The micro-ear is based upon modifying an established technology that uses laser light to create so-called optical tweezers.These are already used to accurately measure tiny forces.
They work by suspending very small glass or plastic beads in a beam of laser light. Measuring the movement of these beads as they are jostled by tiny objects allows measurements of tiny forces that operate at molecular scales.
“We are now using the sensitivity afforded by the optical tweezer as a very sensitive microphone,” said Professor Jon Cooper from the University of Glasgow, who is heading the micro-ear project.
While many researchers use single beams of laser light to trap single beads, the micro-ear team hopes to use several arranged in a ring that will be able to surround and “listen to” an object of interest.