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Press Release 07-162

World's Smallest Radio Fits in the Palm of the Hand . . . of an Ant

Single carbon nanotube is fully functional radio, receiving music over standard radio bandwidth

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This image, taken by a transmission electron microscope, shows the carbon-nanotube radio.

This image, taken by a transmission electron microscope, shows a single carbon nanotube protruding from an electrode. This nanotube is less than a micron long and only 10 nanometers wide, or 10,000 times thinner than the width of a single human hair. When a radio wave of a specific frequency impinges on the nanotube, it begins to vibrate vigorously. An electric field applied to the nanotube forces electrons to be emitted from its tip. This electrical current may be used to detect the mechanical vibrations of the nanotube, and thus listen to the radio waves. (The waves shown in this image were added for visual effect, and are not part of the original microscope image.)

Credit: Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (124 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

Over the past century, radio has shrunken dramatically.

Over the past century, radio has shrunken dramatically from the wooden "cathedral" style radios of the 1930s to the pocket-sized transistor radios of the 1950s and more recently to the single-chip radios found in cell phones and wireless sensors. Continuing this trend, researchers have further miniaturized the radio by cleverly implementing multiple radio functions with a single component, the carbon nanotube. This nanotube radio is over nineteen orders-of-magnitude smaller than the Philco vacuum tube radio from the 1930s!

Credit: Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (349 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

This simulation shows the electric field surrounding the nanotube radio during radio operation.

This simulation shows the electric field surrounding the nanotube radio during radio operation. Notice how the field is strongest at the tip of the nanotube and how the field varies as the nanotube vibrates. This effect allows the nanotube radio to demodulate radio signals.

Credit: Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (72 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

This simulation shows the electric field surrounding the nanotube radio during radio operation.

View Video
This simulation shows the electric field surrounding the nanotube radio during radio operation. Notice how the field is strongest at the tip of the nanotube and how the field varies as the nanotube vibrates. This effect allows the nanotube radio to demodulate radio signals.

Credit: Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley