Nanoelectromechanical Systems (NEMS) have researchers rockin' and rollin' at Cornell University: Lidija Sekaric, an applied physics graduate student, recently built a playable microscopic guitar.
Its strings are really silicon bars measuring 150 by 200 nm in cross-section and ranging from 6 to 12 µm in length. When a focused laser beam hits the strings, they vibrate at frequencies of 17 octaves or 130,000 times higher than a real guitar. They also create interference patterns in the light reflected back, which can be detected and converted to audible notes.
The project demonstrates that nanoscale objects can be made to vibrate at radio frequencies up to hundreds of megahertz. Therefore, they can be used as substitutes for other components in electronic circuits, saving both space and power. These oscillations also can be tuned to a very narrow range of frequencies, making them useful as filters to separate signals of different frequencies. Additionally, because NEMS can be used to modulate light, they can be employed in fiber-optic communications systems as well.
For more information, go to www.cornell.edu.