# How it Works

• X-ray particles are called photons

• X-ray photons are delivered in packets called quanta.

• If the particle energy is greater than the binding energy of the electron, then the photons
are capable of ionizing atoms.

• Diagnostic radiation is typically in the range of 100 nm to about 0.01 nm, or from 12 eV to 125
keV.

# Components

• The number of X-ray photons produced depends on the number of electrons striking the target material (so tube current)

• The anode is made of either tungsten or molybdenum. The cathode is composed of two parts: the filament made of tungsten, and a focusing cup.

• A change in filament current changes the intensity of the X-ray photons.

• The X-ray beam coming off the cathode material is polychromatic.

• Filtering out the undesired portion of the X-ray spectrum can substantially reduce the radiation dose delivered to the patient.

# Math

• c = λ * f

• c = 3E8 m/s

• 1 angstrom = 10E-10 m

• High frequency range is from 3E16 to 3E19 Hz

• E = h * f

• h = Plank’s constant = 6.63E-34 J*s = 4.13E-18 keV*s

• f is frequency, or ν (Greek letter nu)

• eV is an electron volt, a unit of energy representing the amount of energy one electron can obtain from accelerating between the potential difference of 1 volt

• 1 V = 1.602E-19 columbs = 1.602E-19 J

• A pjoton with 3E18 Hz frequency has what energy?

• 4.13E-18 keV*s x 3E-18 Hz = 12.39 keV

# Ionization in X-Rays

• Simplest atom to ionize is an H atom (only 1 e-, super easy to ionize because we have a lot of H in our bodies)

• If it can ionize, it has enough energy to eject an electron

• 13.6 eV is enough to kick out an electron, and is the threshold of ionizing

# X-Ray Generation

• X-rays are generated from an x-ray tube

• High potential difference between cathode and anode

• Acelerated electrons from a heated filament

• Electrons strike the target (sometimes tungsten

• Heat and x-rays are generated

• 99% of generated energy goes to heat

• Electrons interact with the target material mainly in 2 ways to generate radiation…. Braking and Characteristic

## Braking “Bremsstrahlung” Radiation

• Electrons are slowed down (lose E)

• Change on energy is emitted as photon energy

• Generally, more photons in lower energy

• Max energy is related to max kV across tube

• E tube = kV * e

• Electron strikes another inner shell electron

• Inner electron is ejected with lower energy

• Electrons reconfigure to fill the void

• Photon is produced with specific photon energy

• Photon energy depends on the shell (closer to nucleus = more E)

# X-Ray Spectrum

• Spectrum can also be characterized by its “effective energy” defined as the energy of a mono-energetic beam with the same penetrating ability

• Effective energy is a weighted sum of the spectrum

• Filtration whether intended or not, increases the effective energy of spectrum

• Number of photons is the “quantity” of the x-ray beam

• Energy level of the beam is the “quality”

# How Might X-Rays Interact with Matter?

## Coherent (Rayleigh) scattering

• Photon bounces off in a new direction with little energy change

• The electric field of the incident photon’s EM wave expends energy by making all of the electrons in the atom to oscillate in phase

• Atom’s electron cloud then radiates the energy as a scattered photon

• Coherent scattering is used mostly with low energy diagnostic x-rays (mammography, thyroid scans)

• Electrons are not ejected so ionization does not occur

## Compton scattering

• If it’s above 30keV with soft tissue, it’s probably compton scattering

• Steps

• Photon interacts with an electron (usually valence) and only some energy from the photon goes to the electron

• Photon moves on with reduced energy and new direction

• Electron is ejected

• Energy of the initial photon must be equal to the energy of the scattered photon + energy of ejected electron

• More dense the tissue = more likely Compton scattering occurs

• Compton scattering makes up most of the background noise & tissue damage

• If the initial energy is low, then the scattered energy doesn’t matter on the scattering angle

• If the initial energy is high, the scattered energy is higher for a smaller scattering angle

• Scattered photons with higher energies will continue in pretty much the same direction

• Compton scattering in which a photon is not absorbed but rather scattered. The photon energy is reduced, and an electron is ejected. This is the major source of noise in X-ray (and CT) images.

## Photoelectric effect

• In the photoelectric effect, all of the initial energy is transferred to an electron

• Photoelectric effect in which a photon is absorbed, characteristic radiation is emitted along with photoelectrons, and possibly Auger electrons.

• Steps

• All photon energy transfers to electron

• Electron ejects

• Electron becomes a photoelectron

• Energy of the photoelectron is the energy of the initial photon minus the energy it took to bind to the orbital electron

• Called an Auger electron

• A lower orbital electron will jump up to take its place

• Energy needs to decrease now, so energy is given off as fluorescent energy

• Probability of characteristic x-ray emission (dangerous) decreases as the atomic number of the absorber atom decreases (less protons = less possibility of radiation)

• Soft tissue has lower atomic number so it’s not super frequent

• Probability of characteristic x-ray emission also decreases with increasing photon energy

## Pair Production

• Pair production can occur when the energy of the incident photon exceeds 1.02 MeV

• Steps

• High energy photons are absorbed by a nucleus

• A positron (positive electron, a form of anti-matter) is emitted with an electron

• Energy above 1.02 MeV goes to the electron as kinetic energy

• The positron and electron interact and shoots oppositely directed 511 keV annihilation photons

• Unusual because it takes so much energy

• Describes the same anti-matter formation used in PET scans

• Pair production in which a photon is absorbed by the nucleus, a positron is emitted, and an electron is ejected.

## Photo-disintegration

• Interaction of an incident photon with a nucleus, which produces one (or more) ejected nuclear particle

• One element becomes a different element

• Super unusual so it takes so much energy