An X-ray tube. Electrons “boil” off the cathode when the filament is heated by a …—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Electromagnetic radiation of extremely short wavelength (100 nanometres to 0.001 nanometre) produced by the deceleration of charged particles or the transitions of electrons in atoms. X-rays travel at the speed of light and exhibit phenomena associated with waves, but experiments indicate that they can also behave like particles (see wave-particle duality). On the electromagnetic spectrum, they lie between gamma rays and ultraviolet radiation. They were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who named them X-rays for their unknown nature. They are used in medicine to diagnose bone fractures, dental cavities, and cancer; to locate foreign objects in the body; and to stop the spread of malignant tumours. In industry, they are used to analyze and detect flaws in structures.

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