Want to see something very familiar in an entirely new way? The humble adhesive tape you use to wrap gifts with is an x-ray powerhouse. So says this latest bit of research:
“We were very surprised,” said Juan Escobar. “The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous.”
[…] In the new work, a machine peeled ordinary Scotch tape off a roll in a vacuum chamber at about 1.2 inches per second. Rapid pulses of X-rays, each about a billionth of a second long, emerged from very close to where the tape was coming off the roll.
That’s where electrons jumped from the roll to the sticky underside of the tape that was being pulled away, a journey of about two-thousandths of an inch, Escobar said. When those electrons struck the sticky side they slowed down, and that slowing made them emit X-rays.
So is this a health hazard for unsuspecting tape-peelers?
Escobar noted that no X-rays are produced in the presence of air. You need to work in a vacuum – not exactly an everyday situation.
“If you’re going to peel tape in a vacuum, you should be extra careful,” he said. But “I will continue to use Scotch tape during my daily life, and I think it’s safe to do it in your office. No guarantees.”
There may even be a practical application for this discovery. The researchers believe that they may be able to refine the effect to come up with portable hand-cranked x-ray devices for paramedics or for use in places where electricity to power a normal x-ray machine is not available. How’s that for nifty?