A nanoradio is a carbon nanotube anchored to an electrode, with a second electrode just beyond its free end.
If you own a sleek iPod Nano, you’ve got nothing on Alex Zettl. The physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues have come up with a nanoscale radio, in which the key circuitry consists of a single carbon nanotube.
Any wireless device, from cell phones to environmental sensors, could benefit from nanoradios. Smaller electronic components, such as tuners, would reduce power consumption and extend battery life. Nanoradios could also steer wireless communications into entirely new realms, including tiny devices that navigate the bloodstream to release drugs on command.
Miniaturizing radios has been a goal ever since RCA began marketing its pocket-sized transistor radios in 1955. More recently, electronics manufacturers have made microscale radios, creating new products such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. About five years ago, Zettl’s group decided to try to make radios even smaller, working at the molecular scale as part of an effort to create cheap wireless environmental sensors.