October 27, 2008

Ask A Moron: Tape Causes Fusion

I asked myself earlier today*, Can you use single-side 'scotch' tape to create nuclear fusion?

Apparently, yes:

Researchers have found a new "see-through" use for clear sticky tape -- it produces X-rays when it is peeled off the roll.

The report in the journal Nature confirms a theory dating back to 1930 -- that the process of peeling the tape releases energy not only in the form of a flash of visible light, but also an X-ray.

Many children hiding in closets have demonstrated that unwinding sticky tape produces sparks of light. The phenomenon is called triboluminescence and is caused by the movement of one surface against another.

Carlos Camara of University of California, Los Angeles and colleagues used a motorized peeling machine to unwind a roll of tape in a vacuum.

They generated enough X-rays to show the bones inside their fingers.

Holy crap.  I hear you out there saying, "but you said there'd be fusion!"  So there shall:

"If you unroll the tape on your office desk in ambient conditions you only get visible light. You don't get X-rays," he added. This is because gases in the air slow down the electrons that produce the X-rays.

"What always makes X-rays in general is electrons that are moving very fast and suddenly get stopped," Camara, a physicist, said.

"They are flying from one side of the tape to the other as you separate them. You get something like a miniature lightning strike."

This property might be used to make nuclear fusion, Camara and his team said. All it would take is about 10 times as much energy as was produced during the experiment, he said.

It might be possible to unroll the tape even faster to get the effect, Camara said.

"It's just an energy issue. We have managed to get X-rays with this. If you could go another factor of 10 you could get that much more energy and fusion would be proof of that much energy," he said.

It is a very strange world. 

* - I am only posting this as an Ask A Moron so we can get more questions.  I know CB asked me about my car but I just can't find a clever way to explain buying exactly the same car.  It actually does get good mileage and is fun to drive... if I'd bought a cement truck it would have been more entertaining. 

So what I'm saying is, leave your questions in the comments or e-mail them to chaos -dot- overlord -at- gmail -dot- com.

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