X-rays are a very energetic form of electromagnetic radiation that can be used to take images of the human body. X-rays are types of electromagnetic radiation probably most well-known for their ability to see through a person’s skin and reveal images of the bones beneath it. Most X-rays have a wavelength ranging from 10 picometers to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz (30×1015Hz to 30×1018 Hz) and energies in the range 124 eV to 124 keV.They were discovered by German mechanical engineer and physicist Wilhelm Rontgen. He discovered that firing streams of x-rays through arms and hands created detailed images of the bones inside. When you get an x-ray taken, x-ray sensitive film is put on one side of your body, and x-rays are shot through you. Because bones are dense and absorb more x-rays than skin does, shadows of the bones are left on the x-ray film while the skin appears transparent. X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation—when interacting with matter, they are energetic enough to cause neutral atoms to eject electrons. Through this ionization process the energy of the X-rays is deposited in the matter. When passing through living tissue, X-rays can cause harmful biochemical changes in genes, chromosomes, and other cell components. The biological effects of ionizing radiation, which are complex and highly dependent on the length and intensity of exposure, are still under active study (see radiation injury). X-ray radiation therapies take advantage of these effects to combat the growth of malignant tumours.
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