Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meanwhile, New Powerful X-Ray Source Discovered: "Sticky Tape"

Yes, this is real, this is science, this is no joke. It can even be found here the respected journal Nature. You probably are not aware of this, but,

Peeling ordinary sticky tape can generate bursts of X-rays intense enough to produce an image of the bones in your fingers.
Seth Putterman and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles used a motor to unwind a roll of sticky tape and recorded the electromagnetic emissions. Ripping the tape from its roll at 3 centimetres per second generated X-ray bursts of 15 kiloelectronvolts – each lasting one-billionth of a second, and containing over a million photons.

Putterman admits he is not sure exactly what is going on. "My attitude is to marvel at the phenomenon – all we are doing is peeling tape, and nature sets up a process that gives you nanosecond X-ray bursts."

In case you like the same link twice, this is the article.

The strength of the X-rays means that they could be a useful source for X-ray photography.

And as if that's not enough, maybe we can go nuclear via Home Depot.

Putterman has even loftier ambitions. "The energy in the X-rays is enough to generate nuclear fusion, if it is given to the molecules rather than the electrons," he says. "It's a matter of engineering design, not physics."

Tom Todd, chief engineer of UKAEA Culham Division says, "It is true that the emitted X-ray energies are broadly representative of the electron energies – and that, if you could produce copious quantities of deuterium and tritium [the heavy hydrogen atoms needed for fusion] ions at around 15 keV, in sufficiently high density, they would produce fusion reactions."

But again, our hopes are dashed by the economy.

"It's not unphysical, just uneconomical by a great many orders of magnitude," concludes Todd.

So all we can do is leave you on a hopeful note from one of the commenters,
Likely they will one day discover that star ships can be powered with rolls of duct tape. It seems to me the whole purpose of the universe was after all to create a continuum where tape and, especially duct tape, could come into being.

I'm sure many a cosmonaut would see where that was coming from.


Andy said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

X-Ray Fluorescence

Omyma said...

Thanks, Andy! It means a lot to me, although I wish I had time to write more - there's so much going on that needs to come out. You made my day.