Berkeley Team Builds World's Smallest FM Radio


[qi:036] A group of physicists at the University of California, Berkeley, have made the world’s smallest FM radio, crafted out of a single carbon nanotube that is about one ten-thousandth the diameter of a single human hair. In the nanotube radio, a single carbon nanotube works as an all-in-one antenna, tuner, amplifier and demodulator — separate components in a standard radio.

The nanotube radio is currently set to work as a receiver but can also work as a transmitter, and can be used in any number of applications — from cell phones to microscopic devices that sense the environment and relay information via radio signals. “The nanotube radio may lead to radical new applications, such as radio-controlled devices small enough to exist in a human’s bloodstream,” write the scientists in the latest issue of Nano Letters.

The radio detects signals via high frequency mechanical vibrations of the nanotube itself. It’s part of a new group of devices known as nanoelectromechanicals (NEMS.) Don’t expect the radios to show up at your neighborhood RadioShack just yet, however. The reception, for now, is still quite scratchy, though the scientists are working on fixing this problem.

More details on the nanotube radio can be found here.


Photo courtesy of Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley.



“i think it would be better if the nanotube will be integrated to cellphones inorder for the user can receive HD-fm/am and HD-tv”

Jesse Kopelman

Brad, all of the digital and hybrid radio broadcast systems do this. In the US, just get an HD Radio and you will have such features (HD radio is broadcast over the FM band).


I don’t know the specifics of FM but I’ve never understood why the manufacures and radio heads have limited FM to audio only. It would be really cool if they would have included something like the MP3 ID3 tags for the file, photo of album cover, facts about the song/artist/album.



This is very cool.. the only problem, for a more professional use, is that the FM spectrum is to crowded and dirty… other that that, it makes sense.

Om Malik


thanks for that insightful comment. I think FM radio has to figure out how to integrate tightly with the new distribution platform, aka The Broadband. I think it is not important, today or even in 2008. But with time, it needs to find a strategy. The way I see it, embedding FM in cloud computers and marrying the on-the-air content with web-services is going to be pretty interesting road to take.

Peter Childs

I think this is really cool – though I expect that the research is actually for other frequencies than FM receivers using this technology

Even at their current (small) size FM radios are not being put in many portable devices (ie iPods) mainly for business reasons – the lack of value seen in working with radio stations, the decline in audience etc.

Still if the radio industry ever convinced manufactures that the delivered some unique value in a web connected world – the smaller sized reciever (and likely very low power requirements) makes adding a receiver even easier.

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