Science Friction: X-Rays energized by adhesive tape

It may sound bizarre—or like some kind of high school science fair project, but it’s not: Researchers have discovered that peeling adhesive tape ejects enough radiation to take an x-ray image. If they stick, the findings could set the stage for a less expensive x-ray machine that does not require electricity.

Lead researcher Carlos Camara, a physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports in Nature today that his team captured x-rays of a finger on film (positioned behind it) by using a simple tape-peeling device (placed in front of it).

How is that possible? It turns out that radiation is released when tape is ripped from a surface. The reason, says Camara: electrons (negatively charged atomic particles) leap from a surface (peeling off of glass or aluminum works, too) to the adhesive side of a freshly yanked strip of tape, traveling so fast that they give off radiation, or energy, when they slam into it.

The result of this process when recorded by radiographic film is a fuzzy x-ray of the finger bone of physicist Seth Putterman, who runs the lab in which it was made.

Now, that is absolutely mind-boggling. Yes, I’ve already duplicated the triboluminescence the article notes at the end.

One thought on “Science Friction: X-Rays energized by adhesive tape

  1. Cinaedh says:

    Are you telling me I’ve been bombarded by beams of high-energy electrons from X-ray machines all my life and all they really needed to do was to put a band-aid on me, then rip it off?

    I feel so sorry for all those highly trained X-ray technicians, hiding behind their lead shields…

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