06 marzo 2009

Nanoradio, preludio di straordinari apparati

La tanto decantata nanotecnologia - leggo nell'articolo che l'ultimo numero di Scientific American dedica all'invenzione della "radio più piccola del mondo", quella basata sui nanotubi di carbonio scoperta a Berkeley nel 2007 - si è concretizzata in una applicazione che può sembrare umile e poco aggiornata, ma che in effetti, secondo i suoi scopritori, potrebbe figliare dispositivi davvero rivoluzionari. Protesi acustiche invisibili, telefonini grandi come un auricolare, oggetti radiocomandati da iniettare nel flusso sanguigno per scopi medici, interfacce per il controllo di funzionalità neuromuscolari... Una lettura interessante, grazie a Gigi Nadali per la segnalazione.

The World's Smallest Radio

A single carbon nanotube can function as a radio that detects and plays songs
By Ed Regis

Nanotechnology is arguably one of the most overhyped “next big things” in the recent history of applied science. According to its most radical advocates, nanotechnology is a molecular manufacturing system that will allow us to fabricate objects of practically any arbitrary complexity by mechanically joining molecule to molecule, one after another, until the final, atomically correct product emerges before our eyes.
The reality has been somewhat different: today the word “nano” has been diluted to the point that it applies to essentially anything small, even down to the “nanoparticles” in commodities as diverse as motor oil, sunscreen, lipstick and ski wax. Who, then, would have expected that one of the first truly functional nanoscale devices—one that would have a measurable effect on the larger, macroscale world—would prove to be ... a radio? But the nanotube radio, invented in 2007 by physicist Alex Zettl and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, performs a set of amazing feats: a single carbon nanotube tunes in a broadcast signal, amplifies it, converts it to an audio signal and then sends it to an external speaker in a form that the human ear can readily recognize. If you have any doubts about this assertion, just visit www.sciam.com/nanoradio and listen to the song “Layla.”
The nanotube radio, its fabricators say, could be the basis for a range of revolutionary applications: hearing aids, cell phones and ­iPods small enough to fit completely within the ear canal. The nanoradio “would easily fit inside a living cell,” Zettl says. “One can envision interfaces to brain or muscle functions or radio-controlled devices moving through the bloodstream.”

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