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Sticky-tape X-rays

Peeling sticky tape emits energy that extends into the X-ray regime, according to research findings published in this week’s edition of Nature by Carlos Camara and colleagues of the University of California, USA. The research provides evidence for a phenomenon that was first observed more than 50 years ago.

It is well known that unwinding sticky tape produces sparks of light that can be seen easily by the naked eye in a dark room. This phenomenon, known as ‘triboluminescence’, is produced by the friction generated when two contacting surfaces move relative to each other.

Camara and colleagues used a motorized peeling machine to unwind an entire 25.4 m-long roll of Scotch Tape at a rate of 3 centimeters per second. By placing their apparatus in a vacuum and using high-speed detection equipment, the researchers were able to measure the emission of X-rays strong enough to X-ray a human finger.

“The intensity of emission is sufficiently strong to make peeling tape useful as a source for X-ray photography,” the researchers conclude.

Nature 455, 7216 table of contents

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