In a tour de force of office supply physics, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown that it is possible to produce X-rays by simply unrolling Scotch tape.
Next step: nuclear fusion.
“We’re going to do that,” said Seth J. Putterman, a professor of physics at U.C.L.A. “I think it will work.”
But first, X-rays.
In the current issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Putterman and his colleagues report that surprisingly fierce flows of electrons were unleashed as the tape was unpeeled and its gooey adhesive snapped free of the surface. The electrical currents, in turn, generated strong, short bursts of X-rays — each burst, about a billionth of a second long, contained about 300,000 X-ray photons.
The scientists even demonstrated that the X-rays were bright enough to take an X-ray of a finger.
That does not mean that tape dispensers on office desks are mini X-ray machines. So far, the phenomenon has been observed only when the tape is unpeeled in a vacuum. Something about air — perhaps moisture — short-circuits the X-rays.