What are the types of ionizing radiation? - Radiation Detection Company
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What are the types of ionizing radiation?

Cody Miles | July 4, 2018

Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus. They are a highly ionizing form of particle radiation, and have low penetration depth so they can be blocked with a single sheet of paper. Alpha particles pose a serious threat when ingested, but not when encountered externally.

Beta particles are high-energy, high-speed electrons or positrons. When passing through matter, a beta particle is decelerated by electromagnetic interactions and may give off bremsstrahlung x-rays. Because of this, beta particles are best shielded with low-density materials like acrylic plastic.

Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation of high frequency and therefore high energy. They have no mass, and no charge. Gamma rays are identical to x-rays, except that an x-ray originates from orbital electron rearrangements, while gamma rays originate from the nucleus of an atom during decay. Gamma and x-rays are best shielded with lead, or other dense materials.

Neutron particles are slightly larger than protons. Due to the high kinetic energy of neutrons, this radiation is considered to be the most severe and dangerous radiation to the whole body when exposed to external radiation sources. Neutrons readily pass through most material, but interact enough to cause biological damage. The most effective shielding materials when dealing with Neutron radiation are water, polyethylene, or paraffin wax.

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