Trivia

Hard

What Common Office Supply Staple Is Capable Of Generating X-Ray Radiation?

Toner
Scotch Tape
Erasers
White Out
The device used to measure the energy discharge of cellophane tape.
Seth Putterman/UCLA

Answer: Scotch Tape

In 2008, a group of researchers at UCLA came across evidence of experiments done in the 1950s by Soviet scientists that indicated regular old cellophane tape, commonly known by the brand name Scotch Tape, would emit X-ray radiation if rapidly unrolled. The idea of a simple office staple like cellophane tape pumping out radiation was far too novel of an idea to pass up and the UCLA researchers set about investigating the claims.

It turns out that when you unroll a roll of cellophane tape, you create a tiny interaction between the bonds of the adhesive and the tape. Much like chewing Wint-O-Green mints in a dark closet, you can also quickly unroll a roll of cellophane tape to create a faint blue glow—a phenomenon known as triboluminescence. The energy generation powers of tape don’t end there, however. If you take that same cellophane tape, capable of triboluminescence under normal atmospheric conditions and quickly unroll it in a vacuum, it also generates a surprising volume of X-ray radiation. How much radiation? The researchers were able to use small squares of dental film to create primitive X-ray images of their fingertips simply by resting their fingers atop the experiment’s enclosure.

Research is continuing on the discovery. One potential real-world application of the technology would be the deployment of x-ray devices in locations where the bulk and nuclear-content of a regular x-ray machine would be prohibitive.

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