You've seen them in the back of magazines--heck, probably Popular Science--all your life: the crazy swirling paper X-ray specs, with the campy '50s pervert looking at the bloomers of a shocked gal. While we don't support such nefarious uses, you can make your own working X-ray camera, just by modifying a CVS Disposable. It won't give you Superman vision, but you should be able to see through one or two layers of paper and fabric (again, behave!) in the right light. Here's the catch: The key is in a hard-to-find X-ray conversion material called a beryllium window. PopSci got its sample from NASA during a visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center a few years ago, as it is sometimes used in satellites to block out cosmic X rays that might distort digital communications. The filter converts X rays into visible light by using an optical down conversion process to lower the energy of the photons. This will prevent your digital "film" from being overexposed by too many different wavelengths. And though it's technically not illegal, you can't buy the material from any reputable store. (We also wouldn't recommend bringing the stuff with you on your next trip to North Korea.) If you do manage to track down a small piece, here's how to mod your camera and give it superpowers.

Step 1: Building the X-Ray Vision Camera

Time: A Couple of Afternoons
Cost: Over $18
Difficulty: Hard

Parts List

  • CVS Disposable Digital Camera (CVS Pharmacy; $18.00)
  • X-Ray Beryllium Material (Google It)
  • Wire, solder, glue, diffraction pattern sample (i.e., your hand)

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More by PopSci: Weekly Project: Hottie Hoodie--Be a Walking a Weather Station Weekly Project: Voltoids; or, How to Make 5V from 1.5V Weekly Project: Build Your Own X-Ray Vision Camera
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