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## Attenuation of Collimated Photon Beam by a Thin Slab - A. A. Gui, RPO Consult

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The attenuation equation for a mono-energetic, collimated or narrow photon (gamma and X-ray)
beam by a thin slab is derived based on
the following assumptions:
1. Once it undergoes any interaction in
the slab, the photon will not be
detected by the detector. This is true if
the beam is collimated or narrow.
2. The photons are mono-energetic.
3. There is negligible attenuation of photons in the air.
4. All photons past through the same distance in the slab, i.e. uniform slab thickness and the
photons direction is perpendicular to the thin slab (good approximation if the beam is narrow)
5. The resulting equation is:
I
x
= I
0
c
-x

where, I
0
and I
x
are the incident and transmitted photon intensities, is the linear attenuation
coefficient (cm
-1
) of the slab material and x is the slab thickness (cm). [The inverse square law is
not applicable, why?]
6. It is interesting to note that this equation is similar to that for radioactive decay.
7. As the slab thickness increases, photons that are scattered by the slab may be detected. To
account for this, a correction called buildup factor, B, is applied to the right hand side of Eq. 1 as
shown in Eq. 2. B depends on the photon energy, slab thickness, material () and geometry.
I
x
= B I
0
c
-x

In the RPO examination conducted by AELB, the buildup factor is not used, i.e. only Eq. 1 is used.
8. The thickness that reduces the transmitted photon intensity to half of the incident value (i.e. I
x
=
I
0
/2), is called the half-value layer (HVL) of the slab material for the photon (of specific energy).
Similar to the half life equation, the HVL can be found using Eq. 1,to be:
EII =
In2

or HVL =
0.693 1


9. The thickness that reduces the transmitted photon intensity to one-tenth of the incident value
(i.e. I
x
= I
0
/10), is called the tenth-value layer (TVL) of the slab material for the photon (of
specific energy). TVL can be found to be:
TVL =
In1 0

=
2.3 026


10. Just like the relationship between activities and the number of half life, similar expression can be
used for the radiation intensities and HVL. For example, the ration I
x
/I
0
corresponds to a
thickness of n times HVL is given by:
I
x
I
0
=
1
2
n

I
0
I
x

2 | o f 2

wcrc, n = tc nu mbcro EII, i.e. the slab thickness = n HVL. Similar equation can be
developed for the TVL (replace HVL by TVL and 2 by 10 in Eq. 5, slab thickness = n*TVL).
11. From Eq. 3 and Eq. 4,
HvL
1vL
=
In2
In1 0
= u.Su1 or,
1vL
HvL
=
In1 0
In2
= S.S219 
Lets look at some examples of applications of the above equations.
1. A 0.2-cm thick material transmits 25% of a mono-energetic beam of photons, calculate the HVL
of that material for the beam.
a. Method 1, using Eq. 1
I
x
I
0
= c
-x
, and using natural log (ln), we get ln(I
x
I
0
) = -x or ln(0.25) = -0.2 which
gives = 6.931 cm
-1

From Eq. 3, HVL = 0.6931/6.931 =0.1 cm
b. Method 2, using Eq. 5
0.25 = 1/2
n
; or = 1/2
n
; so n = 2. So, 2 HVL = 0.2 cm and HVL = 0.2/2 cm = 0.1 cm.
2. In the above example, what is the thickness of the TVL?
a. From Eq. 6, TVL = 3.3219 HVL = = 3.3219 0.1 = 0.332 cm.
3. Given the following parameters:

p
= 30.32 cm
2
/g (mass attenuation coefficient); (density)
=11.3 g/cm
3
of a shield for a narrow mono-energetic X-ray beam, what is the thickness of the
material required to reduce the dose rate to 1/64 of unshielded beam?
a. Using Eq. 5, 1/64 = 1/2
n
; so the no. of HVL required is 6 (2
6
= 64).
b. From the data given, =

p
= 30.32 11.3 = 342.616 cm
-1

c. From Eq. 3, HVL =
0.693 1

=
0.693 1
3 4 2 .61 6
= 0.002022964 cm;
d. The thickness required is 6 HVLs = 6 0.002022964 =0.012 cm.
4. How many HVL of material should be removed to increase the gamma dose rate by a factor of 8?
a. Using Eq. 5, 3 HVLs (as 2
3
= 8) of shielding material should be removed.
Tips
1. If the ratio of incident and transmitted beam intensities (or the shield thicknesses) is a multiple
of 2 (e.g. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, ., 2
n
), then it is easier to use Eq. 5.
2. Eq. 1 is used in the experiment to determine the linear attenuation coefficient () and HVL of
shield material.
3. You could use Eq. 5 to quickly check whether your answer is reasonable. For example, if the
photon beam intensity is reduced by a factor of 10, then the shield thickness should be between
3 to 4 HVL (2
3
= 8, 2
4
= 16) and closer to 3 HVL.
4. Rule of thumb: TVL 3.32 HVL; HVL 0.3 TVL; After 7 HVLs, photon beam intensity is reduced
to less than 1% (0.7%).
5. With suitable change of variables, the above equations are applicable for exponential decay and
half life calculations of radionuclides.