Teeny Tiny Tunes

Nov. 16, 2007
Researchers create single carbon nanotube that operates as a fully functional radio.

It's got to be Guinness Book world record. A team of researchers has created a working radio from a single carbon nanotube that they say functions across a bandwidth widely used for commercial radio. Its application possibilities range from radio-controlled devices that could flow in the human bloodstream to a new generation of wireless communication devices.

"This breakthrough is a perfect example of how the unique behavior of matter in the nanoworld enables startling new technologies," says Bruce Kramer, a senior advisor for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The radio was developed at the NSF's Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems.

This image, taken by a transmission electron microscope, shows a single carbon nanotube protruding from an electrode. This nanotube is less than one micron long and only 10 nanometers wide, or 10,000 times thinner than the width of a single human hair.The entire radio would easily fit inside a living cell, according to physicist Alex Zettl, a University of California at Berkeley researcher who led the team. The carbon nanotube radio consists of an individual carbon fiber glued to a negatively-charged base of tungsten that acts as a cathode. About one-millionth of a meter directly across from the base is a positively charged piece of copper that acts as an anode. Power in the form of streaming electrons travels from an attached battery through the cathode, into the nanotube, and across a vacuum to the anode via a field-emission tunneling process, according to the NSF.

See Also

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!