What Are Gamma Rays and What Are They Used For?

What Are Gamma Rays

Gamma rays, like radio waves, infrared radiation, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, and microwaves, are types of electromagnetic radiation.

Electromagnetic radiation is transmitted in waves or particles at various wavelengths and frequencies. The electromagnetic spectrum includes a wide range of wavelengths, which are known as the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum is commonly divided into seven regions based on wavelength and energy and frequency, with radio waves being the most common.

Radio waves, microwaves, infrared (IR), visible light(what we see), ultraviolet (UV), X-rays, and gamma rays are among the many names given to these phenomena.

Gamma rays are energetic particles that have frequencies greater than about 10^19 cycles per second (Hz), or hertz, and wavelengths of less than 100 picometers. Picometers are one-trillionth of a meter.

Gamma rays and hard X-rays partially overlap in the EM spectrum, making it difficult to tell them apart. In certain fields, such as astrophysics, a fictitious line is drawn in the spectrum where X-rays are located above a particular wavelength and gamma-rays are located below it.

Gamma-ray photons, like X-ray photons, are ionizing radiation that induce harm by knocking electrons out of atoms and molecules. A gamma-ray photon is generally completely absorbed by an atom and the gamma ray’s energy transferred to a single ejected electron at lower energies (photoelectric effect).

Higher-energy gamma rays tend to more likely scatter from the atomic electrons, and in doing so they deposit a fraction of their energy. The standard methods for detecting gamma rays use semiconductors, crystals, or gases that detect the effects of scattering electrons (radiation measurement and scintillation counter).

Although both gamma rays and X-rays have enough energy to harm living tissue, most cosmic gamma rays are stopped by Earth’s atmosphere.

What Is the Most Penetrating Radiation? Alpha, Beta or Gamma Radiation?

Beta radiation is more penetrative then alpha as it can pass through skin and alpha can not. It is absorbed by only a few centimeters of body tissue or only a few millimeters of aluminum.

Gamma radiation is by far the most penetrating of the three radiations.

Gamma rays are a form of radiation that can be extremely harmful to the body if one is exposed to them. They can penetrate materials that would normally stop alpha or beta particles, such as skin or clothing. In fact, gamma rays have so much penetrating power that several inches of lead or even a few feet of concrete may be necessary to stop them.

Sources of Gamma Rays Throughout the Universe

Gamma rays are the most energetic and have the greatest wavelengths of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum. They are generated by some of universe’s hottest and most powerful objects, such as neutron stars and pulsars, supernova explosions, and regions surrounding black holes.

Nuclear explosions, lightning bolts, and the less spectacular activities of radioactive decay all responsible for gamma wave production on Earth.

Gamma rays from space come from a variety of sources, including gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). These are exceptionally high-energy events that can last from milliseconds to minutes. They were first observed in the 1960s, and now appear once per day somewhere in the sky.

Gamma-ray bursts are considered the most energetic form of light in the universe, according to NASA. They emit a much greater level of brightness than a typical supernova and about one million-trillion times brighter as then the sun.

GRBs (gamma-ray bursts) were once considered to be emitted during the final stages of mini black holes evaporating, but they are now attributed to compact object collisions, such as neutron stars. Other theories suggest these events occur during the collapse of supermassive stars forming into black holes.

GRBs can produce so much energy that they can outshine an entire galaxy for a few seconds! Because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most gamma rays, they’re only observed using high-altitude balloons and orbiting telescopes.

How To Detect Gamma Rays

Gamma rays differ from optical light and x-rays in that they cannot be reflected by mirrors. This is because gamma-ray wavelengths are shorter, meaning they can pass through the spaces between atoms. Most gamma-ray detectors contain crystal blocks that are densely packed together.

When a gamma ray penetrates the crystal, it collides with electrons. Compton scattering is the process in which a gamma ray hits an electron and loses energy, much as when a cue ball smashes into an eight ball The collisions between particles produce charged particles that may be detected by the sensor.

How Are Gamma Rays Used?


In a PET scan, a very short-lived positron-emitting radioactive drug that is used because of its involvement in a particular physiological process is injected into the body. The emitted positrons combine with nearby electrons, from pair annihilation two 511-keV gamma rays traveling in opposite directions are formed.

Gamma rays, as a highly penetrative ionizing radiation, induce significant cellular biochemical changes (see radiation damage). This characteristic is utilized in radiation therapy to destroy cancerous cells in small localized tumors.

The tumor is destroyed by therapy using radioactive isotopes, which are delivered or implanted near the tumor. The developing cells of the cancerous area are bombarded with rays from radioactively decaying nuclei that are continually emitted, stopping their development.


Industrial irradiators, for example, which utilize radiation to sterilize food, equipment, and blood. It’s used in the food industry to destroy germs and extend the shelf life of meals without the need for additives.

Tools that can’t be sterilized with heat can be sterilized with gamma rays. For blood, we use to kill white blood cells and destroy certain proteins that can cause transfusion-associated graft versus host disease. We can also irradiate precious gems to change their color and increase their market value.(Gemstone irradiation)

We also utilize gamma rays to assess the quantity of liquids inside inaccessible tanks that can’t be opened, such as ones maintained under high pressure or temperatures, like foundries. When the liquid reaches a certain height, you have gamma sources and a gamma detector that are both blocked by the substance inside. When no reading is observed on the detector, it indicates that the fluid has reached that height.

Geology Surveying

Surveys done in the air that look for gamma-ray emissions coming from Earth’s surface search for minerals containing small amounts of radioactive elements like uranium and thorium. Spectroscopy done both in the air and on the ground using gamma rays helps with creating geologic maps, exploring for minerals, and finding environmental contamination.


Gamma rays are endless fascinating but extremely lethal to humans as these rays release lots of ionizing radiation, which can damage living cells.

Gamma rays are the most energetic and high-frequency of all electromagnetic radiation. Their wavelengths are shorter than the diameter of atomic nuclei, and their frequencies exceed 1019 Hz.

Gamma rays are now utilized in a variety of fields, including astrophysics, medicine, and manufacturing quality control. Cosmic collisions from outer space can be used to study the things that generate them and reveal new information about our universe via gamma rays produced by these interactions.

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