What is Ionizing Radiation?
Ionizing radiation consists of subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves that are energetic enough to detach electrons from atoms or molecules, ionizing them. (Wikipedia) Two of the most common forms of ionizing radiation are gamma rays and X-rays. Both forms of ionizing radiation are almost identical with exception to their source of origination.
How is Ionizing Radiation Generated?
Ionizing radiation comes from radioactive sources such as cobalt 60 and cesium 137 and non-radioactive sources such as X-ray tubes. Radioactive sources are unstable materials where gamma rays originate from the nucleus. X-rays originate in the electron fields surrounding the nucleus or are machine-produced.
What is Ionizing Radiation Used for?
Because of the penetrating properties of ionizing radiation and their ability to kill microorganisms, ionizing radiation is used to sterilize or reduce the microbial load of many different types of products such as medical devices, packaging, cosmetics, foods, and agricultural products. It is also used to alter the properties of many different polymers through recombination, cross-linkage, and cross scission.
Why use X-ray versus Gamma produced Ionizing Radiation?
Gamma ionizing radiation is produced by radioactive sources such as cobalt 60 or cesium 137 and is dangerous requiring heavy shielding and high levels of security to protect. The unstable material is constantly decaying and cannot be turned off. X-ray ionizing radiation is produced by a X-ray tube therefore it can be turned off when it is not being used and it requires much less shielding. At the end the of unit’s lifecycle, the unit does not have any radioactive source and therefore does not require the expensive disposal costs associated with radioactive sources that continue to degrade over hundreds of years.