The nano-guitar string that plays itself

October 14, 2019

Scientists at Lancaster University and the University of Oxford have created a nano-electronic circuit which vibrates without any external force.

Using a tiny suspended wire, resembling a vibrating guitar string, their experiment shows how a simple nano-device can generate motion directly from an electrical current. The research has been published in Nature Physics.

To create the device, the researchers took a carbon nanotube, which is wire with a diameter of about 3 nanometres, roughly 100,000 times thinner than a guitar string. They mounted it on metal supports at each end, and then cooled it to a temperature of 0.02 degrees above absolute zero. The central part of the wire was free to vibrate, which the researchers could detect by passing a current through it and measuring a change in electrical resistance.

Just as a guitar string vibrates when it is plucked, the wire vibrates when it is forced into motion by an oscillating voltage. This was exactly as the researchers expected.

The surprise came when they repeated the experiment without the forcing voltage. Under the right conditions, the wire oscillated of its own accord.

The nano-guitar string was playing itself.

Lead researcher Dr Edward Laird of Lancaster University said: "It took us a while to work out what was causing the vibrations, but we eventually understood. In such a tiny device, it is important that an electrical current consists of individual electrons. The electrons hop one by one onto the wire, each giving it a small push. Usually these pushes are random, but we realised that when you control the parameters just right, they will synchronise and generate an oscillation."

So what note does the nano-guitar play?

"The nanotube is far thinner than a guitar string, so it oscillates at much higher frequency - well into the ultrasound range so no human would be able to hear it.

"However, we can still assign it a note. Its frequency is 231 million hertz, which means it's an A string, pitched 21 octaves above standard tuning."

The nano-oscillator could be used to amplify tiny forces, such as in novel microscopes, or to measure the viscosity of exotic quantum fluids. These experiments will be pursued in a new laboratory that Dr Laird is setting up in the Physics Department at Lancaster, supported by a €2.7M grant from the European Union.

Lancaster University

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to