The radioactivity can be simply referred to as particle emission from nuclei due to the nuclear instability. There are different types of radiation such as alpha, beta and gamma radiation. Along with these there are different types of decay as well.

Some practical examples of exposure to radiation will be during medical examination, such as X-rays, CT scans, Fluoroscopy. Of these, most of them are not the result of nuclear reactions generated from internal layers of atoms. They also have different methods of generation, yet their effects on the human body are the same.

These are for our own usage and benefits and betterment of human life. But otherwise we are also exposed to natural radiation, and the biggest source will be our sun itself. Of which most of the radiation is filtered by our atmosphere.


Artificial radiology can be explained as bombarding atoms of a few selected elements by radiating particles, hence leading to generation of new atoms.

First discovered by Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford, through his experiments he concluded that new elements can be created from existing ones. If the resulting element is radioactive the process is known as artificially induced radioactivity.

Ernest Rutherford bombarded alpha particles against nuclei of 14N with seven protons/electrons. The resulting element was 17O and proton.

" Artificial Radioactivity"


Activation or radio activation: Producing a radioactive isotope by neutron capture, such as adding a neutron to a nuclide and then increasing the isotope number by one while maintaining the same atomic number, is known as activation (or radio activation) refer figure 2. Activation is often an involuntary event that occurs within or near a nuclear reactor with a large number of neutrons swirling about.

" Example of neutronic fission"

Example of Bombardment:

Nuclear equation for production of 147Eu by bombarding with 139La with 12Ca.

Solution: The first step is to find the mass number of unknown particles.

139 (Lanthanum)+12(Carbon) = A (unknown)+ 147(Europium)

This gives mass number of unknown = 4;

Atomic numbers of Lanthanum = 57,

Atomic number of Carbon = 6;

Atomic number of Europium = 63;

Atomic number of unknown = 0;

Hence nuclear equation will be

57139La + 612C = 63147Eu + 410n

Advantages and Uses: 

Medical usage: Of various applications in medical application one that everyone must have used at some point of time is X-rays. In this procedure, the bones and other structures shadows get casted over a photographic film, when x-rays are passed though that body part. This helps doctors figure out if any fracture is there in the body parts.

Radiation therapy is also used for cancer treatment. The purpose here is to kill the cancerous cells, decrease the size of any tumor present in the body. For example, in treatment of thyroid cancer, radioactive iodine is used.

In order to get real time, feel of internal organs and what’s happening inside, computerized axial tomography is done. It is another application of x-rays

Research and Scientific usage: To find the age of fossils and architectures built a long time back, archaeologists use a method known as carbon dating. A naturally existing radioactive isotope of carbon-14, which is inside every living thing, starts the procedure of radioactive decay one the living thing dies. Due to this, the percentage of this substance decreases in the body, and finding the difference one can find the approximate age. We now understand much more about the kinds of soil needed by various plants, the sizes of recently found oil fields, and the patterns of ocean currents thanks to radiation. Scientists deploy gas chromatography to classify the ingredients of natural oil, smog, and tobacco smoke, as well as complex proteins and enzymes used in medical science, using low-energy radioactive sources.

Industrial usage: Food processing industry use radiation to kill germs without damaging the good substance and without even making it radioactive. During corona time one can observe themselves sterilizing equipment before using it. UV light is used to disinfect the drinking water, in many RO brands installed in homes. In future we may also see application of radiation in treatment of sewage.

In chimneys most of the coal-based power plant uses Electron beam radiation, to filter out toxic Sulphur dioxide and Nitrogen oxides from smoke fumes before releasing them to the atmosphere. Nonstick utensils, cookware are processed with gamma rays to keep the food from sticking to the metal surface.

"Reaction for detection of beryllium"

Agriculture usage: This sector applies radiation to enhance food productivity and improve packaging quality. Radiation can also be used to control insects and pests that are harmful for vegetation.

Traffic usage: The sign boards we see on the roads are treated with the radioactive tritium and phosphorescent paints.

Engineering usage: Radiography is used to detect any defects in metal casting or welding. It is also used to detect any leakage of oil in permanently sealed engines or equipment. Radioactive material can be a source of energy to power satellites for deep space explorations.

Energy sector usage: The conventional source of electricity production has many limitations, like large amounts of fuel needed, environmental pollution, global warming, deforestation of procure coals, sea pollution while drilling of oil and natural gas and many more. Nuclear energy can be harnessed to produce electricity in a safe manner. Here the heat generated by a controlled nuclear fission process is used to boil the water and produce steam and hence run the turbine, producing electricity. The disposal system of water used as coolant is also very secure, the water is treated before releasing into the environment. So that no environmental pollution is caused. Even the used fuel is disposed of in a very secure manner.

The most common fuel for nuclear plants is uranium, it uses a process called fission to produce heat. People wonder if it will be very dangerous but it is not. Also, very little amount of fuel is enough to power the plant for a very long time.

Note: A person who would work in a nuclear plant for a year and not leave the compounds of the plant, will still have an additional radiation exposure of less than 1 percent of radiation that a normal person will receive from natural background sources.

Some disadvantage of artificial radioactivity could be terrorism, many anti elements of society are trying to get hold of the technology, to cause damage to society across the globe.

Context and Applications

This topic is significant in the professional exams for both undergraduate and graduate courses, especially for      

  • Bachelors in Physics 
  • Masters in Physics 

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