Ionizing radiation includes any radiation process in which individual quanta of energy are capable of ionizing atoms or molecules within the material that absorbs the radiation. Ionizing radiation is produced by the natural radioactive decay of rocks and radioactive materials, by cosmic rays, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and by similar processes that occur in nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, X-ray equipment, and high-energy physics experiments. Ionizing radiation can cause chemical changes to the material and can damage biological tissues as well as rock and structural materials.
Particle radiation is a type of radiation that is sometimes ionizing, and sometimes not. When fast-moving subatomic particles such as electrons, protons, and neutrons carry enough energy, they produce an ionizing effect on the material through which they pass, but if their energy is too low they do not.
Nonionizing radiation is any type of radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules. In most cases nonionizing radiation consists of the lower-energy parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, including radio waves, microwaves, terahertz radiation, infrared light, and visible light. These lower-energy forms of electromagnetic radiation do not ionize or damage tissue but can excite electrons in the tissue to a higher energy state.
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