Difference Between X Ray and Gamma Ray

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Difference Between X Ray and Gamma Ray Difference Between X Ray and Gamma Ray

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Both X Rays and Gamma Rays are well-known terminologies, and as their names suggest, they are high-energy rays. Many people are familiar with them, yet they are perplexed as to why they are so distinct. It's crucial to grasp the differences so you can better comprehend how they work.

Let’s get to learn the basic differences between X rays and Gamma rays. It will be helpful for all the students who are interested in learning basics and improving their knowledge.

X-Ray vs Gamma Ray

Except for the fact that X-Rays were invented before Gamma Rays, the main difference between X-Ray and Gamma-Ray is how they are produced. They differ in terms of wavelength and frequency level due to different production methods. Gamma rays, on the other hand, are both more harmful and less inexpensive. Last but not least, they have varying levels of penetrating strength.

Difference Between X-Ray and Gamma Ray in Tabular Form

Table: X-Ray vs Gamma Ray
Parameters of Comparison
The production happens when
The energy of energetic electrons is lost.
By Nuclei that are radioactive.
The wavelength
Larger in X-ray.
Smaller in gamma-ray.
The energy
Less energy here.
More energy here.
The penetration intensity/power.
Less power here.
More power here.
The affordability
More affordable.
Less affordable

What is an X-ray?

An X-ray, which is often known as X-radiation, is a type of penetrating high-energy electromagnetic radiation. The wavelength of most X-rays ranges from 10 picometers to 10 nanometres, corresponding to frequencies of 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz.

X-rays were formerly thought to be a type of unexplained radiation emitted by experimental discharge tubes before their discovery in 1895. Scientists studying cathode rays produced by such tubes, which are intense electron beams first identified in 1869, noticed them. Many of the early Crookes tubes (developed around 1875) probably emitted X-rays, as evidenced by the effects noted by early researchers, as recounted below. Crookes tubes generated free electrons by ionizing the tube's remaining air with a high DC voltage ranging from a few kilovolts to 100 kV. When the electrons from the cathode hit the anode or the tube's glass wall, they were propelled to such a high velocity that they formed X-rays.

William Morgan is thought to be the first experimenter to accidentally make X-rays. He submitted a report to the Royal Society of London in 1785 explaining the effects of running electrical currents through a partially evacuated glass tube to produce an X-ray glow. Humphry Davy and his assistant Michael Faraday expanded on this work.

Important History

Wilhelm Röntgen, a German physics professor, discovered X-rays while experimenting with Lenard tubes and Crookes tubes on November 8, 1895, and began investigating them. On December 28, 1895, he presented an early report titled "On a new sort of ray: A preliminary message" to the Physical-Medical Society journal in Würzburg. [14] This was the very first paper on X-rays. The radiation was referred to as "X" by Röntgen to denote that it was an unknown sort of radiation. The name remained, even though many of Röntgen's colleagues suggested calling them Röntgen rays, which he strongly opposed. Many languages, including German, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Danish, Polish, Bulgarian, Swedish, Finnish, Estonian, Slovenian, Turkish, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Japanese, Dutch, Hebrew, and Norwegian, still refer to them as such. For his discovery, Röntgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics.

So, Because Röntgen had his lab papers burned after his death, there are different tales of his discovery, but this is a reasonable reconstruction by his biographers: Röntgen was using a fluorescent screen painted with barium platinocyanide to investigate cathode rays from a Crookes tube that he had wrapped in black cardboard to keep the visible light from the tube from interfering. Actually, about a meter (3.3 feet) away, he detected a faint green glow from the screen. Röntgen noticed that some of the tube's invisible rays were passing through the cardboard and causing the screen to glow. They could even pass-through books and papers on his desk, he discovered. Röntgen devoted his life to systematically exploring these undiscovered rays. He published his findings two months after they were discovered.

When Röntgen took a snapshot of his wife's hand on a photographic plate created by X-rays, he realized how useful they could be in medicine. His shot of his wife's hand was the first to use X-rays to capture a human body component. "I have seen my death," she stated when she saw the photo. The discovery of X-rays prompted a flurry of excitement. According to Otto Glasser, Röntgen's biographer, 49 essays and 1044 articles regarding the new rays were published in 1896 alone. This was certainly a conservative estimate, given that practically every newspaper in the globe covered the new finding extensively, with a publication like science devoted as many as 23 stories to it in that single year.

Publications attributing the new type of rays to the occult and paranormal notions, such as telepathy, were among the sensationalist reactions to the new discovery.

Some Essential Details

According to experts, Hard X-rays have photon energies of 5–10 keV and wavelengths below 0.2–0.1 nm, on the other hand, the soft X-rays have lower photon energies (and longer wavelengths). The Tender X-rays are defined as photon energies of a few keV in the intermediate region. The Hard X-rays are commonly employed to photograph the inside of things due to their penetrating capacities, such as in medical radiography and airport security. In addition to the process itself, the term X-ray is also used to refer to a radiographic image created using this approach. Because the wavelengths of hard X-rays are similar to the size of atoms, they can be used in X-ray crystallography to determine crystal structures. Soft X-rays, on the other hand, are easily absorbed in the air; the attenuation length is quite short.

Properties of X-Ray

Experts think that the Photons produced from X-rays have enough energy to ionize atoms and break chemical bonds. Thus,  as a result, it is actually classified as ionising radiation, that is damaging to living tissue. Moreover, Radiation sickness is caused by a huge radiation dose given over a less period, on the contrary, lesser doses can actually increase the risk of radiation-induced cancer. In medical imaging, the advantages of the examination often outweigh the elevated cancer risk. The ionizing property of X-rays can be used in cancer treatment by using radiation therapy to destroy cancerous cells. It's also employed for X-ray spectroscopy material characterization.

X-ray photons are thought to have enough energy to ionize atoms and shatter chemical bonds, according to experts. As a result, it is classed as ionising radiation, which causes damage to living tissue. Furthermore, radiation sickness is caused by a large radiation dosage administered over a short period; nevertheless, smaller doses can actually raise the risk of radiation-induced cancer. In medical imaging, the benefits of the procedure frequently outweigh the increased cancer risk. The ionizing property of X-rays can be used in cancer treatment to eliminate malignant cells via radiation therapy. It's also used to characterize materials using X-ray spectroscopy.

It’s well knew that Because X-rays have considerably shorter wavelengths than visible light, they can probe structures that are much smaller than can be viewed with a regular microscope. This feature is utilized in X-ray microscopy and X-ray crystallography to determine the locations of atoms in crystals.

What is a Gamma-ray?

Gamma rays are basically electromagnetic waves with the shortest wavelengths, often shorter than X-rays. It transmits the most photon energy at frequencies exceeding 30 exahertz (301018 Hz). While studying the radiation emitted by radium, Paul Villard, a French scientist, and physicist, discovered gamma radiation in 1900. Ernest Rutherford termed this radiation gamma rays in 1903, based on its relatively significant penetration of matter; in 1900, he had already identified two less penetrating forms of decay radiation, alpha rays, and beta rays, in ascending order of penetrating power (found by Henri Becquerel).

The energy range of gamma rays produced by radioactive decay is from a few kilo electron volts (keV) to about 8 megaelectron volts (MeV), which corresponds to the normal energy levels in nuclei with extended lifetimes. Gamma spectroscopy can be used to identify decaying radionuclides by looking at their energy spectrum. From sources like the Cygnus X-3 microquasar, very-high-energy gamma-rays in the 100–1000 teraelectronvolt (TeV) range have been seen.

So according to experts, Radioactive decay and secondary radiation from air interactions with cosmic ray particles are the most common natural sources of gamma rays originating on Earth. Other uncommon natural sources of gamma rays, for example, terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, emit gamma rays as a result of electron activity in the nucleus. Actually Fission, such as that which occurs in nuclear reactors, and high-energy physics experiments, such as neutral pion decay and nuclear fusion, are two notable artificial sources of gamma rays.

Important History

The radioactive decay process known as gamma decay was the first gamma-ray source discovered. An excited nucleus produces a gamma-ray very quickly after creation in this type of decay. While studying the radiation emitted by radium, Paul Villard, a French scientist, and physicist, discovered gamma radiation in 1900. Villard was aware that the radiation he described was more potent than previously known varieties of radium rays, such as beta rays, first noted as "radioactivity" by Henri Becquerel in 1896, and alpha rays, originally discovered as a less penetrating form of radiation by Rutherford in 1899.

Villard, on the other hand, did not propose identifying them as a distinct fundamental type. Later, in 1903, Ernest Rutherford recognized Villard's radiation as being of a type essentially different from previously described rays and dubbed Villard's rays "gamma rays" by analogy with the beta and alpha rays that Rutherford had distinguished in 1899. The first three letters of the Greek alphabet were used to designate the "rays" emitted by radioactive elements in order of their ability to penetrate various materials: alpha rays were the least penetrating, followed by beta rays, and finally gamma rays were the most penetrating.

So, one Another trait that distinguishes gamma rays from alpha and beta rays is that they are not deflected (or at least not easily deflected) by a magnetic field.

Gamma rays, like alpha and beta rays, were once assumed to be massless particles. Rutherford thought they were extraordinarily fast beta particles at first, but their inability to be repelled by a magnetic field suggested that they didn't have any charge. The reflection of gamma rays off crystal surfaces was discovered in 1914, indicating that they constituted electromagnetic radiation.

Rutherford and his colleague Edward Andrade analyzed the wavelengths of radium gamma rays and discovered that they were comparable to X-rays, but with shorter wavelengths and consequently higher frequency. As soon as the latter word became widely used, this was recognized as giving them greater energy per photon. It was then discovered that gamma decay usually produces a gamma photon.

Gamma decay from naturally occurring radioisotopes like potassium-40, as well as secondary radiation from various air interactions with cosmic ray particles, are natural sources of gamma rays on Earth. Lightning strikes and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, which produce high energy emissions from natural high-energy voltages, are two rare terrestrial natural sources that produce gamma rays that are not of nuclear origin (Gamma ray, n.d.).

Main Differences Between X-ray and Gamma-ray In Points

  • Gamma rays are more dangerous to the human body than X-rays.
  • Gamma-payday wavelengths are shorter than X-ray wavelengths.
  • The electrons surrounding the nucleus emit X rays, while the excited nucleus itself emits gamma rays.
  • In hospitals, X-rays are used to take X-rays, but gamma rays are not.
  • Doctors request X-rays to examine discomfort or pain, identify disease, and determine whether or not treatment is effective.
  • The most energetic rays are gamma rays. It is mostly used to treat brain tumors and other related issues (Difference Between X Ray and Gamma Ray.


Thus, we successfully understood the key differentiating points between X-ray and Gamma-ray.


  • Gamma ray. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray
  • X-ray. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-ray


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"Difference Between X Ray and Gamma Ray." Diffzy.com, 2023. Mon. 27 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-x-ray-and-gamma-ray-469>.

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