The Nano Guitar: Discover the World’s Smallest, Playable Microscopic Guitar

In 1997, the Cor­nell Chron­i­cle announced: “The world’s small­est gui­tar — carved out of crys­talline sil­i­con and no larg­er than a sin­gle cell — has been made at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty to demon­strate a new tech­nol­o­gy that could have a vari­ety of uses in fiber optics, dis­plays, sen­sors and elec­tron­ics.”

Invent­ed by Dustin W. Carr, the so-called “nano­gu­i­tar” mea­sured 10 microm­e­ters long–roughly the size of your aver­age red blood cell. And it had six strings, each “about 50 nanome­ters wide, the width of about 100 atoms.”

Accord­ing to The Guardian, the vin­tage 1997 nano­gu­i­tar was actu­al­ly nev­er played. That hon­or went to a 2003 edi­tion of the nano­gu­i­tar, whose strings were plucked by minia­ture lasers oper­at­ed with an atom­ic force micro­scope, cre­at­ing “a 40 mega­hertz sig­nal that is 130,000 times high­er than the sound of a full-scale gui­tar.” The human ear could­n’t hear some­thing at that fre­quen­cy, and that’s a prob­lem not even a good amp–a Vox AC30, Fend­er Deluxe Reverb, etc.–could fix.

Thus con­cludes today’s adven­ture in nan­otech­nol­o­gy.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Richard Feyn­man Intro­duces the World to Nan­otech­nol­o­gy with Two Sem­i­nal Lec­tures (1959 & 1984)

Stephen Fry Intro­duces the Strange New World of Nanoscience

A Boy And His Atom: IBM Cre­ates the World’s Small­est Stop-Motion Film With Atoms

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.