# Wavelength of X-rays

Chemistry Asked by user2619 on September 22, 2020

What will be the wavelength of an X-ray, if we apply a potential difference of, say $$pu{20 kV}$$ across the ends of the X-ray tube?

Alright, I started with the modified de-Broglie equation-
$$Lambda=frac{h}{sqrt{meV}}$$
I pinned the values of Planck constant, electronic charge and potential difference but can’t guess what would be the mass $$m$$ here.

The answer comes $$pu{0.62*10^-10m}$$ if solved perfectly. Can anybody confirm?

$$Lambda=frac{h}{sqrt{meV}}$$ $$E=mc^2$$ Also $$E=frac{hc}{Lambda}$$ Therefore, $$mc^2=frac{hc}{Lambda}$$ $$mc=frac{h}{Lambda}$$ Hence $$m=frac{h}{Lambda c}$$ Plugging the value of m from here we get an equation with all known constants. Solving for $Lambda$ , we can get the result as $$.62*10^{-10}$$m.

Correct answer by user2619 on September 22, 2020

Firstly as @MaxW pointed out, using the given information, it is possible to find the shortest wavelength (or maximum frequency) X-ray only.

In an X-ray tube, electrons are accelerated in a vacuum by an electric field and shot into a piece of heavy metal (e.g., $$ce{W, Rh, Mo, Cu, Ag}$$) plate. X-rays are emitted as the electrons decelerate in the metal. The output spectrum consists of a continuous spectrum of X-rays, with sharp peaks at certain energies as in the graph. The continuous spectrum is due to bremsstrahlung (German for "deceleration radiation"), while the sharp peaks are characteristic X-rays associated with the atoms in the target.

The spectrum has a sharp cutoff at low wavelength (high frequency), which is due to the limited energy of the incoming electrons (which is equal to the voltage on the tube times the electron charge). This cutoff applies to both the continuous (bremsstrahlung) spectrum and the characteristic sharp peaks, i.e. there is no X-ray of any kind beyond the cutoff. However, the cutoff is most obvious for the continuous spectrum.

Hence, the Duane-Hunt law comes handy in here, which gives the maximum frequency of X-rays that can be emitted by Bremsstrahlung in an X-ray tube by accelerating electrons through an excitation voltage $$V$$ into a metal target.

The maximum frequency $$nu_text{max}$$ is given by-

$${displaystyle nu _{text {max}}={frac {eV}{h}},}$$ which corresponds to a minimum wavelength

$${displaystyle lambda _{text {min}}={frac {hc}{eV}},}$$ where $$h$$ is Planck's constant, $$e$$ is the charge of the electron, and $$c$$ is the speed of light.

Thus putting the values given-

$$lambda _{text {min}}={frac {hc}{eV}}={frac {pu{1240 eV nm}}{pu{20*1000 eV}}}= pu{0.62*10^-10 m}$$