Indiana University Bloomington
IUMSC   Indiana University Molecular Structure Center

X-Rays are electromagnetic waves of short wavelength and high energy. X-Rays are produced when high-energy photons strike a heavy metal target, like molybdenum, copper, or tungsten. X-ray_diffraction is an analytical technique that is used to determine the structure of crystalline materials.

X-rays are ionizing, hazardous radiation. Acute high exposure causes dose-related damage to all tissues and may lead to burns, necrosis (death of cells), or DNA damage resulting in cancer and dysfunctional proteins. X-rays are known to exert profound adverse effects on the developing embryo (leading to birth defects) and on reproductive function in men and women to name but a few. The consequences of long-term, low exposure to ionizing radiation such as X-rays are not well understood, however numerous medical investigations show their harmful effects.

If basic safety procedures are followed when working around X-ray diffraction systems, the safety of the person operating the system is ensured. Therefore it is important to be familiar with the equipment and safety procedures.

All persons operating X-Ray diffraction equipment must complete safety training regarding to various radiation warnings and safety devices incorporated into the equipment. The use of dosimeters may be required.

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Diffraction occurs as waves interact with a regular structure whose repeat distance is about the same as the wavelength. X-rays have wavelengths on the order of a few Angstroms, the same as typical interatomic distances in crystalline solids. Therefore, X-rays are diffracted from crystalline matter, which has regularly repeating atomic structures.
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