Physi­cists at the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) have managed to detect sound waves at minuscule length scales. Their nanoear is a single gold nanoparticle that is kept in a state of levitation by a laser beam. Upon weak acoustic excitation the particle oscillates parallel to the direction of sound propagation.

The nanoear is capable of detecting sound levels of approximately -60 dB. Thus, it is about a million times more sensitive than the hearing threshold of the human ear, which by convention is set at 0 dB.

In this way, the nanoear could yield important information on the minute motions of cells, cell organelles or artificial microscopic objects. Additionally, no high-end devices are necessary as only well-established methods are used.

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Also: Learn about hearing and manufacturing  in the digital age.

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