I've done some research and can see that the distance travelled by an x-ray through lead is far less than through other materials, but is there a more "full" explanation that I'm missing out on to do with scattering of photons etc?

I have searched Google extensively but I'm still not satisfied.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd advise you to look up three things: Photoelectric effect, Compton Scattering, and Pair Production (highly unlikely for an x-ray but look it up anyway). Dependant on the energy of the x-ray, it could be any of these. Lead has a high atomic number, meaning it's pretty dense, meaning lots of protons and electrons. This is important. I'm putting this as a comment rather than an answer because I don't know if this is the information which you already know and you're looking for a bit more detail. $\endgroup$ – Matt Jun 3 '16 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Okay so if I were looking for after the x-ray has been reduced in intensity to 37%, I would need to find one of those things you've mentioned on a graph and that should lead me to enlightenment on the subject? What you've mentioned on density is really useful, I hadn't thought of it in those terms. $\endgroup$ – user118887 Jun 3 '16 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ That's a little more involved, and I'm no expert. If I understand correctly what you're trying to ask, then you need to understand how radiation "attenuates" through shielding. The intensity of some radiation after it has passed through some material of thickness d is proportional to e^-(xd), where x is something called the attenuation coefficient. Basically, how much radiation is stopped by the material. The attentuation coefficient is unique to different materials. $\endgroup$ – Matt Jun 3 '16 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Effectively a duplicate of physics.stackexchange.com/questions/11506/… $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jun 3 '16 at 17:04

Lead is a chemical element in the carbon group with symbol Pb (from Latin: plumbum) and atomic number 82. It is a soft, malleable and heavy post-transition metal. Freshly cut, solid lead has a bluish-white color that soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed to air; the liquid metal has shiny chrome-silver luster. Lead has the highest atomic number[a] of any non-radioactive element

Italics mine, they show that it has density, for maximum absorption, is easy in construction, and of course non radioactive is necessary for shielding !.

It is also plentiful, which means cheap:

Lead's abundance in the Earth's crust is 16 ppm. This results in a great availability of lead minerals and easy extraction of the metal

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  • $\begingroup$ Non-radioactive is nice, but not necessary for shielding. Uranium is used in some applications where minimizing the thickness of the shield is a high priority. It has almost double the density of lead, it's only just barely radioactive, and the "depleted" kind is easy to come by if you're already licensed to handle whatever it is that needs the shielding. $\endgroup$ – Solomon Slow Jun 3 '16 at 19:35

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