Tag Archives: scotch tape

Atomic Tape X-Rays from Scotch Tape

Atomic Tape – Scientists say standard Scotch Tape can produce atomic X-Rays!


Here is one of the coolest articles on Atomic Tape . com!  One of the joys of physics, and science in general, is that even seemingly mundane objects occasionally yield physical surprises.  A great example of this made the news about a month ago: the observation that, under the right circumstances, x-rays can be generated by the peeling of Scotch tape!  The phenomenon is an extreme example of the phenomenon of triboluminescence, and I thought I would take a closer look at the research results, which appeared in Nature.

First, a quick but important notice:  THERE’S NO REASON TO WORRY ABOUT USING STICKY TAPE AT HOME!  As we will note below, the x-ray effect is only significant when tape is peeled in a high vacuum.  Such a condition obviously does not occur without special preparation.  So the wrapping of Christmas packages can continue without fear.

It’s worth taking a moment to explain why this seems like such a surprising result in the first place.   Interaction energies in normal chemical interactions tend to be no greater than 10′s of electron volts; for instance, it takes 13.6 eV to ionize a hydrogen atom.  If the reaction releases a photon, this puts the wavelength of the photon at best in the ultraviolet or visible range, with an energy several orders of magnitude lower than the keV or MeV of x-rays.  X-ray emission from atoms under normal circumstances comes only from nuclear processes, e.g. the decay of an atomic nucleus.  Chemical reactions seemingly don’t have enough ‘oomph!’ to generate x-rays.

At Atomic Tape .Com we try to bring you all the cool atomic tape stories on the net.  No, Atomic Tape .com didn’t write the article but the source is given here.  See the whole atomic tape story here on the original atomic news story . . .

ORIGINAL SOURCE:  http://skullsinthestars.com/2008/11/20/x-rays-from-scotch-tape/