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Fundamentals of
Radiation Physics
 Physics – study of matter and energy and their
interaction. Grouped as thermodynamics,
optics, acoustics, mechanics and
electromagnetism. Modern physics are
branched into atomic and nuclear.
 Every measurement has two parts –
magnitude and a unit. The magnitude or
amount is meaningless without a designated
 MKS – meter, kilogram and seconds.
 CGS – centimeter, grams and seconds.
 British system – foot, pound and seconds.
 The most modern system, the International
System (SI), is an extension of the MKS
 Segment of physics which deals with
motion of objects.

 Motion has often a direction. A quantity

with direction and magnitude is known as
a vector. Another quantity with
magnitude but no direction is a scalar
 Velocity or speed is the rate of change of position
of the object over time.

v = d/t

 Acceleration is the rate of velocity over time.

a = v/t
 First law: Inertia
 A body at rest will continue at rest or a body in motion
will continue moving at a constant velocity in a
straight line unless acted by an external force.
 Second law: Force/ Acceleration
 The force acted on an object is equal to the mass times
the acceleration.
 Third law: Action-reaction/ Interaction
 For every action, there is an equal and opposite
 Weight is the force of an object caused by the
downward pull of gravity.
 Momentum is the product of the mass of an object and its
velocity represented by p. The greater the velocity of an
object, the greater its momentum.
 Work is equal to the force over a distance.
W= F x d
 Power is the rate of doing work, that is, the work
performed over time.


 Energy is the ability to do work. Kinetic energy is the

energy of motion whereas potential energy is the stored
energy of position.
 Radiation has been defined as the energy emitted and
transferred through matter.
 General classifications of radiation:
 1. Non-ionizing radiation – radiation for which the
mechanism of action in tissue does not directly ionize
atomic or molecular systems through a single
 - A radiation that is not capable of causing
 2. Ionizing radiation – radiation that is capable of
 occurs when an
electromagnetic radiation
passes close to an orbital
electron of an atom and
transfer sufficient energy
to the electron to remove it
from the atom.
 The orbital electron and
the atom which it was
separated are called ion
pairs. The electron is the
negative ion and the
remaining atom is a
positive ion.
 Irradiation – matter that
intercepts radiation and
absorbs part or all of it.

 Contamination – matter
that has been irradiated
and becomes a source of
 – radiation emitted by the sun and stars.
 emitted from deposits
of radioactive
substances on earth.
 Potassium 40 (K-40) – part
of human metabolism
 Carbon 14 – deposited in
trees and fossils.
– constitute the largest source of man-made ionizing
- deposition on the surface of the earth of radioactive
particles, released into the atmosphere as a result of
nuclear explosions and by discharge from nuclear-
power and atomic installations.
 Any subatomic particle is capable of causing
ionization. Consequently, electrons, protons, and even
rare nuclear fragments can all be classified as
particulate ionizing radiation if they are in motion and
posses sufficient kinetic energy. At rest, they cannot
cause ionization.

 There are two main types of particulate radiation:

a.) alpha particles
b.) beta particles
 Identical to a helium nucleus. It contains two protons
and two neutrons. Its mass is approximately 4 amu and
it carries two units of positive electric charge.
 Alpha particles are emitted only from the nuclei of
heavy elements, radioisotopes with mass greater than
 The energy of alpha particle is quickly lost. It has a
very short range in matter. In air, alpha particles can
travel approximately 5 cm, whereas in soft tissue, the
range maybe less than 100 um.
 Alpha radiation from an external source of radiation is
nearly harmless because the radiation energy is
deposited in superficial layers of the skin. With an
internal source of radiation, just the opposite is true.
 Light particles with an atomic number of zero and
carries one unit of negative (beta minus) or positive
(beta plus) charge.
 The only difference between electrons and beta minus
particles is their origin. Beta particles originate in the
nuclei of radioactive atoms and electrons exist in shells
 Beta particles traverse air, ionizing several hundred
atoms per centimeter. The beta particle range is longer
than that for alpha particle. Depending on its energy, a
beta particle may traverse 10 to 100 cm of air and
approximately 1 to 2 cm in soft tissue.
 X-rays and gamma rays are forms of electromagnetic
ionizing radiation. They are often called photons.
Photons have no mass and no charge. They travel at
the speed of light (c=3.0 x 10⁸ m/s) and are considered
energy disturbances in space.
 Just as the only difference between beta minus
particles and electrons is there origin, so the only
difference between x-rays and gamma rays is their
 Gamma rays are emitted from the nuclei of
radioisotopes and are usually associated with alpha or
beta emission.
 X-rays are produced outside the nucleus in the
electron cloud through: characteristic radiation and
bremsstrahlung radiation.
 Characteristic radiation is
produced when the inner-shell
electrons of the target atom are
ejected by the projectile or
incident energetic electrons.
 The resultant vacancy is filled by
the transition of outer-shell
electrons, and the energy
difference emitted as characteristic
 Bremsstrahlung x-rays are prduced
when energetic electrons interact
with nuclear electric fields.
 Bremsstrahlung means braking
radiation in German. It also termed
white radiation.
 The projectile electrons are
decelerated by the nuclear electric
field and change their direction of
 The energy lost when the energetic
electron decelerates appears as an
x-ray photon.
Properties of
 Photons are energy disturbances moving through
space at the speed of light (c).
 Although photons have no mass and no identifiable
form, they have electric and magnetic fields that are
continously moving in a sinusoidal fashion.
 Amplitude is one half one half the range from crest to
valley over which the sine wave varies.


 The sine wave model of electromagnetic radiation
describes the variations of the electric and magnetic
fields as the photon travels with velocity. The
important properties of this model are frequency and
 The rate of rise and fall of a sine wave is called
frequency. It is usually defined as oscillations per
second or cycles per second. The unit of measurement
is hertz (Hz). One Hz is equal to one cycle per second.
 The distance from one crest to another, from one valley
to another, or from any point of the sine wave to the
next corresponding point is the wavelength.
 The product of frequency and wavelength equals the
velocity of light (c). Frequency and wavelength are
inversely proportional. Because frequency and
wavelength always equal to the velocity of light, as
frequency increases, wavelength decreases and vice
 c (velocity) = f x λ (frequency x wavelength)
 v= f x λ
 As the distance between the source of radiation and a
person increases, the radiation exposure decreases
rapidly. The decrease in exposure is calculated using
the inverse square law.
 X-ray photons travel at the speed of light and either
exist with velocity (c) or do not exist at all. An
important consequence of this theory is the
understanding of the relationship between energy and
frequency. Photon energy is directly proportional to
photon frequency. The constant proportionality,
known as Planck’s cnstant, symbolized by h, has a
numerical value of 4.15 x 10 ˉ¹⁵ eV-s. Mathematically,
the relationship between energy and frequency is
expressed as:
 E (eV) = h (Planck’s constant) x f (photon frequency)
 E = hf
 Anything in existence can be
classified as matter or energy.
Furthermore, matter and energy
are really manifestations of each
other. Recall the law of
conservation of matter and law
of conservation of energy.
Therefore, by using Einstein’s
theory of relativity, one can
calculate the mass equivalence
of a photon.
 E = mc²
Radiological Units and
 Radiation intensity in air. The definition is actually in
terms of electric charge per unit mass in air.

-traditionally expressed in Roentgen (R). The SI unit is

Coulomb per kilogram (C/kg)

1R = 2.58 x 10ˉ⁴ C/kg

 - It is the quantity of radiation received by the patient.

= J/kg or Gray
-traditionally known as rad (radiation absorbed dose).
The SI unit is expressed in Gray (Gy).
1 Gy = 10² rad
- The quantity that expresses the amount of radiation
received by the radiation worker.
H= D x Σ WR
-traditionally expressed in rem (radiation equivalent
man) but the SI is in Sievert.

1 Sv = 10² rem
- expresses the quantity of radioactive material.
-traditionally known as Curie (Ci) but the SI unit is in

1 Ci = 3.7 x 1o¹º Bq
 The emission of particles
and energy and
transformation of an atom
into another atom to
become stable. This
process is called
radioactive disintegration
or radioactive decay.
 Any nuclear arrangement is called nuclide, but only nuclei
that undergo radioactive decay are radionuclides. Unstable
nuclides are called radionuclides.
 Many factors affect nuclear stability. Perhaps the most
important is the number of neutrons. When a nucleus
contains either too few or too many neutrons, the atoms can
disintegrate radioactively. The end result brings the number
of neutrons and protons into stable and proper ratio.
 Many elements have radioactive isotopes or radioisotopes.
These may be artificially produced in machines such as
particle accelerators or nuclear reactors.
 There are naturally occurring radioisotopes. Some originated
at the time of the earth’s formation and are still decaying very
 Atomic nuclei contain protons and neutrons (nucleons).
 In atomic nomenclature, an element is indicated by
alphabetic abbreviation called chemical symbol.
 The chemical properties of an element are determined
by the number and arrangement of electrons in the
orbits around the nucleus. In the electrically neutral
atom the number of electrons equals the number of
protons. And, the number of protons is called the
atomic number represented by Z.
 The number of protons plus the number of neutrons of
an atom is called the atom is called the atomic mass
number symbolized by A.
 Atoms that have the same atomic number but different
mass numbers are called isotopes. Isotopes of a given
element contain the same number of protons but
varying number of neutrons.
 Atomic nuclei that have same atomic mass number
but different atomic numbers are called isobars.
Isobars are atoms that have different number of
protons and neutrons but the same total number of
 Atoms that have same number of neutrons but
different number of protons are called isotones.
Isotones are atoms with different atomic numbers and
different atomic mass but a constant value for the
quantity A-Z.
 Isomers have the same atomic number and same
atomic mass number. In fact, isomers are identical
atoms except that they exist at different energy states
because of differences in nuclear arrangement.
 Radioactive decay occurs in two ways – alpha emission
and beta emission.
 In beta minus decay, an electron created in the nucleus
is ejected with considerable kinetic energy and escapes
from the atom. The result is the loss of a small quantity
of mass and one unit of negative electric charge from
the nucleus of the atom. Simultaneously, a neutron
undergoes conversion to a proton.
 The result of beta minus emission is to increase the
atomic number by one (Z = Z+1), while the atomic
mass number remains the same (A=constant). This
nuclear transformation therefore results in an atom
changing from one type of element to another.
 In beta positive decay, a proton undergoes conversion
into a neutron. A positively-charged electron, called
positron is ejected out of the nucleus. This results to
decrease atomic number by one while atomic mass
number remains the same (Z= Z-1; A=constant).
 Radioactivity decay by alpha emission
is a much more violent process. The
alpha particle consists of two protons
and two neutrons bound together; its
atomic mass number is 4. A nucleus
must be extremely unstable to emit
alpha particle, but when it does, it
loses two units of positive charge
and four units of mass (Z=Z-2);
 Beta emission occurs much more
frequently than alpha emission.
Virtually, all radioisotopes are capable
of beta emission, but only heavy
radioisotopes (A≥150) are capable of
alpha emission.
 In electron capture, a proton inside the nucleus is
converted into a neutron by capturing an atomic
electron. The electron that is captured most likely
originates in the K-shell. Electron capture occurs in
nuclei deficient in neutrons (too many neutrons).
 In electron capture, the atomic number decreases by
one and the atomic mass number remains the
 If the captured electron is from the K-shell, the
resultant K-shell vacancy is filled by an outer-shell
electron. The excess energy is emitted either as a
characteristic x-ray or an Auger electron.
 Electron capture may compete with beta plus decay.
 The half-life of a radioisotope is the time required for a
quantity of radioactivity to be reduced to one half from
its original activity.
 Classified as:
Physical half-life
Biological half-life
Effective half-life
 The rate of radioactive decay and the quantity of
material present at any given time are described
mathematically by the formula known as Radioactive
Decay Law.
A = remaining activity after it has elapsed
Ao = initial activity
e = natural number (half-life value of a radioisotope)
-λ = decay constant (0.693/ t 1/2)
t = time it elapsed
 A certain radioactive material started with 4, 242 cpm
(cycles per minute) at 6am. The half-life of radioactive
material is 4 hours.
a. What is the remaining activity at 2 pm?
b. What will be the activity after 4 half-lives?
c. What percentage of the initial activity will remain
after 24 hours?
d. What fraction of the initial activity will remain at 6
e. How much activity was lost at 10 pm?
 X-rays have very short wavelengths, no larger than 10ˉ⁸
to 10ˉ⁹ meters. The higher the energy of an x-ray, the
shorter its wavelength. Consequently, low-energy x-
rays tend to interact with the whole atoms. Moderate-
energy generally interact with electrons, and high-
energy x-rays generally interact with nuclei.
 Low-energy x-rays, those with
energies below about 10 keV,
interact with matter by classical
scattering, sometimes called
coherent scattering.
 Thompson described the classical
scattering of an x-ray with an
electron, and that interaction is
named after him.
 When the interaction is with the
entire atom, it is Rayleigh
 In classical scattering the incident x-ray interacts with
a target atom, which causes it to become excited. The
target atom immediately releases this excess energy as
scattered x-ray with a wavelength equal to the incident
x-ray and therefore of equal energy. The direction of
the scattered x-ray is different from that of the incident
x-ray. The net result of classical scattering is a change
in direction of the x-ray without a change in its energy.
There is no energy transfer and therefore no ionization.
Most classically scattered x-rays are scattered forward.
 First described by an American laureate physicist,
Arthur H. Compton (1892-1962) in 1922.
 Moderate energy x-rays throughout the diagnostic
range can undergo an interaction with the outer-shell
electron. This interaction not only scatters the x-ray
but reduces its energy and ionizes the atom as well.
This interaction is called the Compton effect or
Compton scattering.
 The incident x-ray interacts with
an outer-shell electron, ejects it
from the atom, and ionizes the
atom. The x-ray continues in a
different direction with less
 During a Compton interaction,
most of its energy is divided
between the following: (1) the
scattered x-ray and (2) the
Compton electron, which is also
called secondary or recoil
 X-rays in the diagnostic range can
also undergo ionizing interactions
with inner-shell electrons. The x-ray
is not scattered but is totally
absorbed. This process is called
photoelectric effect.
 The moderate-energy x-ray interacts
with the K-shell electrons and
eventually the photoelectron is
released with kinetic energy nearly
equal to the energy of the incident x-
ray. Characteristic x-rays are
produced after a photoelectric
interaction in a manner to what is
described in the production of x-ray.
 An incident x-ray that has energy of at
least 1.02 MeV may escape interaction
with the electron shells and come close
enough to be influenced by the strong
electrostatic field of the nucleus. The
interaction between the x-ray and the
nuclear electrostatic field causes the x-
ray to disappear. In its place appear two
electrons, one positively-charged
positron. This process is called pair
 When a positron with energy of 0.51
MeV interacts with an electron with
energy of 0.51 MeV, the process is now
called annihilation.
 Very high-energy x-rays, those
with energy above 10 MeV, can
escape interaction with electrons
and the nuclear electrostatic field
and be absorbed directly by the
nucleus. When this happens, the
nucleus is raised to an excited
state and instantaneously emits a
nucleon or other nuclear
fragment. This process is called
 The exposure rate to a body 2 m from the source of
radiation is 28 R/hr. What distance from the
source would be necessary to decrease the
exposure to 7 R/hr?

a. 2 m c. 8 m
b. 4 m d. 1 m
B- 4m

 Use the inverse square law

 Measuring the charge liberated in mass of air

a. dose c. equivalent dose

b. exposure d. activity
 B - exposure

 Definition of exposure
 1 rem = _______ mSv

a. 1 c. 100
b. 10 d. 1, 000
 B - 10

 1rem = mSv
 1 rem x 1 Sv / 100rem x 1000 mSv/1Sv
 The raising of an electron in an atom to a higher
energy level without actual ejection of an electron is
a. Energization c. Scintillation
b. Excitation d. ionization
 B - Excitation
 A sample of I-131 was measured to have an activity of
8.25 mBq after three half-lives. What was the sample’s
original activity?
a. 66 mBq c. 132 mBq
b. 84 mBq d. 16.5 mBq
 A - 66 mBq
 In radiation protection, the product of radiation
absorbed dose and the correct modifying factor (rad x
QF) is used to determine;
a. Roentgen (C/kg) c. rad (Gy)
b. rem (Sv) d. radiation quality
 B - rem
 It is an interaction that involves a low-energy photon
and an electron wherein the incident photon is
absorbed and the electron is ejected.
a. photoelectric effect c. compton effect
b. ionizing effect d. pair production
 A - Photoelectric effect
 Which of the following radiation is most penetrating?
a. Beta rays c. Alpha particles
b. Ultraviolet rays d. X-rays
 D - x-rays
 A certain nuclide has 55 protons and 78 neutrons. Its
atomic number would be,
a. 55 c.133
b. 78 d. 23
 A - 55

 Atomic number refers to the number of protons

 Isotopes are atoms that have the same;
a. mass number but different atomic number
b. atomic number but different mass number
c. atomic number but different neutron number
d. atomic number and mass number
 B. atomic number but different mass number
 The symbols ¹³º56 Ba and ¹³²56 Ba are examples of
a. isotopes c. isobars
b. isotones d. isomers
 A. isotopes
 The SI unit that best measures power is _________.
a. Joules c. Newton
b. Gray d. Watt
 D. Watt
 Atoms with different number of protons and neutrons
but the same total number of nucleons.
a. Isotopes c. Isotones
b. Isobars d. isomers
 B. isobars
 In the production of bremsstrahlung radiation, the
incident electron,
a. ejects an inner-shell tungsten electron.
b. ejects an outer-shell tungsten electron.
c. is deflected, with resulting energy loss.
d. is deflected, with resulting energy increase.
 C. is deflected, with resulting energy loss.
 The unit of measure used to express occupational
exposure is the;
a. roentgen c. rem
b. rad d. RBE
 C. rem
 The rad maybe described as;
a. disintegrations per second
b. ions produced in air
c. energy deposited in the absorber
d. biologic effects
 C. energy deposited in the absorber
 The activity of radioisotope would have decayed to
6.25% of its initial activity after how many half-lives?
a. 3 c. 4
b. 2 d. 1
 C. 4
 The half-life of Au- 198 is 2.7 days. If there are 12 grams
of the isotope today, how many grams will be left after
8.1 days?
a. 3 c. 0.75
b. 6 d. 1.5
 D. 1.5
 The following subatomic particles affect the stability of
all atoms;
1. protons
2. neutrons
3. electrons
a. 1 and 2 only c. 2 and 3 only
b. 1 and 3 only d. 1, 2 and 3
 A. 1 and 2 only
 The half-life (t1/2) and the decay constant (λ) of a
radionuclide are related as t ½ = 0.693/λ. What is the
value of the half-life of a radionuclide if λ= 0.257/day?
a. 1.78 days c. 27 days
b. 2.7 days d. 0.178 day
 B. 2.7 days