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What is Radiation – Types, Scource, Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation

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Radiation is the energy or particles that flow through space or other media from a source. Light, heat, microwaves, and wireless communications are all examples of its forms. We will be able to assist you in properly explaining the radiation through this post. Let’s find out what it means, what types it comes in, what uses it has, and so on.

What is Radiation?

It is the energy or particles that originate from a source and travel via space or other mediums, as you may know. Now let’s take a look at what it all entails: particle, electromagnetic, gravitational, and acoustic radiation.

The terms alpha radiation (α), neutron radiation, and beta radiation (β) are used to describe particle radiation. In addition, gravitational radiation is a type of gravitational wave or ripples in space-time curvature.

Acoustic radiation includes ultrasound, sound, and seismic waves. Finally, there’s electromagnetic radiation, which includes things like radio waves, visible light, X-rays, and gamma rays (γ).

Types of Radiation

We usually divide it into two categories based on the energy of radiated particles: Ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation is defined as radiation that creates ions with sufficient energy in matter at the molecular level as a result of collision. It has a charge of more than 10 eV, enough to ionize atoms and molecules and disrupt chemical bonds.

In other words, it can remove tightly bound electrons from its orbit, causing the atom to become more charged or ionized, resulting in significant damage, including DNA damage and protein denaturation, when the interacting matter is a human body.

Ionizing radiation is created by unstable atoms that have either too much energy or too much mass or both. To return to a stable state, they must release the excess mass or energy in the form of radiation in order to revert to their original condition. Microwave, infrared, and radio waves are used to ionize the air.

Non-ionizing radiation is alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma particles. 

Types of Radiations 

What is Nuclear Radiation?

Nuclear radiation is the energy emitted by elementary particles of the atomic nucleus during the nuclear decay process.

It may have serious implications for the environment, human life, and infrastructure according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Nuclear radiation, on the other hand, maybe useful or dangerous depending on how it is used.

Types of Nuclear Radiation

Radioactive radiation emits 5 types of nuclear radiation: alpha radiation, beta radiation, neutron radiation, X-ray radiation, and gamma radiation.

Alpha Radiation

When an unstable atom produces two protons and two neutrons—basically a helium nucleus—alpha radiation occurs. With fewer protons and neutrons, the original atom transforms into a different element. The nuclei of helium-4 (4He) particles are known as alpha particles.

Alpha particles are massive and hefty when compared to other types of ionizing radiation. Because they can’t move very far, they’re valuable in smoke detectors. A piece of paper, your skin, or even just a few inches of air can stop them.

Beta Radiation

When a proton in an unstable atom produces an electron, this is known as beta radiation. The initial atom changes into a new element after losing a proton. Because beta particles are smaller than alpha particles, they may travel further and penetrate further. In rare cases, beta particles are employed in eye surgery.

They’re divided into two groups: Beta-minus (β-) and Beta-plus (β+). An energetic electron makes up Beta-minus radiation. It penetrates further than alpha but not as deeply as gamma. The emission of positrons, the antimatter version of electrons, is the source of Beta-plus radiation.

Neutron Radiation

Fission reactions produce neutron radiation, which is produced in nuclear reactors. Because neutrons have such high energy, they must be stopped by many feet of dense materials such as water or concrete. Other materials can be made radioactive by neutron radiation, which is also used to make the radioisotopes used in medical treatments.

Gamma Radiation

Gamma rays, also known as Gamma radiation, are photons having a wavelength of fewer than 0.01 nanometers. After most nuclear reactions, the emission is a nuclear process that happens to rid an unstable nucleus of surplus energy. It can travel great distances at the speed of light. It has also the ability to penetrate deeply into the matter.

X-ray Radiation

It’s a type of electromagnetic wave. X-rays are extremely strong electromagnetic radiation. The wavelength of most X-rays ranges from 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies of 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies of 100 eV to 100 keV. Like Gamma rays, they can also travel at the speed of light and can penetrate deeply into the matter.

Applications of Radiation:

  • It has several uses in a variety of fields, including health, communication, and science. Radioactive chemicals are used in the medical sector for diagnosis, treatment, and research. X-rays, for example, travel through muscles and other soft tissues but are stopped by thick materials.
  • As a result, X-rays or γ-rays enable doctors to discover fractured bones as well as any tumors that may be present in the body. Furthermore, doctors can detect certain disorders by injecting a radioactive material and monitoring the radiation emitted as the material travels through the body.
  • Doctors employ it to treat cancer because it creates ions in cells of tissues. It destroys cells or modifies their DNA to stop them from growing. It also has many applications in science, such as determining the age of materials that were once a part of a living organism using radioactive atoms. When they measure the amount of radioactive carbon in these materials, a process known as radiocarbon dating, they can estimate their age.
  • Other radioactive elements can be used to determine the age of rocks and other geological features. This is known as radiometric dating. Furthermore, environmental scientists use radioactive atoms, also known as tracer atoms, to identify the pollutant pathways through the environment.


Emissions of electromagnetic radiation are used in all current communication systems. Its intensity fluctuates to indicate changes in the sound, visuals, or other information that is delivered.

For example, we may broadcast a human voice as a radio wave or microwave by varying the wave to match the voice’s fluctuations. Similarly, musicians work with the sonification of gamma rays to generate sound and song.

Radiation Effect on Human Body

  • Extremely high levels of radiation can harm living things by damaging the cells that make up the organism, resulting in acute health effects like skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (“radiation sickness”).
  • Radiation’s effects on a cell are random, which means that the same type and amount of radiation could hit the same cell multiple times and produce different results, including no effect.
  • The most common early side effects include fatigue (tiredness), skin changes, hair loss, and so on. When this area is exposed to radiation, it can also cause mouth problems.
  • Symptoms of radiation sickness may include Weakness, fatigue, fainting, confusion, mouth, gums, rectum, bruising, skin burns, bleeding from the nose, open sores on the skin, sloughing of skin, and so on, regardless of whether the source of radiation is natural or man-made.

Important Questions on Radiation – FAQs

What role does X-ray play in the practice of medicine?


 X-rays are used by doctors to identify broken bones and cancers that may be present in the body. Furthermore, doctors can detect certain disorders by injecting a radioactive material and monitoring the radiation emitted as the material travels through the body.

Define Alpha radiation.


It’s a small, heavy particle with a short range. It’s a helium nucleus that has been expelled. Furthermore, it is another name for the alpha particles emitted during alpha decay, a type of radioactive decay. The nuclei of helium-4 (4He) particles are known as alpha particles.

Where does radiation come from?


Radiation can be produced artificially, as in medical X-rays and microwaves for cooking, or it can be naturally present in our environment, as it has been since before the birth of this planet.

Is radiation safe or not?


Radiation is safe when it is used in very small amount. The medical treatments are done with the help of exposure to radiation for a very small interval of time but it’s long time exposure can damage the cells of human body which may leads to death.

What are the types of radiation based on the energy of particles?


There are two types of radiation on the basis of the energy of the radiation particles: Ionization radiation and non-ionization energy.

Last Updated : 06 Jan, 2024
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