Comparison of x-ray cross sections for diagnostic and therapeutic medical physics

John M Boone, Andres E. Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


The purpose of this technical report is to make available an up-to-date source of attenuation coefficient data to the medical physics community, and to compare these data with other more familiar sources. Data files from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (in Livermore, CA) were truncated to match the needs of the medical physics community, and an interpolation routine was written to calculate a continuous set of cross sections spanning energies from 1 keV to 50 MeV. Coefficient data are available for elements Z= 1 through Z= 100. Values for mass attenuation coefficients, mass-energy- transfer coefficients, and mass-energy absorption coefficients are produced by a single computer subroutine. In addition to total interaction cross sections, the cross sections for the photoelectric, Rayleigh, Compton, pair, and some triplet interactions are also produced by this single program. The coefficients were compared to the 1970 data of Storm and Israel over the energy interval from 1 to 1000 keV; for elements 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and 80, the average positive difference between the Storm and Israel coefficients and the coefficients reported here are 1.4%, 2.7%, and 2.6%, for the mass attenuation, mass energy-transfer, and mass-energy absorption coefficients, respectively. The 1969 data compilation of mass attenuation coefficients from McMaster et al. were also compared with the newer LLNL data. Over the energy region from 10 keV to 1000 keV, and from elements Z= 1 to Z-82 (inclusive), the overall average difference was 1.53% (σ=0.85%). While the overall average difference was small, there was larger variation (>5%) between cross sections for some elements. In addition to coefficient data, other useful data such as the density, atomic weight, K,L1L2,L3,M, and N edges, and numerous characteristic emission energies are output by the program, depending on a single input variable. The computer source code, written in C, can be accessed and downloaded from the World Wide Web at: [E-MPHSA-23-1997].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1997-2005
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1996


  • atomic data
  • attenuation coefficient
  • cross section
  • national laboratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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