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Advice on X-Ray Safetly

  1. Feb 2, 2013 #1
    I am looking to do some experimentation with x-ray imaging of non-living materials, and need advice on how to do it safely.

    My questions fall under two categories: 1) How do I ensure that the radiation does not come in contact with human flesh, and 2) How do I detect the radiation from the x-rays.

    My setup: I have a directional x-ray emitter that outputs a low voltage x-ray onto an object which is captured on a screen behind it.

    How do I keep people safe: Lead can stop x-rays, but how thick does the lead need to be for a given x-ray intensity? Are there charts relating x-ray wavelength intensity, and wavelength to lead absorption?

    Lead poses another problem to human health. Are there other materials available that are dense enough to absorb x-rays, but are not poisonous to humans? I suppose that's one of the cache-22s of heavy metals.

    What type of eye protection is needed? Should the eyes be treated any differently than other parts of the body? Do x-rays affect the retina differently than other human tissue?

    How do you detect stray x-rays? I know Gieger counters can somewhat detect x-rays, but I hear only 1% of the rays.

    I know I can get phosphoric coatings, but is there an easier way than painting a whole room?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2013 #2

    to your first question: absorbing or stopping x-rays is not only a question of their intensity, but also of the energy or energy spectrum of the incident rays!
    soft x-rays (<20keV) are stopped sufficiently by a 2mm thick tungsten (W), however keep in mind the mechanism of absorption process of x-rays in a material; hard x-rays undergo a multiple process with the atoms, respectively the electrons and will be transferred to low energy x-rays at the output.

    To detect x-rays also the energy range is important, as there a several types of detectors for low and high energy x-rays. Moreover you may chose between single counting devices (e.g. Geiger tube) or integrating devices as the CCD (charge coupled device).
    Single Photon counting devices for the Soft X-ray region is our (Photron-X) core competence.

  4. Feb 3, 2013 #3


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    Staff Emeritus
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    First of all, under what circumstances are you doing this "... some experimentation with x-ray imaging.... "? Are you doing this as part of your job, or are you simply tinkering on your own in the basement of your house?

    If you are doing the former, I will be extremely shocked that the company/institution you are working for does not already have a set of safety protocol for you to follow. If you are doing the latter, STOP!

  5. Feb 3, 2013 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'm with ZapperZ on this. It seems as if you are doing this as a home project of sorts. If so, then PLEASE reconsider. You WILL end up harming yourself or someone else. Radiation, even in small amounts, is not something you should work with unless you have sufficient professional training in the proper safety procedures AND the experience necessary to work on your own.
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