What is e-beam technology?

frequently asked Questions about e-beam technology


Electron beam processing is a technology with a broad range of commercial applications. It provides users with an effective and efficient means to bring about useful changes in the properties and performance of polymers and other materials. The technology is also widely used for the sterilization of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.


Much of the pioneering work in the field of electron beam technology was done in the 1930s by Dr. Arthur Charlesby. In the 1950s, Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, first commercialized e-beam sterilization. Ethicon found their sutures were more pliable and stronger when sterilized via electron beam versus heat or steam sterilization. Sequoia Wire Company was first to utilize e-beam crosslinking of wire insulation jacketing. Over the last 60 years, e-beam applications have steadily expanded to include polymer modification, composite curing, semiconductor and gemstone enhancements, food processing, and many others.

How it works

Electron beams are particle accelerators. In this case, the particles being accelerated are electrons and the beam generated is the equivalent of beta radiation. An electron beam’s size and power are best described by the voltage and current. The voltage is the force that accelerates the electrons. The current, measured in amps, is the rate of flow of electrons. A highly reliable accelerator design used around the world and at E-BEAM Services is the Dynamitron®. This is a linear accelerator and it works on the same principle as a cathode ray tube (CRT) in a television set. Electrons are generated by heating a filament. A voltage gradient draws the electrons away from the filament and accelerates them through a vacuum tube. The resultant beam can then be scanned by means of an electromagnet to produce a “curtain” of accelerated electrons.

The CRT inside a TV set operates at 20 kilovolts (keV), whereas modern industrial accelerators can operate up to 5,000 kilovolts (5 MeV) or more. Electrons accelerated to 5 MeV are traveling at approximately 99.6% of the speed of light when they exit the beam tube. In a television set, the beam current is a few microamps, whereas an industrial beam’s current is 10,000 times higher. Since electrons have mass, their penetration into materials is limited by their energy and the density of the target material. The high energy and current of industrial electron beams allow efficient processing of products by producing rapid reactions between the electrons and irradiated products.

Application of the radiation

Using a horizontal conveyor system, the product is passed through the curtain of electrons. Products can be processed on carts in cases or loose in bulk. Products such as cable, tubing, and sheet are processed reel-to-reel using a different kind of conveyor system. In penetrating these objects the electrons can create beneficial chemical and structural changes.

For example, accelerated electrons kill bacteria and mold, making e-beam ideally suited for sterilization and bioburden reduction applications. In the case of polymers and plastics, e-beam crosslinking improves a variety of properties, including high and low-temperature performance, tensile and impact strength, creep resistance, durability, chemical resistance, environmental stress crack resistance (ESCR), barrier properties, rheological improvements, and others.

Contract processing vs. owning a beam

The use of an e-beam contract service provider is usually the most cost-effective way to manufacture products via irradiation. The purchase, installation, and operation of all the components of an e-beam system is a complex and capital intensive undertaking. Furthermore, the time needed for a new facility to be designed, built, and qualified can be two years or more. The total cost of installation can range from $10-15 million. In addition, the inherent capacity of an e-beam is unlikely to be filled with an individual product line, making it difficult to recover the initial capital expense in a timely manner. The operation of an e-beam also requires specialized maintenance and oversight due to regulatory compliance requirements. A contract provider, or “toll processor,” specializes in e-beam processing and has the knowledge, capacity and flexibility to serve many customers, whether small or large, cost-effectively.

Additional considerations

Additional benefits of electron beam processing include environmental friendliness due to the absence of chemical additives typically used in alternative material modification processes. The reproducible process control of the electron beam does not rely on a radioactive material for its energy source but is rather a simple, clean “on-off” technology that uses electricity.

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Crash Course Recap: Does e-beam make my products radioactive?


One question we get a lot is: Does e-beam make my products radioactive?

The short answer:


The (slightly) longer answer:  Read More »

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How high-dose testing can be used to simulate radiation exposure for the nuclear industry

simulate radiation exposure

Nuclear reactors and radioactive materials play an important part in our society, such as the use of radioisotopes for medical treatments and the production of carbon-free energy. But using radiation in a safe and beneficial manner requires a deep understanding of the materials involved and their potential reactions to radiation.

Shielding materials for medical isotopes and the materials used in nuclear reactors must withstand the continuous exposure of radiation – without performance failures. Read More »

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How does crosslinking improve wire and cable insulation?

wire and cable insulationWhen wire and cable is irradiated by electron beam, the electrons crosslink the jacket, improving performance characteristics – such as higher tensile strength, chemical resistance, abrasion resistance, and improved thermal resistance at elevated temperatures – without changing the dimensional properties. Read More »

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Electron Beam Rheology Control

Does your PE or PP resin have the exact material properties you want?

If you’re manufacturing a specialty film, bottle, foam, or other plastic product, the standard off-the-shelf grades offered by the big resin manufacturers don’t always meet your needs.
Read More »

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What are some different types of ionizing radiation?

different types of ionizing radiation


Radiation with wavelengths shorter than 10–10 m is considered ionizing radiation, because it can ionize the molecules it encounters. Gamma, x-ray, and e-beam are examples of ionizing radiation, whereas microwaves, radiowaves, and UV are considered nonionizing. Read More »

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How do I sterilize my labware?

how do I sterilize my labware


This might be a trick question. Depending on its end use, sometimes labware doesn’t need to be sterilized. It needs to be bioreduced.
Read More »

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A Message to Our Valued Customers

message to customers

Dear valued customer,

In this unprecedented time, we wanted to reach out to you with a message. As the largest provider of medium-voltage electron beam (5 MeV) contract sterilization services on the globe, E-BEAM Services, Inc. reinforces its continuous efforts to provided uninterrupted services amid the COVID-19 outbreak and its related issues, particularly when it comes to assuring the safety of our team and the sterility levels of the materials processed in our facilities.
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What kinds of products can be easily converted to Medium-voltage Electron Beam Sterilization?

types of products beam

low to medium density productsOver the years Medium-Voltage electron beam (5 MeV) accelerators have been proven useful and effective for the sterilization of a great variety of products, including medical devices, single-use products, and labware at an industrial level worldwide.
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E-BEAM Services to Showcase Crosslinked Foam Capabilities at 4th Annual North American FOAM EXPO

foam expo 2020

Understanding how to enhance products utilizing green electron beam technology is the unique expertise of E-BEAM Services. E-BEAM Services is looking forward to bringing crosslinking expertise to the Foam Expo North America Conference in Novi, Michigan.
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