Probing the Shaking Microworld

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Science  16 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5413, pp. 420-421
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5413.420

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At a recent acoustics meeting in Berlin, several European research groups reported techniques that set a sample vibrating with sound waves and then use atomic force microscopes or scanning tunneling microscopes to sense how its atoms are jiggling about, revealing details of the material's physical properties, such as elasticity, on a microscopic scale. Such studies can help improve the performance of communications equipment, televisions, and cellular phones, which regularly rely on acoustic transducers as filters to exclude unwanted signal around their desired frequencies.