The X-Ray Machine

Fatema Ibrahim


X-rays are used to analyse problems with bones, teeth and organs in the human body; to detect cracks in metal industry; and even at airports for luggage inspection.

The "x" in x- ray stands for an unknown quantity because they did not know what kind of rays they were.

How do they work?

  • X-rays have very short wavelengths that unlike visible light are able to pass through most tissues in the human body.

  • Since bones contain calcium, a denser material than most other tissues, they are able to block the radiation and appear white on the x-ray film, while less dense tissue appears gray and is difficult to see.

Historical Facts


  • -X-rays were discovered on November 8, 1895

Who ?

  • They were invented by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, who was a German engineer and physicist


  • X-rays were an unintentional invention. While experimenting with electrical currents through glass cathode-ray tubes, Röntgen discovered that a piece of barium platinocyanide glowed even though the tube was encased in thick black cardboard and was across the room

The first x-ray photo was of his wifes hand with her wedding ring. He discovered that when emitted in complete darkness, X-rays passed through objects of varying density, rendering the flesh and muscle of his wife's hand mostly transparent. The denser bones and the ring left behind a shadow on a special photographic plate covered in barium platinocyanide.

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Diagram + how it works

X Rays Work
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Mirrors - High energy X-Rays have enough energy to penetrate right through a standard mirror. However, 'soft' or low energy X-Rays can be reflected off a parabolic mirror by glancing the ray (ie the X-Ray is incident at a glancing angle), much like how you skip a stone across water. this can be used to focus the x-ray

Electro magnetic rays- Electromagnetic radiation is transmitted in waves or particles at different wavelengths and frequencies. This broad range of wavelengths is known as the electromagnetic spectrum. The EM spectrum is generally divided into seven regions in order of decreasing wavelength and increasing energy and frequency.

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How have x-rays benefited society?

  • Medical x-rays have increased our ability to detect disease or injury early enough for a medical problem to be managed, treated, or cured. When performed appropriately and early enough, these procedures can improve health and may even save a person’s life.

  • Before x ray machines were invented, broken bones, tumors and the location of bullets were all diagnosed by physical examination and a doctor's best guess.

  • For the first time, doctors could see images of the human heart and brain.