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Hardware Hacking Science

X-Rays Emitted From Ordinary Scotch Tape 190

Posted by timothy
from the unusual-circumstances dept.
Maximum Prophet writes "When I was in High School, I built an X-Ray machine that (probably) didn't produce any X-Rays. I used an old vacuum tube and high voltage. Little did I know that simple triboluminescence would have enough energy to do useful work." The catch: you'll need to peel your tape in a vacuum, and have the x-ray film at the ready.
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X-Rays Emitted From Ordinary Scotch Tape

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  • cancer? (Score:5, Funny)

    by tritonman (998572) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:14PM (#25471723)
    does this mean that x-mas gifts can give you cancer?
  • I'm ready (Score:5, Funny)

    by flanksteak (69032) * on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:14PM (#25471731) Homepage

    The catch: you'll need to peel your tape in a vacuum

    I've been practicing this for years. I knew it would come in handy some day.

  • Vacuum (Score:5, Funny)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:15PM (#25471743) Homepage Journal

    The catch: you'll need to peel your tape in a vacuum, and have the x-ray film at the ready.

    Sounds like a job for....

    THE GLOVEBOX!!!

    No, not that [wikipedia.org] glovebox, this [wikipedia.org] glovebox. What do you think this is, a redneck [wikipedia.org] website?

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:16PM (#25471759) Journal

    The claims for the patent are, of course, not really indicated, but since the article itself states

    Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass.

    I hope that either they've invented something truly novel to do with this effect or they get a big, fat denied letter in the mail from the USPTO.

    • by jd (1658)
      If you have a hamster in a glass box, with scotch tape on its back, it'll white out an airport X-Ray machine?
    • No, the article itself will not be able to be used as prior art. If the Russians wrote down their findings somewhere though, THAT potentially can be used.
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:51PM (#25472307)

      Publishing "Peeling transparent tape in a vacuum produces x-rays" is not the same as patenting "A mobile x-ray device with no power requirements, with x-rays being generated by peeling transparent tape"

    • by shotgunefx (239460) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:08PM (#25473481) Journal

      I'm not big on patents but seems to me they've taken a process, added a novel and non-trivial addition and made a "potentially" very practical invention. This is the kind of things patents were made for. If it were that obvious, wouldn't someone have done something with it in the last half of a century?

      Now there may be other things that might speak to it's novelty, but from the article, seems fair to me.

      • I was curious because the article didn't expand on what novel addition they had added. It sounds like they simply determined why/how the tape emitted x-rays, but that the actual discovery of the effect is more than 50 years old. Creating a viable, reproducible c-ray source based on their findings may be the answer, but it doesn't sound like they've gotten that far. Interesting, yes. New, no.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by shotgunefx (239460)

          Maybe I misread it, but it doesn't mention whether or not the Russian research took place in a vacuum, from the way it reads to me, I took it as not, of course I could be reading that completely wrong. If it wasn't, then that seems like a non trivial modification.

          Though if it wasn't, I have a hard time believing no one followed that up in half a century. Honestly, even if the 50yr old research was in a vacuum and counted as prior art, (and there is no other research since), this is one time I wouldn't mind

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It was cleverly disguised as a malfunctioning computer monitor.

    Getting your face and eyes hit by needlepoints of pain isn't an experience I care to repeat. It's fun for about the first 15 seconds after that no so much.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:42PM (#25472163)

      Um, X-rays don't hurt. Stupid-rays do, though. That's probably what you were feeling.

      • by Renraku (518261)

        Tell that to people that were treated by the Therac-25 machines.

        • by ColaMan (37550)

          The Therac-25 machines are a totally different issue from CRT x-rays.

          Firstly, it should be noted that x-rays are given off when high energy electrons from the electron guns strike the metal shadow mask near the front of the picture tube. X-rays are produced as the metal atoms in the shadow mask are excited by the electrons and then drop back to their ground state, releasing an x-ray. 99% of the x-rays produced are back-scatter - that is, they go in the direction of the back of the tube, as that side of the

          • Secondly, to make a decent amount of x-rays, the applied voltage needs to be a fair bit higher than what is normally used in a colour picture tube to generate the image. The O.P. said it was faulty, perhaps it could have generated it. But there are normally multiple protection circuits on the EHT that prevent this (as in, they go "phut" before the voltage gets that high and the monitor shuts off/never works again).

            You know, I don't think that's entirely true. I used to repair televisions, and I don't remember anything in the circuits being designed specifically to prevent an overvoltage condition on the CRT 2nd anode.

            In fact, I remember most of the older color sets had a warning label in the back about the fact that the CRT would produce X-rays if the voltage was turned up too high.

            The really old sets that still used a vacuum tube (aka valve) to rectify the 2nd anode voltage had that tube inside a steel box, si

  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:20PM (#25471813)
    The catch: you'll need to peel your tape in a vacuum

    Oh trust me, I "peel my tape in a vacuum" all the time....
    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:42PM (#25472159) Journal
      You could have gone with:
      "Hey baby, I'm gonna get some scotch tape cause I wanna see your insides."
      -or-
      "If I'm scotch tape and your the vacuum then why don't we go release some energy."
      -or even-
      "If you want rapid pulses, I'll give you 1.2 inches a second."

      but instead you went with:

      Oh trust me, I "peel my tape in a vacuum" all the time....

      I'm sorry but I just can't accept that.

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:24PM (#25471881) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure, almost certain, that the ripping sound you hear is the sound of a million geeks all pulling about 1.2 inches of tape off of their desktop dispenser.

    Bonus points if it's now wrapped around your finger as a memento.

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:25PM (#25471899) Homepage Journal

    Did you know that Brazil nuts are radioactive? And so is granite! There's radiation everywhere! Luckily, I have a hat.

  • There goes my plans for building the biggest ball of Scotch Tape!!!

  • I wonder how this is going to affect items with similar properties (like good ol' duct tape) while at the space station.

    "Hey! there's a leak on the outside wall but damn it, they wouldn't let us bring any duct tape!" :)

  • Can anyone with more of a clue than I have about such things maybe give us a high-level summary as to exactly what mechanism is at play here?

    I find myself having no idea of how this would work, and TFA doesn't really seem to say much about the mechanism. It just seems so damned bizarre.

    Cheers

  • A more practical approach might be to have two wide wheels, one covered in the substance, and the other with a smooth non-stick surface centered in a vaccum ball. The substance could be reapplied easily whenever need be, and be a little less ridiculous.
  • Will this lead to a wave of new sticky-tape-related superheroes?
    • X-rays and other radiation are no longer the superhero-creating mystery factor. It's genetic engineering now. Get with the times!

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:42PM (#25473077) Homepage

      Will this lead to a wave of new sticky-tape-related superheroes?

      Yes!

      First up, The Great Scotch. He's Scottish, wears traditional Scottish garb including the plaid kilt, is constantly drunk off X-ray enriched Scotch from his secret distillery(some say it is the source of his powers), and fights crime with super-strong and seemingly endless strips of sticky tape that he pulls from underneath his kilt. He won't say where it comes from, which is good because nobody asks. His arch-nemesis is 3M corporation, who are constantly trying to sue him for trademark infringement. No relationship to The Great Scott, who is a transsexual from Transylvania who uses toilet paper as a weapon...

      Next up, for 'urban' markets, The Gift Rapper! He swings around the city on lines of sticky tape that he shoots from his wrists. He disguises himself by covering his entire body in wrapping paper which he changes regularly, to match any nearby holidays for example. The Gift Rapper robs riches from crooked developers, organized criminals, drug lords, and cops on the take. He then delivers the riches to the poor children, gift-wrapped of course, and then performs a free-style rap that combines horrible puns and trite moral lessons about not being greedy, listening to parents, and staying in school for the decreasingly-grateful youngsters. Speculation abounds as to which no-name underground rapper-no-really-see-I-have-a-demo-tape is his secret identity.

      And at this point one part of my brain is threatening the other part with an aneurysm if I don't stop, so I will.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:02PM (#25472435)

    I used an old vacuum tube and high voltage.

    Well, I don't necessarily endorse your kink, but if it provides a cost effective alternative to Viagra for you ...

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      I used an old vacuum tube and high voltage.

      Well, I don't necessarily endorse your kink, but if it provides a cost effective alternative to Viagra for you ...

      Owww!
      I just had to think of my encounter with a couple 100V DC from a capacitor in a TV. On a finger, you perv.

  • The researchers and UCLA have applied for a patent covering such devices.

    We will not see this technology being used to actually help people for 20+ years. The researchers have already been paid to discover this result in their salaries. Why should they be paid again on the backs of those who actually develop practical uses for this discovery? Of what benefit is it to society for this technology to be hoarded by a small few?

    The patenting of scientific phenomena is a shameful institution that needs to be stopped. A university is not supposed to be a for profit institution.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leoval (827218)
      That is really interesting, in particular because Nature magazine (where the paper will appear) used to have a policy of not accepting submissions that are being or have been patented.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rakishi (759894)

      The researchers have already been paid to discover this result in their salaries.

      And those salaries are lower than they would be had these researchers not had the option to make extra money from their research. So no, these researchers weren't already paid since part of their payment is the ability to patent things. So how do you feel about having your taxes go up?

      Why should they be paid again on the backs of those who actually develop practical uses for this discovery?

      Because they did the research to get these results and probably will work on the practical applications. The alternative is them publishing their results in an some journal and then forcing someone else to start from scratch t

      • by chebucto (992517)

        You're rationalizing the trend of profit-seeking in public universities after it's already become standard practice. The plain fact is that such universities are funded by the public and operate for the public good. If they feel they need more money, they should ask the public for it; if the public says no, and they still want it, then they should go into private business. The status quo is a distasteful pretense that eats away at the legitimacy of public universities.

    • People like to put patents on their CVs.

  • not bloody likely (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:30PM (#25472881)

    Typical X-ray machines use 50 to 200 kilovolts and milliamps of electrons slamming into a tungsten target. Nothing less will do.

    It's kinda unlikely Scotch (brand) tape can bypass all the bottlenecks and emit copious X-rays.

    It's much more likely they're getting electrostatic discharges in the film. The New Age loonballs call it "Kirlian Photography".

    I'll be glad to eat a hat if this pans out. Until then I'll just wear it.

    • You can generate x-rays with significantly less than that (both voltage and current). Why do you think there's so much lead in a CRT, Hmmmm? You can generate hard (penetrating) x-rays with as little as 12 keV.
      • You can generate x-rays with significantly less than that (both voltage and current). Why do you think there's so much lead in a CRT, Hmmmm?

        In a CRT you have milliamps of electrons at 20KV or thereabouts hitting a nickel mask, for thousands of hours.

        In a strip of tape you have maybe a microamp at 1KV hitting plastic for a microsecond.

        About thirteen orders of magnitude between them. Not to mention there's a steep quantum dropoff to zero emission around 13KV.

        Using Occam's razor, static discharge is a much more plausible explanation.

        • Yes, yes... And your original post made it sound as if you had to have the equivalent of a medical x-ray machine to generate an x-ray. I'm not suggesting that they're generating any kind of significant intensity; simply that it's easier to generate x-rays than you implied.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      You better prepare your hat, because your information on X-rays is incorrect.

    • by genner (694963)

      I'll be glad to eat a hat if this pans out. Until then I'll just wear it.

      I hear if you grind it up and mix it with apple sauce it doesn't taste too bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by argent (18001)

      Watch the film. It sure looks like they're getting X-rays to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kesuki (321456)

      'It's kinda unlikely Scotch (brand) tape can bypass all the bottlenecks and emit copious X-rays.'

      it's not about the length of the pulse, but the power of the pulse. if you only need one billionth of a second of x-rays, then scotch tape, in a vacuum is for you. the key point here is that rather than generating x-rays for a full second, you're getting a single pulse a billionth of a second in duration. this is plenty long to expose a very sensitive x-ray detector.

      "Rapid pulses of X-rays, each about a bill

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Actually, the length of the pulse is pretty much irrelevant. The thing that determines your exposure is the number of x-ray photons. Additionally, the kind of exposure you get is determined by the energy distribution of the x-rays. You can select this with most regular x-ray tubes, something you probably can't do with tape.

        I really doubt they got that x-ray with one pulse. I expect they had to expose for some time, making use of a LOT of billionth-of-a-second pulses.

        • by kesuki (321456)

          "I really doubt they got that x-ray with one pulse. I expect they had to expose for some time, making use of a LOT of billionth-of-a-second pulses."

          the original cameras took over a minute to expose photographic film. sensitivity of film has progressed quite a bit for all types of media, you can now photograph in the dark. scotch tape could possibly tend to produce all the x-rays in a single direction, as far as i can tell, normal X-ray machines radiate outward in a spherical shape like ordinary lighting. s

          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            I didn't say it was a deal-breaker. The description of that x-ray image being exposed using a single billionth of a second pulse is not accurate.

            There are probably going to be some serious engineering problems to make a useful medical x-ray device. X-ray images are produced by observing the absorption of x-rays, so no matter how sensitive your detector is, you have to have quite a few x-ray photons. Additionally, in order to produce an image with acceptable noise characteristics (barring a magic detector

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oodaloop (1229816)
      There are walk-through scanners being tested right now for airports that detect the incredibly small amount of X-rays given off by the human body (the recent discovery of which prompted said scanners). The scanners are highly sensitive and passive, revealling everything, from metal weapons to plastic to *ahem* body parts. Seems plausible this type of source of X-rays, combined with a more sensitive detector could result in a less-power intensive alternative to traditional X-ray machines.
  • by willoughby (1367773) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:47PM (#25473167)
    a phenomenon I learned about in photography class many years ago. Back in the days of film a roll of 35mm film was attached to the spool inside the canister by a small bit of tape. In the darkroom as you disassembled the canister to remove the film for processing, if you peeled this tape quickly the "peeling", or "stretching" adhesive would glow. We learned to peel the tape slowly because the glow from rapidly pulled tape was sufficient to fog film.
  • X-Rays emit 10Kv (Score:2, Informative)

    by Toll_Free (1295136)

    With the work Ive done with high power vaccum tubes (> 30 Kilowatts output), it has become standard practice for Eimac and other manufacturers to list dangers for them.

    eg., the 4-1000 tetrode, with > 12 KV on the anode, will emit xrays. As will almost ANY other tetrode or triode in existance.

    I'd say the person who wrote the article didn't understand that He'd need THAT much anode voltage to get the tube to emit.

    That being said, I'd almost have to say that the scotch tape being used to emit the XRays

  • This kind of stupid thing is what gives me hope that we're going to figure out a relatively simple way to convert mass almost directly to energy without hugely complex and expensive machinery.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      There's a lot of mechanical energy involved in peeling tape. (Including creating and depositing the glue & tape film)
  • So it in a movie last year. Wink. Wink.
  • Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by Peter Lake (260100) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:24PM (#25474721)

    There's an informative video in Nature about the phenomenom and the experiment: http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/x-rays/ [nature.com]

    They even show how to take x-rays using scotch tape.

  • by srothroc (733160) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:29PM (#25476277) Homepage
    I wonder if different kinds of tape would generate different amounts of x-rays depending on stickiness -- for example, duct tape or packing tape.

    I suppose it's kind of hard to use tape in the vacuum of space since the cold also tends to ruin the stickiness almost immediately...
  • When I peel the plastic backing off a new bandaid in the dark, it glows along the separating point where the backing peels off the adhesive. Even the paper wrapping package of the individual bandaid glows as I peel it apart along its glued seams.

    Is there x-ray frequency light that I'm not seeing in that glowing little miracle?

  • This does not surprise me too much. Last year the glue on an envelope also emitted a blueish light as I opened it (without tearing the paper). I already wondered if this was a know effect.

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