We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

The Supersonic Physics Behind Screechy Peeling Tape

By Yuen Yiu
Feb 27, 2019 9:46 PMNov 19, 2019 8:46 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

(Credit: Physical Review Letters/American Physical Society) (Inside Science) -- Most of us are familiar with the screeching noise packing tape makes when it's peeled off a box, as well as the frustration of failing to cleanly remove a label from a new purchase. It turns out that the jerky stop-and-go motion we experience when peeling tape occurs at a microscopic level as well. Scientists exploring the physics of peeling tape have observed that tape detaches from a surface in a series of tiny lines perpendicular to the peeling direction that can travel faster than an F-15 fighter jet. The researchers captured this action using a high-speed camera with microscopic resolution filming at 300,000 frames per second.

The vertical lines in the video are perpendicular to the peeling direction. The average distance between each line is about the width of a single human hair, and each line ripples across the tape surface at the breakneck but somewhat inconsistent speed of up to 2,000 miles per hour, more than twice the speed of sound.

The researchers ran the experiment multiple times using tapes with different thicknesses, weights and lengths, and peeling from different angles and with different speeds. They found a mathematical relationship between these variables and instabilities caused by the lines during peeling. The new findings and model, which were published last week in the journal Physical Review Letters, may help future engineers create better adhesives for specific applications, such as tapes that can peel smoother or quieter. The study could also shed light on the physics of rapid fracture processes, such as those that occur in building structure failures and earthquake propagation. [This article originally appeared on Inside Science]

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.