Researchers at the University Of Twente (Netherlands) have created a new instrument, the Micronium, that is microscopic.
It's so tiny, in fact, that it is strung with strings that are a fraction of the thickness of a human hair.
These miniscule devices can be built thanks to the ultra-clean conditions in a 'clean room', and the advanced etching techniques that are possible there.
The tiny musical instrument is made up of springs that are only a tenth of the thickness of a human hair, and vary in length from a half to a whole millimetre. A mass of a few dozen micrograms is hung from these springs. The mass is set in motion by so-called 'comb drives': miniature combs that fit together precisely and shift in relation to each other, so 'plucking' the springs and creating sounds.
The mass vibrates with a maximum deflection of just a few micrometres. This minimal movement can be accurately measured, and produces a tone. Each tone has its own mass spring system, and six tones fit on a microchip. By combining a number of chips, a wider range of tones can be achieved.
"The tuning process turned out to be the greatest challenge", says PhD student Johan Engelen. "We can learn a lot from this project for the construction of other moving structures. Above all, this is a great project for introducing students to micromechanics and clean room techniques."
The video captures an overview of the instrument and a performance of a composition created specifically for the microscopic instrument. The music starts at about 6 minutes in. Look closely, and you'll see the enlarged movement of the tiny strings.
Emulate multiple mics, change proxmity and axis on the fly with UA Hardware
Eurorack module puts General MIDI sound set under creative CV control