All radiation possesses energy, either inherently (electromagnetic radiation) or as kinetic energy of motion (particulate radiations). The interaction of radiation with matter transfers some or all of this energy to atoms of the medium through which the radiation is passing. To say that radiation interacts with matter is to say that it is either scattered or absorbed. The mechanisms of energy transfer for radiation are of fundamental interest in the field of radiological health for the following reasons:
- Deposition of energy in body tissues may result in physiological injury.
- The products of interactions are used in radiation detection systems.
- The degree of absorption or type of interaction is a primary factor in determining shielding requirements.