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Developing Images with X-rays

128 reviews


Areas of Science
Time Required
Long (2-4 weeks)
Basic understanding of radiation and making pictures using film.
Material Availability
See How to Build an X-ray Machine for a detailed list of materials that will need to be ordered.
Very High (over $150)

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies

*Note: For this science project you will need to develop your own experimental procedure. Use the information in the summary tab as a starting place. If you would like to discuss your ideas or need help troubleshooting, use the Ask An Expert forum. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions and offer guidance if you come to them with specific questions.

If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk (*) at the end of the title.


You have probably had X-rays taken at the dentist's or doctor's office, but do you know how the X-ray images are made? Images made using X-rays, also called radiographs, are considered to be relatively safe to take, even though they are made using a small amount of radiation, specifically electromagnetic radiation. Radiation is energy that travels through space as either waves or high speed particles. Watch this video to learn more about electromagnetic radiation and X-rays.

Introduction to light | Electronic structure of atoms | Chemistry | Khan Academy
Watch this video which gives an introduction to light and electromagnetic radiation (Khan Academy).

X-rays can travel through materials that light cannot because X-rays have more energy than light-rays. This is why X-rays can be used to take images of the inside of a person's body, such as cavities inside teeth or broken bones. The X-rays that travel through the person's body are picked up by film on the opposite side. X-rays are used to image many other things outside of the medical realm. For example, X-ray images are taken to examine the interiors of car parts before they are assembled, to examine luggage at the airport for potentially dangerous objects, or even to view the inside of ancient Egyptian mummies without needing to dissect them.

What conditions are needed to take the most crisp X-ray images? You can build your own X-ray machine to investigate what is needed to take X-ray images with the highest resolution or sharpness and ideal contrast. You can read the Science Buddies Project Idea How to Build an X-ray Machine and the accompanying Introduction to Radiation & Radiation Safety to learn how you can safely make a homemade X-ray machine. What factors affect the quality of an X-ray image? What type of X-ray film works best? What radiation dose is ideal for taking images? Never use the X-ray machine on living organisms, such as people, pets, or other animals. Instead, you can try using the X-ray machine to image other things, such as a whole, dead, fresh fish from a fish market. What conditions are needed to be able to very clearly see the fish's bones?

You can try taking X-ray images of other objects too, such as clean, dead animal bones, fruit, or wood. What do they look like when imaged? Be sure to keep all the other conditions the same when you X-ray different objects so that any differences in the images you see are due to the objects, and not to a setting on the X-ray machine or the type of film you use. Based on the images you take, which materials allow X-rays to pass through them the easiest, and which materials are harder for X-rays to pass through?


Here are a few websites that will help you start gathering information about imaging and X-rays:

icon scientific method

Ask an Expert

Do you have specific questions about your science project? Our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

Global Connections

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
This project explores topics key to Good Health and Well-Being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.



If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

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Many traditional medical imaging methods, like X-rays, can take pictures of certain parts inside the body, but sometimes these methods are not sensitive enough to detect a problem, or a picture is not enough—the doctor needs to see how a part is functioning, not just how it looks. That's where nuclear medicine comes in. It can be used to see, for example, if bone repair is going on in a certain area, how a kidney is functioning, how a stomach is emptying, or how blood is flowing into and… Read more
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Physicists have a big goal in mind—to understand the nature of the entire universe and everything in it! To reach that goal, they observe and measure natural events seen on Earth and in the universe, and then develop theories, using mathematics, to explain why those phenomena occur. Physicists take on the challenge of explaining events that happen on the grandest scale imaginable to those that happen at the level of the smallest atomic particles. Their theories are then applied to… Read more
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Would you like working with technology, but also with people? As a radiological technician or technologist you can use different medical equipment to take medical pictures. You work with the patient to make them feel comfortable. You also work with medical technology to make sure you are positioning the patient and operating the machine correctly. A radiological technician or technologist is a great hands-on job to work with medical technology and patients! Read more

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Developing Images with X-rays." Science Buddies, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/HumBio_p034/human-biology-health/developing-images-with-x-rays. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2023, April 15). Developing Images with X-rays. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/HumBio_p034/human-biology-health/developing-images-with-x-rays

Last edit date: 2023-04-15
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