What is Cherenkov radiation?
Cherenkov radiation is the light produced when charged particles such as electrons pass through a
medium that is optically transparent at speed that is greater than speed of light through this medium. Cherenkov radiation is emitted when the molecules of the medium are rapidly turning back to their original start after being polarized by the charged particles.
The Cherenkov radiation has a characteristic bluish white glow and can be observed in water pools shielding nuclear reactors. In nuclear reactors, electrons emitted by the nuclear reactors travel through the water at speeds greater than the velocity of light, which is approximately 75% of the speed of light through a vacuum. The charged particle displaces electrons from atoms along its path while travelling through the medium. This process emits electromagnetic radiation which combines to form an electromagnetic wave similar to a bow wave which is caused by a ship travelling at a speed greater than water waves’ velocity. The electromagnetic wave can also be compared to a sonic boom (also called the shock wave) which is similar to the bow wave but caused by an aeroplane travelling at a faster speed than sound in air.
How was Cherenkov radiation discovered?
Speculations about Cherenkov radiation date back to late nineteenth century as it was predicted by Heaviside in the 1880s. It is interesting to note that it was accidentally discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie. The effect was studied in detail by a Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov in the 30s andwas later explained by Igor Tamm and Illya Frank. The study by Cherenkov involved placing radioactive substances near water, something which emitted blue light. Cherenkov worn the Nobel Prize in !958 for being the pioneer in detecting the radiation experimentally.
What are the characteristics of Cherenkov radiation?
Cherenkov radiation is continuous. Its intensity per unit frequency is also proportional to its frequency around the visible band. Higher frequencies are therefore more intense in it. The Cherenkov radation’s shock cone angle varies directly as the speed of the disruption. At the threshold velocity it’s emission, the Cherenkov radiation’sangle is zero.
What are the major applications of Cherenkov radiation?
Cherenkov radiation has proved to be helpful in the field of particle Physics because it gives a terrific way of detecting particles that have high energy. Not only can one observe presence of such particles by observing the radiated light but also learn more by carrying out a detailed study of the light. The light’s precise pattern could help determine:
- The path taken by the particle across the medium,
- The quantity of energy carried by the particle and
- The particle’s mass (since electrons will always disperse in the medium while heavier particles won’t).
Cherenkov radiation is also used in nuclear reactors to measure the intensity of reaction, since Cherenkov radiation exhibits a direct relationship with the fission events’ frequency. It is also used in characterization of remaining used rods’ radioactivity. Another important application of the Chenekov radiation detection of biomolecules in order to establish and illustrate relationships among biological molecules.