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Lead as absorber

  1. Aug 13, 2008 #1
    Hi everybody,while working in nuclear lab when i was watching a source(Cs(137)) i found that in front of that a transparent sheet is placed while the whole covered with lead,so that radiations not emit at large from any other side.So can you tell me what's the reason behind that lead is taken as a perfct absorber.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2008 #2


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    Gamma and X rays are absorbed by large nuclei, those with largest atomic number.
    Lead has the largest stable nucleus and is cheap and easy to machine, it's also not too toxic.
    Because it's so dense it is also a good alpha and beta shield, as is any thick metal.
    It's not a perfect abosorber, it does't do much for neutrons.
  4. Aug 14, 2008 #3
    Lead (and any other material for that matter) only attenuates gammas/x-rays, and never completely eliminates them. Only charged particles are stopped completely. That's why charged particles have a range.
  5. Aug 16, 2008 #4


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    daveb: That is not 100% true.

    1) you can say so in first approximation if you are talking about a photon- and an electron BEAM, with many numbers of particles. A photon interact only once and is then removed from the beam, while an electron interact several times before it is removed.

    2) charged particles also follow a probability distribution function to be absorbed within a certain material. Range is defined as when 90% of the charged particles in the beam is lost, you'll never have a sharp ending of your charged beam.
  6. Aug 17, 2008 #5


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    Of the three principle irradiations, alpha, beta and gamma, alphas are least penetrating while gammas the most, and betas in between. Alpha particles (+2 charged, nuclei of He), beta particles (electrons) and gamma rays (high energy photons) lose energy through interactions with atomic electrons which ionize atoms.

    The charged particles lose momentum via Coulomb interactions and collisions. The massive alpha particles lose momentum rapidly to atoms (and can interact with the nucleus) and a little to the atomic electrons, while the light beta particles lose momentum mostly to atomic electrons. Alpha particles can be stopped by sheets of paper or the outer layer of skin, while betas require some thickness of metal. Gammas (and X-rays) are very penetrating and require much more shielding.

    Gamma rays (photons) undergo three types of interactions. For energies above 1.022 MeV, they can produce electron-positron pairs through interaction with atomic nuclei. Otherwise, gammas undergo Compton scattering in which an atomic electron is knocked out of its atom, and the photon loses energy, or at lower energies, the photon can be completed absorbed (photoelectric effect).

    The attenuation of radiation is governed by statistical or random processes (much like decay). For a given length of material, there is a finite probability of interaction, and as thickness increases, the probability of interaction increases.

    See - http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~scidemo...tionandShielding/PenetrationandShielding.html
    Lead and other heavy metals are effective absorbers because they contain a high density of electrons. Thorium and Uranium are great absorbers of radiation, but they are also somewhat radioactive themselves. Lead is essentially inert.

    It should be indicated that heavy metals are toxic (will cause neuropathy if ingested) and should be handled with care in order to avoid ingesting any material.
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