October 2, 2022


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3 min read
Radiation and their sources

Radiations are forms of energy which are not visible to the eye. They are common around us because they can be found in the soil, air, water and our general surroundings. Unlike the visible light, which has rays, radiations comprise of energy and particles, with or without rays.

There are different types of radiation, which are alpha, beta, neutrons and electromagnetic waves. They differ in their masses, energy, density and their penetration powers.


Alpha radiation is also known as alpha particle. It is the heaviest of all radiations, meaning that it travels a short distance. It can be stopped by a sheet of paper. It has 2 protons, 2 neutrons and a mass of 4.

Alpha radiations are commonly present where radon and uranium are present.

These particles can get to into the body by direct exposure, by eating and drinking thereby exposing internal tissues and cause biological damage. Alpha radiations have very high ionizing power and are deflected to the negative poles in an electromagnetic field, indicating that they are positively charged.


This is not as heavy as alpha radiation. It is denser than alpha radiation and have more penetrating power though can travel faster. It can only be stopped by aluminium or iron sheet. Beta radiations are deflected to the positive poles in an electric field, and this shows that they are negatively charged. Beta radiations consist of electrons and have lower ionizing power than alpha radiations.


These are electromagnetic radiations which are similar to visible light, x-rays and radio waves. They have higher penetrating power than alpha and beta radiations. Gamma rays can penetrate through iron sheet, aluminium sheet, wood, leather, cloth but can be stopped by a lead block or concrete block. They are not deflected in electric field, hence, they are not charged.

Alpha, beta and gamma radiation penetration power
                Alpha, beta and gamma radiation penetration power


These are uncharged particles. They do not produce ionization directly, but do so when they interact with the atoms of matter that can produce alpha, beta and gamma, or x-ray which then give radiation. Neutrons can be stopped by paraffin and water block of masses and can penetrate paper, cloth, leather, human flesh.


Specifically, most of the commonly encountered materials contain radiations. Some have particles and energy, while some only have energy. Some homes use smoke detectors, which contain a low – activity americium – 246. Even, our ceramics such as tiles, toilet sheet, pottery contains certain amount of naturally occurring thorium, uranium and potassium. Even, ordinary glass may have high levels of potassium – 40, thorium – 232. This thorium – 232 was used for adjusting the index of refraction in the olden days’ cameras. It should be noted that some of these materials radiate as they are expiring.



The only way to prevent oneself against radiation is by staying away from any radioactive materials we know. For the unknown materials, frequent check of the radioactive nature should be encouraged. Whenever radiation is detected in them, the usage must stop.

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