X-rays emitted from an unusual source: sugar crystals

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  • Published: Nov 27, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: X-ray Spectrometry
thumbnail image: X-rays emitted from an unusual source: sugar crystals

X-rays are emitted from crystal sugar when it is hit with a hammer in a near vacuum, say Japanese scientists writing in X-ray Spectrometry. They cut and shaped a commercial sugar crystal to 15 x 10 x 5 mm and measured the X-ray emission after impact.

X-ray pulses were observed for 4 ms after impact, reaching energies up to 250 keV, although many had energies below 20 keV. For this lower set of X-rays, with energies lower than 20 keV, the energy distribution peaks at 5 keV. When the same experiment was studied for a sodium chloride crystal, no X-rays were observed.

The phenomenon was attributed to the compression-induced accumulation of electric charge on the surfaces of the crystal. The subsequent electric field accelerated suspended electrons onto the surface to produce X-rays from the impact.

"We can say that an asymmetric electronic structure is one of the important factors to produce X-rays by fracturing materials in a vacuum," the researchers concluded.

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