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[link] shows a diffraction pattern produced by the scattering of x rays from a crystal. This process is known as x-ray crystallography because of the information it can yield about crystal structure, and it was the type of data Rosalind Franklin supplied to Watson and Crick for DNA. Not only do x rays confirm the size and shape of atoms, they give information on the atomic arrangements in materials. For example, current research in high-temperature superconductors involves complex materials whose lattice arrangements are crucial to obtaining a superconducting material. These can be studied using x-ray crystallography.

An x ray diffraction image, which resembles a structured array of small black dots on a white background. A white arm extends from the top left to the center of the image, where there is a small white disk. This white disk is the shadow of the beam block, which blocks the part of the incident x ray beam that was not diffracted by the crystal.
X-ray diffraction from the crystal of a protein, hen egg lysozyme, produced this interference pattern. Analysis of the pattern yields information about the structure of the protein. (credit: Del45, Wikimedia Commons)

Historically, the scattering of x rays from crystals was used to prove that x rays are energetic EM waves. This was suspected from the time of the discovery of x rays in 1895, but it was not until 1912 that the German Max von Laue (1879–1960) convinced two of his colleagues to scatter x rays from crystals. If a diffraction pattern is obtained, he reasoned, then the x rays must be waves, and their wavelength could be determined. (The spacing of atoms in various crystals was reasonably well known at the time, based on good values for Avogadro’s number.) The experiments were convincing, and the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physics was given to von Laue for his suggestion leading to the proof that x rays are EM waves. In 1915, the unique father-and-son team of Sir William Henry Bragg and his son Sir William Lawrence Bragg were awarded a joint Nobel Prize for inventing the x-ray spectrometer and the then-new science of x-ray analysis. The elder Bragg had migrated to Australia from England just after graduating in mathematics. He learned physics and chemistry during his career at the University of Adelaide. The younger Bragg was born in Adelaide but went back to the Cavendish Laboratories in England to a career in x-ray and neutron crystallography; he provided support for Watson, Crick, and Wilkins for their work on unraveling the mysteries of DNA and to Max Perutz for his 1962 Nobel Prize-winning work on the structure of hemoglobin. Here again, we witness the enabling nature of physics—establishing instruments and designing experiments as well as solving mysteries in the biomedical sciences.

Certain other uses for x rays will be studied in later chapters. X rays are useful in the treatment of cancer because of the inhibiting effect they have on cell reproduction. X rays observed coming from outer space are useful in determining the nature of their sources, such as neutron stars and possibly black holes. Created in nuclear bomb explosions, x rays can also be used to detect clandestine atmospheric tests of these weapons. X rays can cause excitations of atoms, which then fluoresce (emitting characteristic EM radiation), making x-ray-induced fluorescence a valuable analytical tool in a range of fields from art to archaeology.

Section summary

  • X rays are relatively high-frequency EM radiation. They are produced by transitions between inner-shell electron levels, which produce x rays characteristic of the atomic element, or by accelerating electrons.
  • X rays have many uses, including medical diagnostics and x-ray diffraction.

Conceptual questions

Explain why characteristic x rays are the most energetic in the EM emission spectrum of a given element.

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Why does the energy of characteristic x rays become increasingly greater for heavier atoms?

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Observers at a safe distance from an atmospheric test of a nuclear bomb feel its heat but receive none of its copious x rays. Why is air opaque to x rays but transparent to infrared?

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Lasers are used to burn and read CDs. Explain why a laser that emits blue light would be capable of burning and reading more information than one that emits infrared.

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Crystal lattices can be examined with x rays but not UV. Why?

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CT scanners do not detect details smaller than about 0.5 mm. Is this limitation due to the wavelength of x rays? Explain.

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Problem exercises

(a) What is the shortest-wavelength x-ray radiation that can be generated in an x-ray tube with an applied voltage of 50.0 kV? (b) Calculate the photon energy in eV. (c) Explain the relationship of the photon energy to the applied voltage.

(a) 0.248 × 10 −10 m

(b) 50.0 keV

(c) The photon energy is simply the applied voltage times the electron charge, so the value of the voltage in volts is the same as the value of the energy in electron volts.

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A color television tube also generates some x rays when its electron beam strikes the screen. What is the shortest wavelength of these x rays, if a 30.0-kV potential is used to accelerate the electrons? (Note that TVs have shielding to prevent these x rays from exposing viewers.)

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An x ray tube has an applied voltage of 100 kV. (a) What is the most energetic x-ray photon it can produce? Express your answer in electron volts and joules. (b) Find the wavelength of such an X–ray.

(a) 100 × 10 3 eV size 12{"100" times "10" rSup { size 8{3} } " eV"} {} , 1 . 60 × 10 14 J size 12{1 "." "60" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - "14"} } `J} {}

(b) 0.124 × 10 10 m size 12{1 "." "24" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - "11"} } " m"} {}

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The maximum characteristic x-ray photon energy comes from the capture of a free electron into a K size 12{K} {} shell vacancy. What is this photon energy in keV for tungsten, assuming the free electron has no initial kinetic energy?

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What are the approximate energies of the K α size 12{K rSub { size 8{α} } } {} and K β size 12{K rSub { size 8{β} } } {} x rays for copper?

(a) 8.00 keV

(b) 9.48 keV

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Questions & Answers

Pls guys am having problem on these topics: latent heat of fusion, specific heat capacity and the sub topics under them.Pls who can help?
hamidat Reply
Thanks George,I appreciate.
hamidat
this will lead you rightly of the formula to use
Abolarin
Most especially it is the calculatory aspects that is giving me issue, but with these new strength that you guys have given me,I will put in my best to understand it again.
hamidat
you can bring up a question and let's see what we can do to it
Abolarin
the distance between two suasive crests of water wave traveling of 3.6ms1 is 0.45m calculate the frequency of the wave
Idris Reply
v=f×lemda where the velocity is given and lends also given so simply u can calculate the frequency
Abdul
You are right my brother, make frequency the subject of formula and equate the values of velocity and lamda into the equation, that all.
hamidat
lExplain what happens to the energy carried by light that it is dimmed by passing it through two crossed polarizing filters.
Christoper Reply
When light is reflected at Brewster's angle from a smooth surface, it is 100% polarizedparallel to the surface. Part of the light will be refracted into the surface.
Ekram
What is specific heat capacity?
hamidat Reply
Specific heat capacity is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one (Kg) of a substance through one Kelvin
Paluutar
formula for measuring Joules
Rowshan Reply
I don't understand, do you mean the S.I unit of work and energy?
hamidat
what are the effects of electric current
ADAMS Reply
What limits the Magnification of an optical instrument?
Naeem Reply
Lithography is 2 micron
Venkateshwarlu
what is expression for energy possessed by water ripple
Prabesh Reply
what is hydrolic press
Mark Reply
An hydraulic press is a type of machine that is operated by different pressure of water on pistons.
hamidat
what is dimensional unite of mah
Patrock Reply
i want jamb related question on this asap🙏
sharon Reply
What is Boyles law
Pascal Reply
it can simple defined as constant temperature
Muhammad
Boyles law states that the volume of a fixed amount of a gas is inversely proportional to the pressure acting on in provided that the temperature is constant.that is V=k(1/p) or V=k/p
FADILAT
what is motion
Mua Reply
getting notifications for a dictionary word, smh
Anderson
what is escape velocity
Shuaibu Reply
the minimum thrust that an object must have in oder yo escape the gravitational pull
Joshua
what is a dimer
Mua
what is a atom
ADAMS
how to calculate tension
Deena Reply
what are the laws of motion
Mua
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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