At this time our conversation will be entirely about ionizing radiation. One form of Ionizing radiation consists of high energy electromagnetic waves, sometimes called photons, that have the ability to ionize the materials they come into contact with. Gamma rays and X – rays are two forms of ionizing radiation that are electromagnetic in nature.
Other forms include charged particles. These include alpha particles, which are subatomic elements of the nucleus of an atom that break free when a radioactive mineral decays. An alpha particle has two protons and two neutrons, and has a positive electrical charge. Alpha radiation is generally considered to be approximately 20 times more damaging to human tissue than gamma and x rays. Therefore when making dose calculations, a QF, or Quality Factor, of 20 is assigned to alpha radiation.
Beta particles are negatively charged electrons from the outer orbit of atoms undergoing decay, or released by materials exposed to gamma or x radiation. They have the same quality factor (1) as gamma and x rays.
Neutrons and other positively charged particles have a quality factor of 10.