Alpha radiation consists of charged particles that are emitted from natural materials like uranium, thorium, and radium. Alpha radiation is also emitted from man-made elements like plutonium and americium. Naturally occurring alpha radiation materials are present in the earth’s crust as well as the floors and walls of our homes, schools, offices, smoke detectors, and even in the food we eat and drink. There are alpha radioactive gases in the air we breathe, and even our bodies contain naturally occurring radioactive elements.
We have always been exposed to natural radiation coming from the earth and from outer space. The radiation from outer space is called cosmic radiation or cosmic rays. Alpha radiation has a very limited ability to penetrate materials and can be blocked by a sheet of paper, skin, and even a few inches of air. External exposure to alpha radiation generally doesn’t pose a danger, but alpha particles can be potentially dangerous if inhaled or swallowed.
Beta radiation is lighter than alpha radiation and generally has a greater ability to penetrate materials. It can travel a few feet in the air and even penetrate skin. It is emitted from natural materials like strontium-90 and has been found effective when using it to treat eye disease. Beta radiation particles can be blocked by a thin sheet of metal, plastic, or wood.
Gamma Radiation and X-Rays
Gamma radiation and x-rays consist of higher energy that can travel a great distance at the speed of light and can penetrate a variety of materials. Gamma rays are often used in medical applications to treat cancer and diagnostic x-rays. Gamma rays are also used in industrial applications to find defects in materials that other metrology techniques can’t find. Since the gamma radiation material penetration ability is so high, it’s crucial to block this radiation using concrete, lead, and sand. The thickness of these materials is determined by a physics study performed by a licensed physicist. The team of engineers and physicists at Matter Fabs has created many types of shielded rooms to conform to a variety of applications.
Neutron radiation consists of high energy that can travel a great distance at the speed of light and can penetrate deep into many materials. Neutrons are the only type of radiation discussed here that can make objects radioactive, and that’s called neutron activation. Neutrons are used to produce radioactive sources that are then used in medical, academic, and industrial applications. Neutrons are shielded using thick hydrogen-containing materials like concrete, water, and borated polyethylene sheets.