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
- CVS Disposable Digital Camera (CVS Pharmacy; $18.00)
- X-Ray Beryllium Material (Google It)
- Wire, solder, glue, diffraction pattern sample (i.e., your hand)
Step 2: Rip It a New One; Disassemble the Camera
Remove the case back panel from the CVS disposable digital camera. Locate the batteries and take them out of the camera. Carefully lift the camera's circuit board out, exposing the lens/shutter assembly. Remove this assembly for gaining access to the CMOS sensor.
NOTE: Do not touch the flash capacitor. This component can maintain a strong and painful charge for extended periods of time. Use extreme caution when opening this camera and use protective gear, including rubber gloves, rubber-soled shoes and rubber-handled tools.
Step 3: Scalpel; Cut Your Filter
Use a very sharp razor blade for cutting a 3mm-square piece of the Beryllium material and be careful only to touch the edges--it smudges easily.
Step 4: Dress It Up; Cover the Sensor
Place the filter over the CMOS sensor, use a tiny drop of glue in two of the corners to hold it in place, reinstall the batteries, and reseal the camera.
Step 5: Oh, Behave; Look Around
Turn on the camera, point it at your hand, and fire away. Because the filter is only over the sensor, you won't see the effect looking through the viewfinder, but you will see "something" when you download your pictures. Get ready to amaze your friends. Go to Camera hacking forum featuring John Maushammer for instructions on modding your disposable camera for re-use.