Visible and Invisible Radiation

In general, electromagnetic radiation may be divided into a visible and invisible portion of electromagnetic spectrum. Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm).

Electromagnetic radiation in the visible light region consists of quanta (called photons) that are at the lower end of the energies that are capable of causing electronic excitation within molecules, which leads to changes in the bonding or chemistry of the molecule. Photons are categorized according to the energies from low-energy radio waves and infrared radiation, through visible light, to high-energy X-rays and gamma rays.

At the lower end of the visible light spectrum, electromagnetic radiation becomes invisible to humans (infrared) because its photons no longer have enough individual energy to cause a lasting molecular change (a change in conformation) in the visual molecule retinal in the human retina, which change triggers the sensation of vision.

NASA - Electromagnetic spectrum
Source: Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum www.nasa.gov

Invisible Radiation

All electromagnetic radiation except visible light (a very narrow band) is invisible. Invisible radiation includes radio waves, infrared, UV, microwaves, and gamma radiation. In addition, alpha and beta radiation as well as “”cathode rays” – all of which are streams of particles – are invisible.

Noteworthy neither invisible radiation is completely invisible to the human eye. A related topic is that of cosmic-ray visual phenomena, in which astronauts can see flashes of light, which are presumably due to individual cosmic-ray particles interacting with their eyes. Researchers believe that these light flashes perceived specifically by astronauts in space are due to cosmic rays (high-energy charged particles from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere), though the exact mechanism is unknown.

The danger of ionizing radiation lies in the fact that the radiation is invisible and not directly detectable by human senses. People can neither see nor feel radiation, yet it deposits energy to the molecules of material. The energy is transferred in small quantities for each interaction between the radiation and a molecule and there are usually many types of  interactions. Therefore, the only way you can detect and measure radiation is to use instruments (detectors of ionizing radiation).

Detection of Invisible Radiation

ionization chamber - basic principleDetectors of ionizing radiation consist of two parts that are usually connected. The first part consists of a sensitive material, consisting of a compound that experiences changes when exposed to radiation. The other component is a device that converts these changes into measurable signals.

In their basic principles of operation, most detectors of ionizing radiation follow similar characteristics. Detectors of ionizing radiation consist of two parts that are usually connected. The first part consists of a sensitive material, consisting of a compound that experiences changes when exposed to radiation. The other component is a device that converts these changes into measurable signals. All detectors require that radiation must deposit some of its energy in sensitive material that forms part of the instrument. The radiation enters the detector, interacts with atoms of the detector material and deposits some energy to sensitive material. Each event may generate a signal, which can be a pulse, hole, light signal, ion pairs in a gas, and many others. The main task is to generate sufficient signal, amplify it and to record it.

References:

Radiation Protection:

  1. Knoll, Glenn F., Radiation Detection and Measurement 4th Edition, Wiley, 8/2010. ISBN-13: 978-0470131480.
  2. Stabin, Michael G., Radiation Protection and Dosimetry: An Introduction to Health Physics, Springer, 10/2010. ISBN-13: 978-1441923912.
  3. Martin, James E., Physics for Radiation Protection 3rd Edition, Wiley-VCH, 4/2013. ISBN-13: 978-3527411764.
  4. U.S.NRC, NUCLEAR REACTOR CONCEPTS
  5. U.S. Department of Energy, Instrumantation and Control. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 2 of 2. June 1992.

Nuclear and Reactor Physics:

  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
  3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
  4. Glasstone, Sesonske. Nuclear Reactor Engineering: Reactor Systems Engineering, Springer; 4th edition, 1994, ISBN: 978-0412985317
  5. W.S.C. Williams. Nuclear and Particle Physics. Clarendon Press; 1 edition, 1991, ISBN: 978-0198520467
  6. G.R.Keepin. Physics of Nuclear Kinetics. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co; 1st edition, 1965
  7. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
  8. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
  9. Paul Reuss, Neutron Physics. EDP Sciences, 2008. ISBN: 978-2759800414.

See above:

Radiation