Are Kindles Being Killed By Static From Airport X-Ray Scanners?

By Sam Gibbs on at

X-ray scanners shouldn't be able to damage electronics in and of themselves. The amount of energy they use is low enough that, even on their most powerful setting, shouldn't harm your beloved gadgets. So what's killing Kindles going through scanners?

According to a leading E-Ink expert talking to The Guardian, it could be static:

"... you can get a build up of static inside these machines [X-ray scanners], caused by the rubber belt rubbing. If that charge were to pass through a Kindle, it’s conceivable that it could damage the screen.”

The problem could revolve around the tech inside the E-Ink screens. They use a small current to swap between negatively charged black particles or positively charged white particles in tiny capsules that make up the screen. The particles stay front-facing producing the image on the screen until another current is applied swapping them over. It's possible that the 100 or so volts shot through a Kindle by a static build up could overload the E-Ink capsules, causing screens to get stuck.

Whether or not this is a widespread issue is unknown. Frequent flyers were one of the first groups to jump on the Kindle bandwagon, so if it were a major issue there would likely be hundreds of thousands of complaints around. But word on the street says that Amazon simply replaces any Kindles that become stuck, so maybe that's kept them quiet.

If you're flying with your Kindle packed with all your reading material, it might be a good idea to wrap it in something insulating like a rubber jacket when sticking it through the scanners, just in case. Not too thick mind, you don't want to appear to be hiding something. [The Guardian]

Image credit: Amazon