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Micro Musical Instrument

November 4, 2010

Engineers have developed the first micro-instrument that plays audible music.


Making micro-music…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[SFX: Music from device]
You’re listening to the world’s smallest audible musical instrument. It’s all on a few microchips, each with six vibrating springs just one-tenth the thickness of a human hair. Ph.D. engineering students at the University of Twente in The Netherlands designed the system. Team leader Johan Engelen says that unlike prior micro- and nano-instruments, this one produces tones within the human hearing range.

JOHAN ENGELEN (University of Twente, Netherlands):
So actually the sound that you hear is real, and the micro-instrument is really vibrating at frequencies that you can hear yourself.

A tiny weight on each spring keeps the frequencies low enough to hear; tugging the weight with electricity sets the spring in motion. Engelen says refining the device may advance similar technologies, found in motion sensors for video games and car airbags. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.