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Nanomicrophone Listens to Bodily Cells

January 14, 2012, 1:03 PM
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What's the Latest Development?

Using nanotechnology, researchers at a German university have created the most sensitive microphone ever. The device could be used to hear previously silent phenomena such as the movement of bacteria and the functioning of other single-celled organisms. By trapping golden nanoparticles in a drop of water and firing lasers into the droplet, researchers were able to heat the tiny particles. The heated particles caused small fluctuations in the water, indicating the presence of sound waves.

What's the Big Idea?

The device registered sound down to minus 60 decibels, a level one-millionth of that detectable by the human ear. The microphone could allow researchers to listen to the smallest living structures, including individuals cells. While cells can be seen vibrating under a microscope when they divide, for example, nobody has ever heard what sound the vibrations produce. The listening device could also be used as a diagnostic tool. When red blood cells are infected by the malaria parasite, they vibrate less, meaning they might sound different.

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

 

 

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