are low. (The risk is comparable to that associated with penicillin.)

Photostimulable phosphors

An increasingly common method is the use of photostimulated luminescence
Photostimulated luminescence
Photostimulated luminescence is the release of stored energy within a phosphor by stimulation with visible light, to produce a luminescent signal...

 (PSL), pioneered by Fuji in the 1980s. In modern hospitals a photostimulable phosphor plate (PSP plate) is used in place of the photographic plate. After the plate is X-rayed, excited electrons in the phosphor material remain 'trapped' in 'colour centres' in the crystal lattice until stimulated by a laser beam passed over the plate surface. The light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 given off during laser stimulation is collected by a photomultiplier tube
Photomultiplier
Photomultiplier tubes , members of the class of vacuum tubes, and more specifically phototubes, are extremely sensitive detectors of light in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum...

 and the resulting signal is converted into a digital image by computer technology, which gives this process its common name, computed radiography
Computed radiography
Computed Radiography uses very similar equipment to conventional radiography except that in place of a film to create the image, an imaging plate made of photostimulable phosphor is used. The imaging plate housed in a special cassette and placed under the body part or object to be examined and...

 (also referred to as digital radiography). The PSP plate can be reused, and existing X-ray equipment requires no modification to use them.

Geiger counter

Initially, most common detection methods were based on the ionization of gases
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

, as in the Geiger-Müller counter
Geiger counter
A Geiger counter, also called a Geiger–Müller counter, is a type of particle detector that measures ionizing radiation. They detect the emission of nuclear radiation: alpha particles, beta particles or gamma rays. A Geiger counter detects radiation by ionization produced in a low-pressure gas in a...

: a sealed volume, usually a cylinder, with a mica, polymer or thin metal window contains a gas, a cylindrical cathode
Cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

 and a wire anode
Anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

; a high voltage is applied between the cathode and the anode. When an X-ray photon enters the cylinder, it ionizes the gas and forms ions and electrons. Electrons accelerate toward the anode, in the process causing further ionization along their trajectory. This process, known as a Townsend avalanche, is detected as a sudden current, called a "count" or "event".

In order to gain energy spectrum information, a diffracting
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

 crystal may be used to first separate the different photons. The method is called wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy
Wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy
The Wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy is a method used to count the number of X-rays of a specific wavelength diffracted by a crystal. The wavelength of the impinging x-ray and the crystal's lattice spacings are related by Bragg's law and produce constructive interference if they fit the...

 (WDX or WDS). Position-sensitive detectors are often used in conjunction with dispersive elements. Other detection equipment that is inherently energy-resolving may be used, such as the aforementioned proportional counter
Proportional counter
A proportional counter is a measurement device to count particles of ionizing radiation and measure their energy.A proportional counter is a type of gaseous ionization detector. Its operation is similar to that of a Geiger-Müller counter, but uses a lower operating voltage. An inert gas is used to...

s. In either case, use of suitable pulse-processing (MCA) equipment allows digital spectra to be created for later analysis.

For many applications, counters are not sealed but are constantly fed with purified gas, thus reducing problems of contamination or gas aging. These are called "flow counters".

Scintillators

Some materials such as sodium iodide
Sodium iodide
Sodium iodide is a white, crystalline salt with chemical formula NaI used in radiation detection, treatment of iodine deficiency, and as a reactant in the Finkelstein reaction.-Uses:Sodium iodide is commonly used to treat and prevent iodine deficiency....

 (NaI) can "convert" an X-ray photon to a visible photon; an electronic detector can be built by adding a photomultiplier
Photomultiplier
Photomultiplier tubes , members of the class of vacuum tubes, and more specifically phototubes, are extremely sensitive detectors of light in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum...

. These detectors are called "scintillator
Scintillator
A scintillator is a special material, which exhibits scintillation—the property of luminescence when excited by ionizing radiation. Luminescent materials, when struck by an incoming particle, absorb its energy and scintillate, i.e., reemit the absorbed energy in the form of light...

s", filmscreens or "scintillation counter
Scintillation counter
A scintillation counter measures ionizing radiation. The sensor, called a scintillator, consists of a transparent crystal, usually phosphor, plastic , or organic liquid that fluoresces when struck by ionizing radiation. A sensitive photomultiplier tube measures the light from the crystal...

s". The main advantage of using these is that an adequate image can be obtained while subjecting the patient to a much lower dose of X-rays.

Image intensification

X-rays are also used in "real-time" procedures such as angiography or contrast studies of the hollow organs (e.g. barium enema
Barium enema
A lower gastrointestinal series, also called a barium enema, is a medical procedure used to examine and diagnose problems with the human colon . X-ray pictures are taken while barium sulfate fills the colon via the rectum.-Procedure:...

 of the small or large intestine) using fluoroscopy
Fluoroscopy
Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique commonly used by physicians to obtain real-time moving images of the internal structures of a patient through the use of a fluoroscope. In its simplest form, a fluoroscope consists of an X-ray source and fluorescent screen between which a patient is placed...

 acquired using an X-ray image intensifier
X-ray image intensifier
An x-ray image intensifier , is an imaging component which converts x-rays into a visible image.The term image intensifier refers to a specific component of an x-ray imaging system, which allows low intensity x-rays to be converted to a visible light output...

. Angioplasty
Angioplasty
Angioplasty is the technique of mechanically widening a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel, the latter typically being a result of atherosclerosis. An empty and collapsed balloon on a guide wire, known as a balloon catheter, is passed into the narrowed locations and then inflated to a fixed size...

, medical interventions of the arterial system, rely heavily on X-ray-sensitive contrast to identify potentially treatable lesions.

Direct semiconductor detectors

Since the 1970s, new semiconductor detector
Semiconductor detector
This article is about particle detectors. For information about semiconductor detectors in radio, see Diode#Semiconductor_diodes, rectifier, detector and cat's-whisker detector....

s have been developed (silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

 or germanium
Germanium
Germanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ge and atomic number 32. It is a lustrous, hard, grayish-white metalloid in the carbon group, chemically similar to its group neighbors tin and silicon. The isolated element is a semiconductor, with an appearance most similar to elemental silicon....

 doped with lithium
Lithium
Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol Li, and it has the atomic number 3. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly...

, Si(Li) or Ge(Li)). X-ray photons are converted to electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor and are collected to detect the X-rays. When the temperature is low enough (the detector is cooled by Peltier effect or even cooler liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at a very low temperature. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a colourless clear liquid with density of 0.807 g/mL at its boiling point and a dielectric constant of 1.4...

), it is possible to directly determine the X-ray energy spectrum; this method is called energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX or EDS); it is often used in small X-ray fluorescence
X-ray fluorescence
X-ray fluorescence is the emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays...

 spectrometers
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

. These detectors are sometimes called "solid state
Solid state (electronics)
Solid-state electronics are those circuits or devices built entirely from solid materials and in which the electrons, or other charge carriers, are confined entirely within the solid material...

 detectors". Detectors based on cadmium telluride
Cadmium telluride
Cadmium telluride is a crystalline compound formed from cadmium and tellurium. It is used as an infrared optical window and a solar cell material. It is usually sandwiched with cadmium sulfide to form a p-n junction photovoltaic solar cell...

 (Cd
Cadmium
Cadmium is a chemical element with the symbol Cd and atomic number 48. This soft, bluish-white metal is chemically similar to the two other stable metals in group 12, zinc and mercury. Similar to zinc, it prefers oxidation state +2 in most of its compounds and similar to mercury it shows a low...

Te) and its alloy with zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

, cadmium zinc telluride
Cadmium zinc telluride
Cadmium zinc telluride, or CZT, is a compound of cadmium, zinc and tellurium or, more strictly speaking, an alloy of cadmium telluride and zinc telluride. A direct bandgap semiconductor, it is used in a variety of applications, including radiation detectors, photorefractive gratings,...

, have an increased sensitivity, which allows lower doses of X-rays to be used.

Practical application in medical imaging
Medical imaging
Medical imaging is the technique and process used to create images of the human body for clinical purposes or medical science...

 started in the 1990s. Currently amorphous selenium
Selenium
Selenium is a chemical element with atomic number 34, chemical symbol Se, and an atomic mass of 78.96. It is a nonmetal, whose properties are intermediate between those of adjacent chalcogen elements sulfur and tellurium...

 is used in commercial large area flat panel X-ray detectors for mammography
Mammography
Mammography is the process of using low-energy-X-rays to examine the human breast and is used as a diagnostic and a screening tool....

 and chest radiography
Radiography
Radiography is the use of X-rays to view a non-uniformly composed material such as the human body. By using the physical properties of the ray an image can be developed which displays areas of different density and composition....

. Current research and development is focused around pixel detectors, such as CERN
CERN
The European Organization for Nuclear Research , known as CERN , is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory, which is situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border...

's energy resolving Medipix
Medipix
Medipix is a family of photon counting pixel detector developed by an international collaboration, hosted by CERN.Detectors in the Medipix family include:* Medipix 1* Medipix 2* Medipix MXR* Timepix* Medipix 3.0 -Design:...

 detector.

Note: A standard semiconductor
Semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

 diode
Diode
In electronics, a diode is a type of two-terminal electronic component with a nonlinear current–voltage characteristic. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material connected to two electrical terminals...

, such as a 1N4007, will produce a small amount of current when placed in an X-ray beam. A test device once used by Medical Imaging Service personnel was a small project box that contained several diodes of this type in series, which could be connected to an oscilloscope
Oscilloscope
An oscilloscope is a type of electronic test instrument that allows observation of constantly varying signal voltages, usually as a two-dimensional graph of one or more electrical potential differences using the vertical or 'Y' axis, plotted as a function of time,...

 as a quick diagnostic.

Silicon drift detector
Silicon drift detector
Silicon drift detectors are X-ray radiation detectors used in x-ray spectrometry and electron microscopy . Their chief characteristics compared with other X-ray detectors are:*high count rates*comparatively high energy resolution Silicon drift detectors (SDDs) are X-ray radiation detectors used...

s (SDDs), produced by conventional semiconductor fabrication
Semiconductor fabrication
Semiconductor device fabrication is the process used to create the integrated circuits that are present in everyday electrical and electronic devices. It is a multiple-step sequence of photolithographic and chemical processing steps during which electronic circuits are gradually created on a wafer...

, now provide a cost-effective and high resolving power radiation measurement. Unlike conventional X-ray detectors, such as Si(Li)s, they do not need to be cooled with liquid nitrogen.

Scintillator plus semiconductor detectors

With the advent of large semiconductor array detectors it has become possible to design detector systems using a scintillator screen to convert from X-rays to visible light which is then converted to electrical signals in an array detector. Indirect Flat Panel Detectors (FPDs) are in widespread use today in medical, dental, veterinary and industrial applications.

The array technology is a variant on the amorphous silicon TFT arrays used in many flat panel display
Flat panel display
Flat panel displays encompass a growing number of electronic visual display technologies. They are far lighter and thinner than traditional television sets and video displays that use cathode ray tubes , and are usually less than thick...

s, like the ones in computer laptops. The array consists of a sheet of glass covered with a thin layer of silicon that is in an amorphous or disordered state. At a microscopic scale, the silicon has been imprinted with millions of transistors arranged in a highly ordered array, like the grid on a sheet of graph paper. Each of these thin film transistors (TFTs) is attached to a light-absorbing photodiode making up an individual pixel
Pixel
In digital imaging, a pixel, or pel, is a single point in a raster image, or the smallest addressable screen element in a display device; it is the smallest unit of picture that can be represented or controlled....

 (picture element). Photons striking the photodiode are converted into two carriers of electrical charge
Charge carrier
In physics, a charge carrier is a free particle carrying an electric charge, especially the particles that carry electric currents in electrical conductors. Examples are electrons and ions...

, called electron-hole pairs. Since the number of charge carriers produced will vary with the intensity of incoming light photons, an electrical pattern is created that can be swiftly converted to a voltage and then a digital signal, which is interpreted by a computer to produce a digital image. Although silicon has outstanding electronic properties, it is not a particularly good absorber of X-ray photons. For this reason, X-rays first impinge upon scintillator
Scintillator
A scintillator is a special material, which exhibits scintillation—the property of luminescence when excited by ionizing radiation. Luminescent materials, when struck by an incoming particle, absorb its energy and scintillate, i.e., reemit the absorbed energy in the form of light...

s made from e.g. gadolinium oxysulfide
Gadolinium oxysulfide
Gadolinium oxysulfide , also called gadolinium sulfoxylate or GOS, is an inorganic compound, a mixed oxide-sulfide of gadolinium. Its CAS number is .-Uses:...

 or caesium iodide
Caesium iodide
Caesium iodide is an ionic compound often used as the input phosphor of an x-ray image intensifier tube found in fluoroscopy equipment....

. The scintillator absorbs the X-rays and converts them into visible light photons that then pass onto the photodiode array.

Visibility

While generally considered invisible to the human eye, in special circumstances X-rays can be visible. Brandes, in an experiment a short time after Röntgen's landmark 1895 paper, reported after dark adaptation and placing his eye close to an X-ray tube, seeing a faint "blue-gray" glow which seemed to originate within the eye itself. Upon hearing this, Röntgen reviewed his record books and found he too had seen the effect. When placing an X-ray tube on the opposite side of a wooden door Röntgen had noted the same blue glow, seeming to emanate from the eye itself, but thought his observations to be spurious because he only saw the effect when he used one type of tube. Later he realized that the tube which had created the effect was the only one powerful enough to make the glow plainly visible and the experiment
Experiment
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results...

 was thereafter readily repeatable. The knowledge that X-rays are actually faintly visible to the dark-adapted naked eye has largely been forgotten today; this is probably due to the desire not to repeat what would now be seen as a recklessly dangerous and potentially harmful experiment with ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiation is radiation composed of particles that individually have sufficient energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. This ionization produces free radicals, which are atoms or molecules containing unpaired electrons...

. It is not known what exact mechanism in the eye produces the visibility: it could be due to conventional detection (excitation of rhodopsin
Rhodopsin
Rhodopsin, also known as visual purple, is a biological pigment of the retina that is responsible for both the formation of the photoreceptor cells and the first events in the perception of light. Rhodopsins belong to the G-protein coupled receptor family and are extremely sensitive to light,...

 molecules in the retina), direct excitation of retinal nerve cells, or secondary detection via, for instance, X-ray induction of phosphorescence
Phosphorescence
Phosphorescence is a specific type of photoluminescence related to fluorescence. Unlike fluorescence, a phosphorescent material does not immediately re-emit the radiation it absorbs. The slower time scales of the re-emission are associated with "forbidden" energy state transitions in quantum...

 in the eyeball with conventional retinal detection of the secondarily produced visible light.

Though X-rays are otherwise invisible it is possible to see the ionization
Ionization
Ionization is the process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or other ions. This is often confused with dissociation. A substance may dissociate without necessarily producing ions. As an example, the molecules of table sugar...

 of the air molecules if the intensity of the X-ray beam is high enough. The beamline from the wiggler
Wiggler (synchrotron)
A wiggler is an insertion device in a synchrotron. It is a series of magnets designed to periodically laterally deflect a beam of charged particles inside a storage ring of a synchrotron...

 at the ID11 at ESRF is one example of such high intensity.

Medical uses

Since Röntgen's discovery that X-rays can identify bone structures, X-rays have been use for medical imaging
Medical imaging
Medical imaging is the technique and process used to create images of the human body for clinical purposes or medical science...

. The first medical use was less than a month after his paper on the subject. In 2010, 5 billion medical imaging studies were done worldwide. Radiation exposure from medical imaging in 2006 made up about 50% of total ionizing radiation exposure in the United States.

Plain X-rays

X-rays are useful in the detection of pathology of the skeletal system
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 as well as for detecting some disease processes in soft tissue
Soft tissue
In anatomy, the term soft tissue refers to tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being bone. Soft tissue includes tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, and synovial membranes , and muscles, nerves and blood vessels .It is sometimes...

. Some notable examples are the very common chest X-ray
Chest X-ray
In medicine, a chest radiograph, commonly called a chest X-ray , is a projection radiograph of the chest used to diagnose conditions affecting the chest, its contents, and nearby structures...

, which can be used to identify lung diseases such as pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

, lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

 or pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema , or oedema , is fluid accumulation in the air spaces and parenchyma of the lungs. It leads to impaired gas exchange and may cause respiratory failure...

, and the abdominal X-ray
Abdominal x-ray
An abdominal x-ray is an x-ray of the abdomen. It is sometimes abbreviated to AXR, or KUB .-Diagnostic Tool:...

, which can detect intestinal
Intestine
In human anatomy, the intestine is the segment of the alimentary canal extending from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus and, in humans and other mammals, consists of two segments, the small intestine and the large intestine...

 obstruction, free air (from visceral perforations) and free fluid (in ascites
Ascites
Ascites is a gastroenterological term for an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity.The medical condition is also known as peritoneal cavity fluid, peritoneal fluid excess, hydroperitoneum or more archaically as abdominal dropsy. Although most commonly due to cirrhosis and severe liver...

). X-rays may also be used to detect pathology such as gallstone
Gallstone
A gallstone is a crystalline concretion formed within the gallbladder by accretion of bile components. These calculi are formed in the gallbladder, but may pass distally into other parts of the biliary tract such as the cystic duct, common bile duct, pancreatic duct, or the ampulla of...

s (which are rarely radiopaque
Radiodensity
Radiodensity refers to the relative inability of electromagnetic radiation, particularly X-rays, to pass through a particular material. Radiolucency indicates greater transparency or "transradiancy" to X-ray photons...

) or kidney stone
Kidney stone
A kidney stone, also known as a renal calculus is a solid concretion or crystal aggregation formed in the kidneys from dietary minerals in the urine...

s which are often (but not always) visible. Traditional plain X-rays are less useful in the imaging of soft tissues such as the brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

 or muscle
Muscle
Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

. X-rays are also commonly used in dentistry, as X-ray imaging is useful in the diagnoses of common oral problems, such as cavities
Dental caries
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or a cavity, is an irreversible infection usually bacterial in origin that causes demineralization of the hard tissues and destruction of the organic matter of the tooth, usually by production of acid by hydrolysis of the food debris accumulated on the...

.

Computer tomography

Imaging alternatives for soft tissues are computed axial tomography (CAT or CT scanning).

Fluoroscopy

Fluoroscopy
Fluoroscopy
Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique commonly used by physicians to obtain real-time moving images of the internal structures of a patient through the use of a fluoroscope. In its simplest form, a fluoroscope consists of an X-ray source and fluorescent screen between which a patient is placed...

 is another X-ray test methodology. This method may use a contrast material. Examples include cardiac catheterization (to examine for coronary artery blockages) and Barium swallow (to examine for esophageal
Esophageal
Esophageal can refer to:* The esophagus* Esophageal arteries* Esophageal glands...

 disorders).

Radiotherapy

The use of X-rays as a treatment is known as radiation therapy
Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy , radiation oncology, or radiotherapy , sometimes abbreviated to XRT or DXT, is the medical use of ionizing radiation, generally as part of cancer treatment to control malignant cells.Radiation therapy is commonly applied to the cancerous tumor because of its ability to control...

 and is largely used for the management (including palliation) of cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

; it requires higher radiation energies than for imaging alone.

Health risks

Diagnostic X-rays (primarily from CT scans due to the large dose used) increase the risk of developmental problems and cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 in those exposed. X rays are classified as a carcinogen
Carcinogen
A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes...

 by both the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer
International Agency for Research on Cancer
The International Agency for Research on Cancer is an intergovernmental agency forming part of the World Health Organisation of the United Nations....

 and the U.S. government. It is estimated that 0.4% of current cancers in the United States are due to computed tomography
Computed tomography
X-ray computed tomography or Computer tomography , is a medical imaging method employing tomography created by computer processing...

 (CT scans) performed in the past and that this may increase to as high as 1.5-2% with 2007 rates of CT usage.

Experimental and epidemiological data currently do not support the proposition that there is a threshold dose of radiation below which there is no increased risk of cancer. However, this is under increasing doubt. It is estimated that the additional radiation will increase a person's cumulative risk of getting cancer by age 75 by 0.6–1.8%. The amount of absorbed radiation depends upon the type of X-ray test and the body part involved. CT and fluoroscopy entail higher doses of radiation than do plain X-rays.

To place the increased risk in perspective, a plain chest X-ray or dental X-ray will expose a person to the same amount from background radiation
Background radiation
Background radiation is the ionizing radiation constantly present in the natural environment of the Earth, which is emitted by natural and artificial sources.-Overview:Both Natural and human-made background radiation varies by location....

 that we are exposed to (depending upon location) every day over 10 days. Each such X-ray would add less than 1 per 1,000,000 to the lifetime cancer risk. An abdominal or chest CT would be the equivalent to 2–3 years of background radiation, increasing the lifetime cancer risk between 1 per 1,000 to 1 per 10,000. For instance, the effective dose to the torso from a CT scan of the chest is about 5 mSv. This is compared to the roughly 40% chance of a US citizen developing cancer during their lifetime. Accurate estimation of effective doses due to CT is difficult with the estimation uncertainty range of about ±19% to ±32% for adult head scans depending upon the method used.

Fathers exposed to diagnostic X-rays are more likely to have infants who contract leukemia, especially if exposure is closer to conception or includes two or more X-rays of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract or lower abdomen.
The risk of radiation is greater to unborn babies, so in pregnant patients, the benefits of the investigation (X-ray) should be balanced with the potential hazards to the unborn fetus. In the US, there are an estimated 62 million CT scans performed annually, including more than 4 million on children. Avoiding unnecessary X-rays (especially CT scans) will reduce radiation dose and any associated cancer risk.

Shielding

X-rays generated by peak voltages below Minimum thickness
of lead
75 kV 1.0 mm
100 kV 1.5 mm
125 kV 2.0 mm
150 kV 2.5 mm
175 kV 3.0 mm
200 kV 4.0 mm
225 kV 5.0 mm
300 kV 9.0 mm
400 kV 15.0 mm
500 kV 22.0 mm
600 kV 34.0 mm
900 kV 51.0 mm

Lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 is the most common shield against X-rays because of its high density (11340 kg/m3), stopping power, ease of installation and low cost. The maximum range of a high-energy photon such as an X-ray in matter is infinite; at every point in the matter traversed by the photon, there is a probability of interaction. Thus there is a very small probability of no interaction over very large distances. The shielding of photon beam is therefore exponential (with an attenuation length
Attenuation length
In physics, the attenuation length or absorption length is the distance \lambda into a material when the probability has dropped to 1/e that a particle has not been absorbed...

 being close to the radiation length
Radiation length
In physics, the radiation length is a characteristic of a material, related to the energy loss of high energy, electromagnetic-interacting particles with it.-Definition:High-energy electrons predominantly lose energy in matter...

 of the material); doubling the thickness of shielding will square the shielding effect.

The following table shows the recommended thickness of lead shielding in function of X-ray energy, from the Recommendations by the Second International Congress of Radiology.

Other uses

Other notable uses of X-rays include
  • X-ray crystallography
    X-ray crystallography
    X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

     in which the pattern produced by the diffraction
    Diffraction
    Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

     of X-rays through the closely spaced lattice of atoms in a crystal is recorded and then analysed to reveal the nature of that lattice. A related technique, fiber diffraction
    Fiber diffraction
    Fiber diffraction is a subarea of scattering, an area in which molecular structure is determined from scattering data . In fiber diffraction the scattering pattern does not change, as the sample is rotated about a unique axis...

    , was used by Rosalind Franklin
    Rosalind Franklin
    Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite...

     to discover the double helical structure of DNA
    DNA
    Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

    .
  • X-ray astronomy
    X-ray astronomy
    X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray observation and detection from astronomical objects. X-radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so instruments to detect X-rays must be taken to high altitude by balloons, sounding rockets, and...

    , which is an observational branch of astronomy
    Astronomy
    Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

    , which deals with the study of X-ray emission from celestial objects.
  • X-ray microscopic
    X-ray microscope
    An X-ray microscope uses electromagnetic radiation in the soft X-ray band to produce images of very small objects.Unlike visible light, X-rays do not reflect or refract easily, and they are invisible to the human eye. Therefore the basic process of an X-ray microscope is to expose film or use a...

     analysis, which uses electromagnetic radiation
    Electromagnetic radiation
    Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

     in the soft X-ray band to produce images of very small objects.
  • X-ray fluorescence
    X-ray fluorescence
    X-ray fluorescence is the emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays...

    , a technique in which X-rays are generated within a specimen and detected. The outgoing energy of the X-ray can be used to identify the composition of the sample.
  • Industrial radiography
    Industrial radiography
    Industrial Radiography is the use of ionizing radiation to view objects in a way that cannot be seen otherwise. It is not to be confused with the use of ionizing radiation to change or modify objects; radiography's purpose is strictly viewing. Industrial radiography has grown out of engineering,...

     uses X-rays for inspection of industrial parts, particularly welds
    Welding
    Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

    .
  • Paintings are often X-rayed to reveal the underdrawing
    Underdrawing
    Underdrawing is the drawing done on a painting ground before paint is applied, for example, an imprimatura or an underpainting. Underdrawing was used extensively by 15th century painters like Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. These artists "underdrew" with a brush, using hatching strokes for...

     and pentimenti
    Pentimento
    A pentimento is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting...

     or alterations in the course of painting, or by later restorers. Many pigment
    Pigment
    A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

    s such as lead white show well in X-ray photographs.
  • X-ray spectromicroscopy has been used to analyse the reactions of pigments in paintings. For example, in analysing colour degradation in the paintings of van Gogh
    Vincent van Gogh
    Vincent Willem van Gogh , and used Brabant dialect in his writing; it is therefore likely that he himself pronounced his name with a Brabant accent: , with a voiced V and palatalized G and gh. In France, where much of his work was produced, it is...

  • Airport security
    Airport security
    Airport security refers to the techniques and methods used in protecting airports and aircraft from crime.Large numbers of people pass through airports. This presents potential targets for terrorism and other forms of crime due to the number of people located in a particular location...

     luggage scanners use X-rays for inspecting the interior of luggage for security threats before loading on aircraft.
  • Border control
    Border control
    Border controls are measures used by a country to monitor or regulate its borders.The control of the flow of many people, animals and goods across a border may be controlled by government Customs services. Security is enforced by various kinds of Border Guards and Coast Guards...

     truck scanners use X-rays for inspecting the interior of trucks.
  • X-ray fine art photography
    Fine art photography
    Fine art photography refers to photographs that are created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer as artist. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism, which provides a visual account for news events, and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to...

  • X-ray hair removal
    Hair removal
    Hair removal is the removal of body hair, and describes the methods used to achieve that result.Hair typically grows all over the human body during and after puberty. Men tend to have more body hair than women. Both men and women tend to have hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, pubic...

    , a method popular in the 1920s but now banned by the FDA.
  • Roentgen Stereophotogrammetry
    Roentgen stereophotogrammetry
    Roentgen stereophotogrammetry is a highly accurate technique for the assessment of three-dimensional migration of prostheses.-Methodology:...

     is used to track movement of bones based on the implantation of markers
  • X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
    X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
    X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is a quantitative spectroscopic technique that measures the elemental composition, empirical formula, chemical state and electronic state of the elements that exist within a material...

     is a chemical analysis technique relying on the photoelectric effect
    Photoelectric effect
    In the photoelectric effect, electrons are emitted from matter as a consequence of their absorption of energy from electromagnetic radiation of very short wavelength, such as visible or ultraviolet light. Electrons emitted in this manner may be referred to as photoelectrons...

    , usually employed in surface science
    Surface science
    Surface science is the study of physical and chemical phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid–liquid interfaces, solid–gas interfaces, solid–vacuum interfaces, and liquid-gas interfaces. It includes the fields of surface chemistry and surface physics. Some related...

    .


Discovery

German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen is usually credited as the discoverer of X-rays because he was the first to systematically study them, though he is not the first to have observed their effects. He is also the one who gave them the name "X-rays", though many referred to these as "Röntgen rays" (and the associated X-ray radiograms
Radiography
Radiography is the use of X-rays to view a non-uniformly composed material such as the human body. By using the physical properties of the ray an image can be developed which displays areas of different density and composition....

 as, "Röntgenograms") for several decades after their discovery and to this day in some languages, including Röntgen's native German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, though "X-ray" overtook popular usage in English by 1980.

X-rays were found emanating from Crookes tube
Crookes tube
A Crookes tube is an early experimental electrical discharge tube, invented by English physicist William Crookes and others around 1869-1875, in which cathode rays, that is electrons, were discovered....

s, experimental discharge tubes invented around 1875, by scientists investigating the cathode ray
Cathode ray
Cathode rays are streams of electrons observed in vacuum tubes. If an evacuated glass tube is equipped with two electrodes and a voltage is applied, the glass opposite of the negative electrode is observed to glow, due to electrons emitted from and travelling perpendicular to the cathode Cathode...

s, that is energetic electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

 beams, that were first created in the tubes. Crookes tubes created free electrons by ionization
Ionization
Ionization is the process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or other ions. This is often confused with dissociation. A substance may dissociate without necessarily producing ions. As an example, the molecules of table sugar...

 of the residual air in the tube by a high DC voltage
Voltage
Voltage, otherwise known as electrical potential difference or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points — or the difference in electric potential energy per unit charge between two points...

 of anywhere between a few kilovolts and 100 kV. This voltage accelerated the electrons coming from the cathode
Cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

 to a high enough velocity that they created X-rays when they struck the anode
Anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

 or the glass wall of the tube. Many of the early Crookes tubes undoubtedly radiated X-rays, because early researchers noticed effects that were attributable to them, as detailed below. Wilhelm Röntgen was the first to systematically study them, in 1895.

The important early researchers in X-rays were Ivan Pulyui
Ivan Pulyui
Ivan Pulyui was a Ukrainian-born physicist, inventor and patriot who has been championed as an early developer of the use of X-rays for medical imaging...

, William Crookes
William Crookes
Sir William Crookes, OM, FRS was a British chemist and physicist who attended the Royal College of Chemistry, London, and worked on spectroscopy...

, Johann Wilhelm Hittorf
Johann Wilhelm Hittorf
Johann Wilhelm Hittorf was a German physicist who was born in Bonn and died in Münster, Germany.Hittorf was the first to compute the electricity-carrying capacity of charged atoms and molecules , an important factor in understanding electrochemical reactions...

, Eugen Goldstein
Eugen Goldstein
Eugen Goldstein was a German physicist. He was an early investigator of discharge tubes, the discoverer of anode rays, and is sometimes credited with the discovery of the proton.- Life :...

, Heinrich Hertz, Philipp Lenard
Philipp Lenard
Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard , known in Hungarian as Lénárd Fülöp Eduárd Antal, was a Hungarian - German physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905 for his research on cathode rays and the discovery of many of their properties...

, Hermann von Helmholtz
Hermann von Helmholtz
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science...

, Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

, Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

, Charles Glover Barkla
Charles Glover Barkla
Charles Glover Barkla was a British physicist, and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1917 for his work in X-ray spectroscopy and related areas in the study of X-rays .-Biography:...

, Max von Laue
Max von Laue
Max Theodor Felix von Laue was a German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals...

, and Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was a German physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901....

.

Johann Hittorf

German physicist Johann Hittorf (1824–1914), a co-inventor and early researcher of the Crookes tube, found when he placed unexposed photographic plate
Photographic plate
Photographic plates preceded photographic film as a means of photography. A light-sensitive emulsion of silver salts was applied to a glass plate. This form of photographic material largely faded from the consumer market in the early years of the 20th century, as more convenient and less fragile...

s near the tube, that some of them were flawed by shadows, though he did not investigate this effect.

Ivan Pulyui

In 1877 Ukrainian-born Pulyui
Ivan Pulyui
Ivan Pulyui was a Ukrainian-born physicist, inventor and patriot who has been championed as an early developer of the use of X-rays for medical imaging...

, a lecturer in experimental physics at the University of Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

, constructed various designs of vacuum discharge tube
Crookes tube
A Crookes tube is an early experimental electrical discharge tube, invented by English physicist William Crookes and others around 1869-1875, in which cathode rays, that is electrons, were discovered....

 to investigate their properties. He continued his investigations when appointed professor at the Prague Polytechnic
Czech Technical University in Prague
Czech Technical University in Prague is one of the largest universities in the Czech Republic, and the oldest institute of technology in Central Europe....

 and in 1886 he found that sealed photographic plates became dark when exposed to the emanations from the tubes. Early in 1896, just a few weeks after Röntgen
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was a German physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901....

 published his first X-ray photograph, Pulyui published high-quality X-ray images in journals in Paris and London. Although Pulyui had studied with Röntgen at the University of Strasbourg
University of Strasbourg
The University of Strasbourg in Strasbourg, Alsace, France, is the largest university in France, with about 43,000 students and over 4,000 researchers....

 in the years 1873–75, his biographer Gaida (1997) asserts that his subsequent research was conducted independently.

Nikola Tesla

In April 1887, Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

 began to investigate X-rays using high voltages and tubes of his own design, as well as Crookes tube
Crookes tube
A Crookes tube is an early experimental electrical discharge tube, invented by English physicist William Crookes and others around 1869-1875, in which cathode rays, that is electrons, were discovered....

s. From his technical publications, it is indicated that he invented and developed a special single-electrode X-ray tube, which differed from other X-ray tubes in having no target electrode. The principle behind Tesla's device is called the Bremsstrahlung
Bremsstrahlung
Bremsstrahlung is electromagnetic radiation produced by the deceleration of a charged particle when deflected by another charged particle, typically an electron by an atomic nucleus. The moving particle loses kinetic energy, which is converted into a photon because energy is conserved. The term is...

 process, in which a high-energy secondary X-ray emission is produced when charged particles (such as electrons) pass through matter. By 1892, Tesla performed several such experiments, but he did not categorize the emissions as what were later called X-rays. Tesla generalized the phenomenon as radiant energy
Radiant energy
Radiant energy is the energy of electromagnetic waves. The quantity of radiant energy may be calculated by integrating radiant flux with respect to time and, like all forms of energy, its SI unit is the joule. The term is used particularly when radiation is emitted by a source into the...

 of "invisible" kinds. Tesla stated the facts of his methods concerning various experiments in his 1897 X-ray lecture before the New York Academy of Sciences
New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is the third oldest scientific society in the United States. An independent, non-profit organization with more than members in 140 countries, the Academy’s mission is to advance understanding of science and technology...

. Also in this lecture, Tesla stated the method of construction and safe operation of X-ray equipment. His X-ray experimentation by vacuum high field emissions also led him to alert the scientific community to the biological hazards associated with X-ray exposure.

Fernando Sanford

X-rays were generated and detected by Fernando Sanford (1854–1948), the foundation Professor of Physics at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, in 1891. From 1886 to 1888 he had studied in the Hermann Helmholtz laboratory in Berlin, where he became familiar with the cathode rays generated in vacuum tubes when a voltage was applied across separate electrodes, as previously studied by Heinrich Hertz and Philipp Lenard
Philipp Lenard
Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard , known in Hungarian as Lénárd Fülöp Eduárd Antal, was a Hungarian - German physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905 for his research on cathode rays and the discovery of many of their properties...

. His letter of January 6, 1893 (describing his discovery as "electric photography") to The Physical Review
Physical Review
Physical Review is an American scientific journal founded in 1893 by Edward Nichols. It publishes original research and scientific and literature reviews on all aspects of physics. It is published by the American Physical Society. The journal is in its third series, and is split in several...

 was duly published and an article entitled Without Lens or Light, Photographs Taken With Plate and Object in Darkness appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Philipp Lenard

Philipp Lenard
Philipp Lenard
Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard , known in Hungarian as Lénárd Fülöp Eduárd Antal, was a Hungarian - German physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905 for his research on cathode rays and the discovery of many of their properties...

, a student of Heinrich Hertz, wanted to see whether cathode rays could pass out of the Crookes tube into the air. He built a Crookes tube (later called a "Lenard tube") with a "window" in the end made of thin aluminum, facing the cathode so the cathode rays would strike it. He found that something came through, that would expose photographic plates and cause fluorescence. He measured the penetrating power of these rays through various materials. It has been suggested that at least some of these "Lenard rays" were actually X-rays.

Hermann von Helmholtz

Hermann von Helmholtz
Hermann von Helmholtz
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science...

 formulated mathematical equations for X-rays. He postulated a dispersion theory before Röntgen made his discovery and announcement. It was formed on the basis of the electromagnetic theory of light. However, he did not work with actual X-rays.

Wilhelm Röntgen

On November 8, 1895, German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 physics professor Wilhelm Röntgen stumbled on X-rays while experimenting with Lenard
Philipp Lenard
Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard , known in Hungarian as Lénárd Fülöp Eduárd Antal, was a Hungarian - German physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905 for his research on cathode rays and the discovery of many of their properties...

 and Crookes tube
Crookes tube
A Crookes tube is an early experimental electrical discharge tube, invented by English physicist William Crookes and others around 1869-1875, in which cathode rays, that is electrons, were discovered....

s and began studying them. He wrote an initial report "On a new kind of ray: A preliminary communication" and on December 28, 1895 submitted it to the Würzburg
Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

's Physical-Medical Society journal. This was the first paper written on X-rays. Röntgen referred to the radiation as "X", to indicate that it was an unknown type of radiation. The name stuck, although (over Röntgen's great objections) many of his colleagues suggested calling them Röntgen rays. They are still referred to as such in many languages, including German, Russian, Japanese and Dutch. Röntgen received the first Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 for his discovery.

There are conflicting accounts of his discovery because Röntgen had his lab notes burned after his death, but this is a likely reconstruction by his biographers: Röntgen was investigating cathode rays with a fluorescent screen painted with barium platinocyanide
Platinocyanide
A platinocyanide is a salt containing the anion Pt42-. Barium platinocyanide, BaPt4, was important in the discovery of X-rays, and in the development of the fluoroscope. One platinocyanide salt with interesting conductive properties is Krogmann's salt....

 and a Crookes tube which he had wrapped in black cardboard so the visible light from the tube wouldn't interfere. He noticed a faint green glow from the screen, about 1 meter away. He realized some invisible rays coming from the tube were passing through the cardboard to make the screen glow. He found they could also pass through books and papers on his desk. Röntgen threw himself into investigating these unknown rays systematically. Two months after his initial discovery, he published his paper.

Röntgen discovered its medical use when he made a picture of his wife's hand on a photographic plate formed due to X-rays. The photograph of his wife's hand was the first ever photograph of a human body part using X-rays. When she saw the picture, she said "I have seen my death."

Thomas Edison

In 1895, Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 investigated materials' ability to fluoresce when exposed to X-rays, and found that calcium tungstate was the most effective substance. Around March 1896, the fluoroscope
Fluoroscopy
Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique commonly used by physicians to obtain real-time moving images of the internal structures of a patient through the use of a fluoroscope. In its simplest form, a fluoroscope consists of an X-ray source and fluorescent screen between which a patient is placed...

 he developed became the standard for medical X-ray examinations. Nevertheless, Edison dropped X-ray research around 1903 after the death of Clarence Madison Dally
Clarence Madison Dally
Clarence Madison Dally was an American glassblower, noted as an assistant to Thomas Edison in his work on X-rays and as an early victim of radiation dermatitis and its complications.- Early life and education :...

, one of his glassblowers. Dally had a habit of testing X-ray tubes on his hands, and acquired a cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 in them so tenacious that both arms were amputated
Amputation
Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

 in a futile attempt to save his life.

In 1901, U.S. President William McKinley was shot twice in an assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 attempt. While one bullet only grazed his sternum
Sternum
The sternum or breastbone is a long flat bony plate shaped like a capital "T" located anteriorly to the heart in the center of the thorax...

, another had lodged somewhere deep inside his abdomen
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

 and could not be found. "A worried McKinley aide sent word to inventor Thomas Edison to rush an X-ray machine
X-ray machine
An X-ray generator is a device used to generate X-rays. These devices are commonly used by radiographers to acquire an x-ray image of the inside of an object but they are also used in sterilization or fluorescence....

 to Buffalo to find the stray bullet. It arrived but wasn't used." While the shooting itself had not been lethal, "gangrene
Gangrene
Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies . This may occur after an injury or infection, or in people suffering from any chronic health problem affecting blood circulation. The primary cause of gangrene is reduced blood...

 had developed along the path of the bullet, and McKinley died of septic shock
Septic shock
Septic shock is a medical emergency caused by decreased tissue perfusion and oxygen delivery as a result of severe infection and sepsis, though the microbe may be systemic or localized to a particular site. It can cause multiple organ dysfunction syndrome and death...

 due to bacterial infection" six days later.

Russell Reynolds

Having heard of Wilhelm Röntgen's discovery, and whilst still at Winchester School, England, Russel Reynolds made an X-ray set in 1896.
Having been made only the year after the discovery of the phenomenon, the X-ray set is considered one of the worlds oldest and was donated to the London Science Museum, UK in 1938, where it can still be seen. In 2009 the British public voted the X-ray machine the most important modern discovery". Dr. Russell Reynolds died in 1964 in his 85th year, he was considered one of British radiology's "most distinguished seniors".

Frank Austin and the Frost brothers

The first medical X-ray made in the United States was obtained using a discharge tube of Pulyui's design. In January 1896, on reading of Röntgen's discovery, Frank Austin of Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is a private, Ivy League university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. The institution comprises a liberal arts college, Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business, as well as 19 graduate programs in the arts and sciences...

 tested all of the discharge tubes in the physics laboratory and found that only the Pulyui tube produced X-rays. This was a result of Pulyui's inclusion of an oblique "target" of mica
Mica
The mica group of sheet silicate minerals includes several closely related materials having highly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition...

, used for holding samples of fluorescent material, within the tube. On 3 February 1896 Gilman Frost, professor of medicine at the college, and his brother Edwin Frost, professor of physics, exposed the wrist of Eddie McCarthy, whom Edwin had treated some weeks earlier for a fracture, to the X-rays and collected the resulting image of the broken bone on gelatin photographic plates
Photographic plate
Photographic plates preceded photographic film as a means of photography. A light-sensitive emulsion of silver salts was applied to a glass plate. This form of photographic material largely faded from the consumer market in the early years of the 20th century, as more convenient and less fragile...

 obtained from Howard Langill, a local photographer also interested in Röntgen's work.

20th century and beyond

The many applications of X-rays immediately generated enormous interest. Workshops began making specialized versions of Crookes tubes for generating X-rays and these first generation cold cathode
Cold cathode
A cold cathode is a cathode used within nixie tubes, gas discharge lamps, discharge tubes, and some types of vacuum tube which is not electrically heated by the circuit to which it is connected...

 or Crookes X-ray tubes were used until about 1920.

Crookes tubes were unreliable. They had to contain a small quantity of gas (invariably air) as a current will not flow in such a tube if they are fully evacuated. However as time passed the X-rays caused the glass to absorb the gas, causing the tube to generate "harder" X-rays until it soon stopped operating. Larger and more frequently used tubes were provided with devices for restoring the air, known as "softeners". These often took the form of a small side tube which contained a small piece of mica: a substance that traps comparatively large quantities of air within its structure. A small electrical heater heated the mica and caused it to release a small amount of air, thus restoring the tube's efficiency. However the mica had a limited life and the restore process was consequently difficult to control.

In 1904, John Ambrose Fleming
John Ambrose Fleming
Sir John Ambrose Fleming was an English electrical engineer and physicist. He is known for inventing the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube, the diode, then called the kenotron in 1904. He is also famous for the left hand rule...

 invented the thermionic diode valve (vacuum tube). This used a hot cathode
Hot cathode
In vacuum tubes, a hot cathode is a cathode electrode which emits electrons due to thermionic emission. In the accelerator community, these are referred to as thermionic cathodes. The heating element is usually an electrical filament...

 which permitted current to flow in a vacuum. The idea was quickly applied to X-ray tubes and thus heated cathode X-ray tubes, called Coolidge tubes, replaced the troublesome cold cathode tubes by about 1920.

Two years later, physicist Charles Barkla
Charles Glover Barkla
Charles Glover Barkla was a British physicist, and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1917 for his work in X-ray spectroscopy and related areas in the study of X-rays .-Biography:...

 discovered that X-rays could be scattered by gases and that each element had a characteristic X-ray. He won the 1917 Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 for this discovery. Max von Laue
Max von Laue
Max Theodor Felix von Laue was a German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals...

, Paul Knipping and Walter Friedrich observed for the first time the diffraction
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

 of X-rays by crystals in 1912. This discovery, along with the early works of Paul Peter Ewald
Paul Peter Ewald
Paul Peter Ewald was a German-born U.S. crystallographer and physicist, a pioneer of X-ray diffraction methods.-Education:...

, William Henry Bragg
William Henry Bragg
Sir William Henry Bragg OM, KBE, PRS was a British physicist, chemist, mathematician and active sportsman who uniquely shared a Nobel Prize with his son William Lawrence Bragg - the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics...

 and William Lawrence Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

 gave birth to the field of X-ray crystallography
Crystallography
Crystallography is the experimental science of the arrangement of atoms in solids. The word "crystallography" derives from the Greek words crystallon = cold drop / frozen drop, with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and grapho = write.Before the development of...

. The Coolidge tube was invented the following year by William D. Coolidge which permitted continuous production of X-rays; this type of tube is still in use today.

The use of X-rays for medical purposes (to develop into the field of radiation therapy
Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy , radiation oncology, or radiotherapy , sometimes abbreviated to XRT or DXT, is the medical use of ionizing radiation, generally as part of cancer treatment to control malignant cells.Radiation therapy is commonly applied to the cancerous tumor because of its ability to control...

) was pioneered by Major John Hall-Edwards
John Hall-Edwards
John Francis Hall-Edwards was a pioneer in the medical use of X-rays in the United Kingdom. He took the first radiograph to direct a surgical operation, on 14 February 1896. Hall-Edwards' interest in X-rays cost him his left arm, which had to be amputated in 1908 as a consequence of X-ray...

 in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. In 1908, he had to have his left arm amputated owing to the spread of X-ray dermatitis
Radiation dermatitis
Radiation dermatitis is a skin disease associated with prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation. Radiation dermatitis occurs to some degree in most patients receiving radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy....

. The X-ray microscope
X-ray microscope
An X-ray microscope uses electromagnetic radiation in the soft X-ray band to produce images of very small objects.Unlike visible light, X-rays do not reflect or refract easily, and they are invisible to the human eye. Therefore the basic process of an X-ray microscope is to expose film or use a...

 was invented in the 1950s.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory
Chandra X-ray Observatory
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a satellite launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. It was named in honor of Indian-American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is known for determining the maximum mass for white dwarfs. "Chandra" also means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit.Chandra...

, launched on July 23, 1999, has been allowing the exploration of the very violent processes in the universe which produce X-rays. Unlike visible light, which is a relatively stable view of the universe, the X-ray universe is unstable, it features stars being torn apart by black hole
Black hole
A black hole is a region of spacetime from which nothing, not even light, can escape. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass will deform spacetime to form a black hole. Around a black hole there is a mathematically defined surface called an event horizon that...

s, galactic collisions and novas or neutron star
Neutron star
A neutron star is a type of stellar remnant that can result from the gravitational collapse of a massive star during a Type II, Type Ib or Type Ic supernova event. Such stars are composed almost entirely of neutrons, which are subatomic particles without electrical charge and with a slightly larger...

s that build up layers of plasma that then explode into space.

An X-ray laser
X-ray laser
An X-ray laser is a device that uses stimulated emission to generate or amplify electromagnetic radiation in the near X-ray or extreme ultraviolet region of the spectrum, that is, usually on the order of several of tens of nanometers wavelength.Because of high gain in the lasing medium, short...

 device was proposed as part of the Reagan Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

 in the 1980s, but the first and only test of the device (a sort of laser "blaster", or death ray
Death ray
The death ray or death beam was a theoretical particle beam or electromagnetic weapon of the 1920s through the 1930s that was claimed to have been invented independently by Nikola Tesla, Edwin R. Scott, Harry Grindell Matthews, and Graichen, as well as others...

, powered by a thermonuclear explosion) gave inconclusive results. For technical and political reasons, the overall project (including the X-ray laser) was de-funded (though was later revived by the second Bush Administration as National Missile Defense
National Missile Defense
National missile defense is a generic term for a type of missile defense intended to shield an entire country against incoming missiles, such as intercontinental ballistic missile or other ballistic missiles. Interception might be by anti-ballistic missiles or directed-energy weapons such as lasers...

 using different technologies).

See also

  • Backscatter X-ray
    Backscatter X-ray
    Backscatter X-ray is an advanced X-ray imaging technology. Traditional X-ray machines detect hard and soft materials by the variation in transmission through the target. In contrast, backscatter X-ray detects the radiation that reflects from the target...

  • Detective quantum efficiency
  • High energy X-rays
    High energy X-rays
    High energy X-rays or HEX-rays are very hard X-rays, with typical energies of 80 keV - 1000 keV , about one order of magnitude higher than conventional X-rays . They are produced at modern synchrotron radiation sources such as the beamline ID15 at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility...

  • Industrial CT scanning
    Industrial CT Scanning
    Industrial CT scanning is a process which uses X-ray equipment to produce three-dimensional representations of components both externally and internally. Industrial CT scanning has been used in many areas of industry for internal inspection of components...

  • N ray
    N ray
    N-rays were a hypothesized form of radiation, described by French physicist Prosper-René Blondlot in 1903, and initially confirmed by others, but subsequently found to be illusory.-History:...

  • Neutron radiation
    Neutron radiation
    Neutron radiation is a kind of ionizing radiation which consists of free neutrons. A result of nuclear fission or nuclear fusion, it consists of the release of free neutrons from atoms, and these free neutrons react with nuclei of other atoms to form new isotopes, which, in turn, may produce...

  • Radiologic technologist
    Radiologic technologist
    A radiologic technologist, also known as medical radiation technologist and as radiographer, performs imaging of the human body for diagnosis or treating medical problems...

  • Resonant inelastic X-ray scattering
    Resonant inelastic X-ray scattering
    Resonant Inelastic X-ray Scattering is an x-ray spectroscopy technique used to investigate the electronic structure of molecules and materials....

     (RIXS)
  • Small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS)
  • X-ray absorption spectroscopy
  • X-ray generation
  • X-ray marker
    X-ray marker
    X-ray Markers, also known as, max markers, Pb markers, lead markers, x-ray lead markers, or radiographic film identification markers, are used to mark x-ray films, both in hospitals and in industrial workplaces . They are used on radiographic images to determine anatomical side of body...

  • X-ray nanoprobe
    X-ray nanoprobe
    The hard X-ray nanoprobe at the Center for Nanoscale Materials , Argonne National Lab advanced the state of the art by providing a hard X-ray microscopy beamline with the highest spatial resolution in the world. It provides for fluorescence, diffraction, and transmission imaging with hard X-rays at...

  • X-ray optics
    X-ray optics
    X-ray optics is the branch of optics which manipulates X-rays instead of visible light. While lenses for visible light are made of transparent materials that can have a refractive index substantially larger than 1, for X-rays the index of refraction is slightly smaller than unity. The principal...

  • X-ray reflectivity
    X-ray reflectivity
    X-ray reflectivity sometimes known as X-ray specular reflectivity, X-ray reflectometry, or XRR, is a surface-sensitive analytical technique used in chemistry, physics, and materials science to characterize surfaces, thin films and multilayers...

  • X-ray vision
    X-Ray Vision
    In science fiction stories or superhero comics, X-ray vision is the ability to see through physical objects at the discretion of the holder of this superpower. The most famous possessor of this ability is DC Comics' iconic superhero character, Superman....

  • X-ray welding
    X-ray welding
    X-ray Welding is an experimental welding process that uses a high powered X-ray source to provide thermal energy required to weld materials.- Introduction :...



External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK