Uses of Radiation

All types of modern communication systems use different forms of electromagnet radiation. Variations in the intensity of the radiation depict changes in the sound, pictures, or other elements in the information being transmitted.

In medicines, radiation and radioactive substances are used in diagnosis, treatment, and also research. Doctors use x-rays to locate broken bones and cancer in a body. Sometimes to detect certain diseases, doctors inject a radioactive substance into the body and monitor the radiation given off as the substance moves through the body.

Researchers use radioactive atoms to determine the age of materials that were once part of a living organism. They measure the amount of radioactive carbon the materials contain to identify the age of the materials. This process is called radiocarbon dating.

Scientists also use radiation to determine the composition of materials. The process is known as neutron activation analysis. Here scientists take a sample of a substance. They then bombard the sample with neutrons. Some of the atoms in the sample absorb neutrons and turn radioactive. This helps the scientists to identify the elements in the sample by studying the radiation given off.

Environmental scientists use radioactive atoms to identify the paths different pollutants take through the environment. These atoms are known as tracer atoms.

Radio waves come to use in military operations. Radar systems use radio waves to locate aircraft and ships. Microwaves and the light from lasers are used for communication and also to guide missiles to their targets. During night detection heat-sensing devices depend on the infrared radiation that is given off by living bodies.

Radiation is used in food processing plants to kill bacteria on certain foods. It is also used in plastics creation. In industry, radiation is used to identify flaws in manufactured materials. This process is called industrial radiography.

Nuclear fission releases infrared radiation, which is used to turn water into steam. This steam, in turn, runs a turbine that produces electric energy.

Nuclear fusion, which occurs when the nuclei of two lighter elements join to form the nucleus of a heavier one, releases vast amounts of radiation. Fusion creates the explosive force of the hydrogen bomb. Scientists are trying to utilize fusion to produce electric energy.