Many of us have shrunk the space our music collection takes up with the advent of digital and streaming services, but scientists at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have taken it to an extreme.
In a feat of miniaturization, the research team at DTU has managed to create what they claim is the world’s smallest music record.
Measuring only 15 by 15 micrometers in size—that’s 40 µm/microns, or microns, in diameter, which is about half the diameter of an ordinary human hair—the tiny disc can barely be seen without using a magnifying glass.
Capable of holding just 25 seconds of the opening tapes for the festive classic Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, this record is unsurprisingly playable on a standard record player.
Created using a process that saw sound recorded on a polymer film using DTU’s new Nanofrazor Scholar 3D lithography technology, the disc is a string of words we certainly understand.
Emphasizing how small the record is, Postdoc Nolan Lassaline explained “It’s so small that everything we design can fit in one groove of a regular vinyl record”.
DTU physics researcher Peter Bugeld added, “The Nanofrazor was used as a record-cutting lathe—the audio signal is converted into a spiral groove on the surface of the medium. In this case, the medium is a different polymer than vinyl.”
“I’ve been doing lithographs for 30 years, and even though we’ve had this machine for a while, it still sounds like science fiction,” he added.
Not surprisingly, DTU does not envision technology being further developed as a music format, but instead sees technology being used to help make breakthroughs in scientific research.
“While we’re making these types of grooves here with nanometer precision, we can transfer them to a number of other materials, as that will essentially allow us to manipulate material properties on a nanoscale,” explained Professor Bugeld.
“We’re doing something that we haven’t been able to do in physics and materials science before now.
“The other thing we’re also going to use is making small magnetic field sensors that allow us to measure currents in the brain, and for that in the long term we hope to create some affordable technologies that allow us to answer questions about Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”
So it looks like the best portable music players will still be portable music players larger than a human hair, capable of playing more than 25 seconds per song.