Radioactive substances used in nuclear research and medical procedures always pose a risk to those who are involved in a nuclear laboratory or a hospital. The scientists who work in laboratories have to move around in areas which are fraught with exposure to dangerous levels of the energy released by the radioactive material used in the experiments. Since the radioactive material is the basis of their work they are always under the threat of getting exposed in their line of duty.
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Similarly the technician who is operating an X-ray machine in the hospital has a duty to perform i.e. to expose the patient to a limited dose of this energy as a part of the prescribed medical treatment advised by the doctor. In this case also the technician is also facing a risk of exposure to the radioactive energy himself. The only way to protect these people from the dangerous and destructive force of this radioactive energy is to channel the energy in such a way so that it does only the function which it is being used for without causing any ill effects to the people who are using it.
1. Protective cover for radioactive devices
To achieve this objective the radioactive substance is covered on all sides by a layer of lead which prevents the radioactive energy from coming out in all directions. Only an aperture is left in this protective cover so that the ray or beam of energy can be directed at the particular spot it is meant to fall upon. Lead was used for this protective cover because it has a high density and can absorb the full energy of the radioactive energy without allowing it to pass through.
2. Thickness of cover counts
This meant that thicker the protective cover the better is the absorption capacity of the cover. The thickness of the lead cover depended upon the amount of energy it had to absorb. The energy which is allowed to pass through reduces with the increase in the thickness of the protective cover in an exponential manner.
3. The usage of Lead in making the protective shield
The amount of lead needed to produce an efficient protective cover sometimes made the equipment used in the medical centers and the nuclear laboratories quite heavy and cumbersome. The protective cover is said to be efficient if the thickness of lead used to make the cover is able to prevent the ray or beam of energy emanating from the source to travel to the point to be protected in a straight line. The capacity of absorption of this radioactive energy is also dependent on the area of the lead cover also.
4. Alternative to Lead for the protective shield
Research done during the past few years have come up with a compound of different metals which has replaced the earlier protective cover made of lead in many equipments containing radioactive substances. These compounds have densities which are more than that of lead by 60 per cent. The higher density of these compounds also enables them to absorb more energy per unit of weight than lead. Thus lesser weight of these metallic compounds is actually required compared to lead to get the same amount of protection from the radioactive energy.
5. Advantage of the alternative material
The smaller amount of these metallic compounds have made the equipment less cumbersome and less voluminous with the result that they have become much easier to operate than before. With the advent of these new metallic compounds used for manufacturing the protective covers has introduced portability to the huge machines which were used earlier.
Christopher is an industrialist. His industry focuses on the manufacturing of tungsten alloy. Apart from his business life, he also likes to give various radiation shielding tips and techniques to his employees as well as to the other people.