The discovery of x-rays by
Roentgen in 1895 in many ways marks the dawn of modern physics. The
short wavelength end of the electromagnetic spectrum represented by
x-rays and g-rays
is of great practical importance as a probe of the internal structure of
matter, as a diagnostic tool in medicine, and as a window into cosmic
processes such as supernovae and black hole accretion.
In this experiment you will use a
precision solid state detector to study x-ray energy spectra of x-ray from a
number of sources. Nuclear x-ray sources are used to calibrate the device to
high precision. Then, bombardment from an alpha source is used to stimulate
atomic x-ray transitions in a number of materials. The x-ray energies reveal the
atomic level spacings with great clarity, and can be used to show the existence
the atomic number. The characteristic x-ray lines of the elements are then
used to determine the composition of unknown samples.