Jan 2017

Uses of Radiation

January 31, 2017


Radiation receives a bad rap in the media but actually is an intrinsic principle in many scientific applications in the modern world. Today we look at just some of the uses for radiation which will be covered in detail in our JC physics tuition classes.

What is Radiation?

Radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Strictly defined, it is simply the movement of energy through space- and yes, visible light falls on that same spectrum. Higher energy parts of the spectrum include UV light and then the forms of radiation that have industrial and medical uses.

These are typically referred to as ionizing radiations, and while they have no tangible feel, we can easily measure their effects scientifically. It is important to remember that lots of things produce radiation, including the earth we stand on.

How do we measure radiation?

The unit of radiation is the Sievert, although you most often see reference to the millisievert or mSv. Background radiation accounts for around 2mSv per year, and anything under 100 mSv is generally considered safe.

What is radiation used for?

The area that has seen the most use of radiation is, of course, the medical sector. From X-ray to CT and PET machines, radiation place a huge and revolutionary part in medical diagnostics. Radiation is of course also a critical part of cancer treatment, less concerning uses of radiation is also used in the form of barium tracing, where a small amount of radioactive substance is tracked through the body to monitor certain treatments.

Apart from medical usages, radiation is also used commercially in some forms of the smoke detector using the form of alpha particle radiation. Many reflective paints also use small amounts of radiation to produce that phosphorus effect that increases visibility.

What else is radiation used for?

Irradiation processes on certain foods use radiation to sterilize foods so that they have longer shelf life, it does so by critically altering the RNA and DNA structures of bacteria and viruses, dissipating almost immediately, so it’s safe for human consumption. Medical equipment is often sterilized like this as well. Many engineering tools use the concept of radiation to accurately determine thicknesses and levels of fluids.

Radiation principles have such a critical impact on the world around us, many of our modern industrial and engineering processes would be impossible without research into radiation. This is why this is such a vital part of your physics tuition learning concepts.

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