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Coderre, Jeffrey, 22.01 Introduction to Ionizing Radiation, Fall 2006. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 07 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Introduction to Ionizing Radiation

Fall 2006

Half section view of an ultracold neutron trapping apparatus.

Half section view of an ultracold neutron trapping apparatus. The trap is loaded through inelastic scattering of cold neutrons (11 K) with phonons in superfluid helium-4. Trapped neutrons are detected when they beta decay; energetic decay electrons ionize helium atoms in the superfluid resulting in efficient conversion of electron kinetic energy into light (scintillation). (Image courtesy of NIST.)

Course Highlights

This course features a full list of lecture notes and a complete set of assignments with solutions.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the basic properties of ionizing radiations and their uses in medicine, industry, science, and environmental studies. We will discuss natural and man-made radiation sources, energy deposition and dose calculations, and various physical, chemical, and biological processes and effects of radiation, with examples of their uses, and principles of radiation protection.


Course Description

The course is intended to provide a broad understanding of a wide range of aspects covering the topic of ionizing radiation. These aspects range from physics, chemistry and biology to epidemiology, risk assessment, and public policy. Topics include: radioactive decay; interactions of the different types of radiation with matter; methods of radiation detection; biological effects of radiation exposure; environmental radiation sources on earth and in space. Several of the more controversial aspects of radiation applications will be discussed.

Required Text

 Turner, J. E. Atoms, Radiation, and Radiation Protection. 2nd ed. New York, NY: J. Wiley, 1995. ISBN: 9780471595816.

Grading Policy

There will be about 8 problem sets over the course of the semester. Some of the problem sets will include both conventional problems as well as assignments to find papers in the scientific literature on a specific topic and write an abstract describing the paper. There will be two exams and a final exam. All students are required to write a term paper on a topic related to the subjects covered in this course. A list of possible topics will be provided, but students are free to choose their own topic.

The grading scheme for the class is as follows:

Homework 20%
Term Paper 15%
Midterm 1 20%
Midterm 2 20%
Final Exam 25%


1 Course Introduction/Radiation History/Fundamentals of the Atom  
2 Binding Energy and Nuclear Instability  

Binding Energy (cont.)

Alpha Decay

4 Beta Decay Problem set 1 due
5 Gamma Decay  
6 Activity and Exponential Decay Problem set 2 due
7 Radiological Dating  
8 Radiation Interactions: Heavy Charged Particles Problem set 3 due
9 Exam 1  
10 Radiation Interactions: Light Charged Particles Term paper topic due
11 Radiation Interactions: Photons  
12 Radiation Interactions: Neutrons, Neutron Sources Problem set 4 due
13 Radiation Detection/Absorbed Dose  
14 Absorbed Dose/Radiation Units Problem set 5 due
15 Charged Particle Tracks/Radiation Chemistry  
16 Biological Effects/Cell Survival Curves Problem set 6 due
17 Exam 2  
18 Reactor Tour  
19 Background Radiation/Radon  
20 The Radiation Environment in Space Term paper abstract due

Radiation Effects in Materials

Guest Lecture: Prof. Ballinger

22 Biological Effects/Radiation Therapy  
23 Medical Imaging: PET/SPECT/X Rays  
24 "Radiation Controversies": Class Discussion Problem set 7 due
25 Radiation Therapy: Protons  
26 Radiological Terrorism Term paper due   Tell A Friend