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What Is the World's Smallest Musical Instrument?

It’s said to be the world’s smallest musical instrument, about the size of a human’s red blood cell, and you can play it with miniature lasers using an atomic force microscope, if you have one, but what Cornell University researchers really created in 2003 was a media-friendly way to advertise the brave new world of nanotechnology. The miniature guitar was made from crystalline silicon, 10 microns long, and it had six strings that were each about 100 atoms wide. When strummed by a laser, it produced a 40 megahertz signal thought to be one of the highest-pitched tones ever recorded.

Play "Free Bird," man:

  • The sound of a nano guitar, fashioned in the shape of a classic rocker's guitar, is outside the range of the most sensitive microphone. An acoustic trace of the sound was measured by computer calculation.

  • In 2003, X-ray telescopes monitoring a black hole in the Perseus galaxy picked up tones 57 octaves below human hearing -- supposedly the lowest note ever detected.

  • A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. The nano guitar is just 10,000 nanometers long, or one-twentieth the diameter of a human hair.

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More Info: Cornell University

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