Sheet lead is the material of choice for many applications involving the attenuation of gamma radiation.
Gamma radiation attenuation – that is, gamma ray shielding – takes place because of the interaction of the radiation to the shielding material. Gamma rays consist of high-energy photons that move at the speed of light, and these photons can travel considerable distances before dissipating their energy. Direct and/or prolonged exposure to gamma radiation requires shielding by extremely dense material, and lead is the principal material used in radiation shielding.
The effects of gamma radiation exposure to the human body can include skin burns and cellular damage. Excessive doses can kill cells and result in radiation sickness, also termed “radiation poisoning.” Gamma ray exposure can occur from natural radioactivity in industries such as gas and oil production, as well as in such industries as nuclear power where exposure poses a significant risk. Common low-dose exposure to radiation does not cause radiation sickness, but this does not necessarily lessen the requirement for protection.
The extent and effectiveness to which gamma radiation can be mitigated will depend on factors that include: the energy of the gamma radiation source; the density (and atomic number) of the shielding materials; and the thickness of the shielding. Furthermore, exposure time and distance from the source are factors related to exposure. The greater the energy of the exposure, and the longer one risks exposure, then the greater the need for shielding against that radiation.
Since exposure is influenced by aspects of proximity and duration, lesser degrees of exposure can create opportunities for applications of shielding materials other than lead. For this reason, and based on the specifics of a given situation, this is where such materials as steel or concrete might come into play, but these materials still do not meet the shielding effectiveness or the many attributes of lead.
Lead is a malleable, dense metal that is easy to melt and form. It is often combined with other metals to create alloys to suit different purposes. In the case of lead shielding, such attributes include thin, compact product solutions – and because lead can be formed into different products, it can be used in diverse applications. Other examples of lead shielding products include lead bricks, lead blocks, and lead plates.
To conclude, different materials (lead and non-lead) can at times be utilized in different circumstances for gamma radiation shielding; however, sheet lead remains the “material of choice” in the majority of applications for gamma shielding.
Canada Metal North America (CMNA) specializes in products and materials that provide the utmost radiation protection specific to any given industry. No matter what your requirements are for radiation shielding, Canada Metal will consult with you to provide the most viable solutions, including for highly specialized industries requiring customized products. Canada Metal has over 100 years of expertise and serves industries that include hospital and medical, nuclear, aerospace, defense, and more. Learn more about Canada Metal today!