NEW YORK – Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape. It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.
Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass. But the new work demonstrates that you can get a lot of X-rays, a study co-author says.
"We were very surprised," said Juan Escobar. "The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous."
Escobar, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports the work with UCLA colleagues in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
He suggests that with some refinements, the process might be harnessed for making inexpensive X-ray machines for paramedics or for places where electricity is expensive or hard to get. After all, you could peel tape or do something similar in such machines with just human power, like cranking.