X-Rays are:

  • high frequency, high energy electromagnetic rays.
  • undetectable by the human senses
  • very penetrating
  • cause low localized ionization.
  • generated when high energy electrons strike a metal target

Production of X-rays

The equipment that produces X-Rays is called the X-ray tube,

X-rays are generated when high energy electrons stike a metal target. The kinetic energy of the electrons is transformed into electromagnetic energy - some of that energy is in the X-ray region of the spectrum.

Two kinds of x-rays are generated during this process.

Brehmsstrahlung radiation, also called "braking radiation" or white x-rays is produced due to electron deceleration.

Characteristic x-rays are also produced when electrons in target metal make transitions between atomic energy levels.


  • Imaging for detection of broken bones or tumours: simple X-ray, CT scanning, barium meal scanning.
  • High energy ones for treatment of cancer (destroying cells)
  • As incident beams in 'material characterization technologies' (ways of finding out the properties of materials), such as X-ray Diffraction, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and Auger Electron Spectroscopy.

Barium Meal and Enema

Brehmsstralung radiation

Characteristic X-rays

The X-Ray Tube

Potential Dangers of X-Rays

Image Intensifiers

Intensifying Screens

A-Level Medical Option Page


Images (and some of the text) on this topic are reproduced with kind permission from the author of (http://www.aml.arizona.edu/~mse480/grouppages/group3/source%20x%20ray.html) - Linked also via the images themselves