From Academic Kids

Bremsstrahlung, German for braking radiation, is electromagnetic radiation produced by the acceleration of a charged particle, such as an electron, when deflected by another charged particle, such as an atomic nucleus. The term is also used to refer to the process of producing the radiation. Bremsstrahlung has a continuous spectrum.

Bremsstrahlung may also be referred to as free-free radiation. This refers to the radiation that arises as a result of a charged particle that is free both before and after the deflection (acceleration) that causes the emission. Strictly speaking bremsstrahlung refers to any radiation due to the acceleration of a charged particle, which includes synchrotron radiation, however it is frequently used (even when not speaking German) in the more literal and narrow sense of radiation from electrons stopping in matter.



"Outer bremsstrahlung" is the term applied in cases where the energy loss by radiation greatly exceeds that by ionization as a stopping mechanism in matter. This is seen clearly for electrons with energies above 50 MeV.


"Inner bremsstrahlung" is the term applied to the less frequent case of radiation emission during beta decay, resulting in the emission of a photon of energy less than or equal to the maximum energy available in the nuclear transition. Inner bremsstrahlung is caused by the abrupt change in the electric field in the region of the nucleus of the atom undergoing decay, in a manner similar to that which causes outer bremsstrahlung. In electron and positron emission the photon's energy comes from the electron/neutron pair, with the spectrum of the bremsstrahlung decreasing continuously with increasing energy of the beta particle. In electron capture the energy comes at the expense of the neutrino, and the spectrum is greatest at about one third of the normal neutrino energy, reaching zero at zero energy and at normal neutrino energy.

Beta particle emitting substances sometimes exhibit a weak radiation with continuous spectrum that is due to both outer and inner bremsstrahlung, or to one of them alone.

Secondary radiation

Bremsstrahlung is a type of "secondary radiation," in that it is produced as a reaction in shielding material by the primary radiation (beta particles). Surprisingly, in some cases, the bremsstrahlung produced by some sources of radiation interacting with some types of radiation shielding can be more harmful than the original beta particles would have been.

From a plasma

In a plasma the free electrons are constantly producing Bremsstrahlung in collisions with the ions. The power density of the Bremsstrahlung radiated is given by

PBr = (1.6910-32 W cm-3) (ne/cm-3)2 (Te/eV)1/2 Zeff
  = (5.3410-37 W m-3) (ne/m-3)2 (Te/keV)1/2 Zeff

The "effective" charge state is given by an average over the charge states of the ions:

Zeff = Σ (ZnZ) / ne

For very high temperatures there are relativistic corrections to this formula, that is, additional terms of order Te/mec2.[1] (

See also

it:Bremsstrahlung de:Bremsstrahlung


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