It’s the world’s smallest radio. Made from a single carbon nanotube, “the real nanopod” is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair but can receive and play tunes broadcast by AM and FM radio stations.
The first song played on the nanotube radio was Eric Clapton’s Layla. The technology isn’t perfect yet (you’ll hear some static), but the song is clearly recognizable.
In the image at left, taken by a transmission electron microscope, a slender nanotube protrudes from an electrode that provides power for the tiny radio (the radio waves were added to the image for effect). When the frequency of the incoming radio waves matches the resonant frequency of the nanotube, it vibrates. The nanotube’s tip, which is electrically charged, detects the mechanical vibrations and translates them into sound signals.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley who teamed up to invent the radio say that its extremely small size opens the door to some exciting applications. For example, they envision radios that could be implanted in the inner ear as hearing aids or as discrete devices for receiving information.—Dawn Stover