Hear 'Layla' by Eric Clapton on the nanotube radio.*
*Courtesy Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley.
A radio one ten-thousandth of the diameter of a human hair is now picking up local radio stations.
Physicists at the University of California, Berkeley, have built a radio out of a single carbon nanotube, which is 100 billion times smaller than the first commercial radios. The nanotube radio requires only a battery and earphones to tune in to a station.
The nanoradio is currently configured as a receiver but could also work as a transmitter. Scientists say it could be used in any number of applications — from cell phones to microscopic devices that sense the environment and relay information via radio signals.
Nanotubes are rolled-up sheets of interlocked carbon atoms that form incredibly strong tubes. They detect radio signals by vibrating thousands to millions of times per second in tune with the radio wave. Reception on the nanoradios is scratchy, but scientists say they're working on improving the quality.