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.
Gamma radiation is generated by photons emitted from a radioactive isotope such as cobalt-60. These photons have no mass and therefore great penetration ability.
The radioactive isotope used for generation, however, poses challenges for acquiring, transporting, storing, and using. There is a strong push by agencies such as the the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to limit the commercial use of these radioactive materials because alternative technologies are available.
X-ray processing is not generated by radioactive materials, but by accelerators that employ on/off technology. The photons used in x-ray processing are similar to gamma in the sense that they have high penetration ability. X-ray, though, is considerably faster than gamma.
The on/off technology used by the accelerators also has high implications on worker safety, operating costs, and the overall carbon footprint of x-ray vs gamma.
E-beam technology is also produced by accelerators that utilize on/off technology, and is even faster than x-ray processing. The faster dose rate of e-beam also means that there is generally less degradation to certain products.
E-beam processing can be divided into low-energy (<1 MeV), medium-energy (1-8 MeV), and high-energy (8-10 MeV). E-BEAM Services’ medium-energy accelerators mean we are ideally positioned to process large amounts of low- to medium-density products very quickly.
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