Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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X-ray lines

When high energy electrons are incident on a tungsten target, a broad spectrum of x-rays are given off. Most of the x-ray photons are spread over a range of energies, but there are a large number of x-rays with a specific energy -about 60 keV. This sharp x-ray line arises because:
  1. An electron bounces off a tungsten atom and since accelerating a charge leads to radiation, it gives off an x-ray when it does so.
  2. An electron excites a tungsten atom into a particular excited state and it gives off a particular x-ray when it returns to its original state.
  3. An electron slows via many collisions with electrons in many tungsten atoms. The combined effect of these collisions leads to the sharp x-ray line.
  4. An electron is absorbed by a nucleus of tungsten and converted into energy.
  5. None of the above.

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Page last modified October 31, 2002: MP08