Many students are unable to distinguish between non-ionising and ionising radiation and many do not think of light as ‘radiation’

Quantum and Nuclear


Resources to Address This

  • A suggestion for linking the energy delivered by photons to frequency based on the ‘orange liquid’ approach to energy stores. Different sized spoons deliver different volumes of the fluid and therefore different amount of energy.

    Discuss this in terms of how the increase in energy could affect a material, particularly the energy needed to release electrons from atoms or molecules, rather than a gain in the thermal stores of the material.

    View Resource
  • Here, a more formal approach is taken to discussing the relationship between energy and frequency of radiation through the Planck equation E = h × f. Use the resource to discuss how high frequency electromagnetic radiation such as ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma radiation, causes ionisation when the energy is gained by electrons allowing them to escape atoms.

    View Resource
  • A discussion of how frequency and energy delivered by photons is related. Use this to help explain why low frequency (low energy) photons are unable to cause ionisation effects, although they can still cause significant heating.

    View Resource
  • A set of diagnostic question and answers can be useful to assess students understanding of  ionisation. The questions can be useful in discussing how radiation can affect objects, leading to potential damage through ionisation but not contamination.

    Students should also discuss absorption of non-ionising radiation and how this can affect materials.

    View Resource


Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today