How Do X-Rays Work?


An X-ray is an electromagnetic process which generates photons which are passed through a hard object to record the internal image. This process is mainly used in the field of medicine, but finds it uses in several other applications as well.
X-rays have played a crucial role in applications in mechanical research facilities, crystallography and cosmetic surgery applications. They have also been use extensively in niche process manufacturing companies to locate minute flaws in operational process equipments. They have also marked their presence in airport security for screening of passengers and their baggage.
X-ray scans in the field of medicine are performed by specialized doctors called radiologists. During X-rays of the body, structures which are dense in nature, like bones, will show up as white in color. The calcium in the bone is a larger atom and so they easily absorb the X-ray photons. Other body parts like muscles and organs have smaller atoms and do not absorb the X-ray photons.
X-ray was discovered by a German physician, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen in 1895. An X-ray machine comprises of an anode and a cathode, commonly referred to as an electrode pair. This is placed inside a glass vacuum tube. The cathode is in the form of a filament and is heated to release electrons, which is absorbed by a flat tungsten disc in the form of an anode. In drawing these electrons across the tube, photons are generated, with the release of a lot of heat.
The entire contraption is covered with a lead shield to prevent the X-rays from escaping. The photons are channelized to patient though a small window by passing them through a series of filters. A camera on the other side of the patient records the image of the X-rays which have passed through the patient’s body. The image is presented in the form of a negative.
X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation which passes through a human body without being seen. They have been invaluable in the field of medical science, since diagnosis of the body can be done accurately without significant surgical intervention. However, on the flip side, they can be harmful to us. When X-rays hit an atom in our body, they free the electrons and electrically charged ions are formed. These atoms collide with each other and generate more ions which can be harmful to the human body. This can cause disruptions in the DNA strand in the human body. Birth defects in the fetus may arise in case of pregnant women exposed to X-ray radiation.

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