Developing Images with X-rays *
|Time Required||Long (2-4 weeks)|
|Prerequisites||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.|
|Cost||Very High (over $150)|
|Safety||See Introduction to Radiation and Radiation Safety for safety information.|
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.
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?
Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
Cite This PageGeneral citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.
Last edit date: 2018-05-09
Here are a few websites that will help you start gathering information about imaging and X-rays:
- Khan Academy. (n.d.). Introduction to Light: Light and electromagnetic radiation. Retrieved January 27, 2012, from http://www.khanacademy.org/video/introduction-to-light?playlist=Cosmology+and+Astronomy
- xray2000. (n.d.). Introduction to x-ray film. Retrieved January 27, 2012, from http://www.e-radiography.net/radtech/f/film.htm
- Doctor Spiller. (2000). Dental X-rays for Patients. Retrieved January 27, 2012, from http://www.doctorspiller.com/Dental%20_X-Rays.htm
News Feed on This Topic
- If you are looking for something else to do with a homemade X-ray machine, try Zapping Yeast with X-rays.
Ask an ExpertThe Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, 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.
Ask an Expert
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Medical & Clinical Laboratory TechnicianDoctors need information to decide if a person is healthy or sick, if a baby's earache is bacterial or viral, or if the man next door needs medication to lower his cholesterol and prevent a heart attack. The information often comes in the form of results from lab tests. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians are the people who perform these routine medical laboratory tests, giving the doctors the information needed to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. Read more
Dental HygienistGood oral hygiene protects not only teeth and gums, but the whole body, reducing the risk of infections, heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke. Dental hygienists help prevent and correct dental problems by taking X-rays, examining teeth and gums, removing plaque, polishing teeth, injecting local anesthetics, and assisting with dental procedures. They also play a key role in educating patients about how and when to brush and floss. Read more
PhysicistPhysicists 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 human-scale projects to bring people new technologies, like computers, lasers, and fusion energy. Read more
Physician AssistantWould you like to sew up a bad cut after fall? Order and interpret X-rays? Help with surgery? Conduct physicals? Prescribe medications? Physician assistants have many of the same duties as physicians, only they practice medicine under the supervision of a physician or a surgeon. In rural or inner-city areas, physician assistants might have considerable independence, since they might be the only healthcare provider available to these communities. Physician assistants can choose to study specialties, too, just like physicians, and work in surgery, pediatrics, emergency medicine, orthopedics, or other health specialties. Read more
News Feed on This Topic
Looking for more science fun?
Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.Find an Activity
Explore Our Science Videos
Stretchy Balloons! Fun STEM Activity
BlueBot 4-in-1 Robotics Kit
Make a Water Strider - STEM Activity