RET 2010: Marilyn Garza

Marilyn Garza
Intern: Marilyn Garza
Mentor: Angela Berenstein












Curriculum Overview

This unit covers how sound is created and then transmitted and recorded through technology. We start with older technology and end with an exploration of how nanotechnology continues to improve and expand our capacity to record and transmit sound.

Sound is recorded by transposing it into a series of patterns and played back by a machine that can translate the patterns. There are two ways to do this: analog and digital recordings. The ability to render sound into a digital format increased our ability to record both sound and images. We can now record and store thousands of songs and images on a device that can fit in a shirt pocket. We can watch high definition movies from a single Blu-Ray disk. Our ability to shrink these storage devices comes from the ability to design and create at nanometer scale–objects that are measured in billionths of a meter!

To analyze nanoscale objects, we need tools that help us sense them. At the nanoscale, optical microscopes are no longer useful, for they need visible light. Since the wavelength of visible light ranges from 380–750 nm and the nanoscale is much smaller (1–100 nm), we cannot see objects on the nanoscale, we feel them with an atomic force microscope (AFM). An AFM uses a nanoscale probe to tap along the surface of a material to scan an area and make a contour map of the surface. The AFM enables us to see how nanoscale patterns on Blu-Ray disks greatly increase the capacity and the quality at which we record sound.

This lab is divided into 4 parts. Part 1 is designed to help students understand how sound is generated and transmitted. Part 2 helps students understand analog recordings and how speakers work. Part 3 helps students understand binary language and the conversion from analog to digital signal. Finally, Part 4 is designed to help students understand the basic principles of digital recordings of sound and images and the basis of how an atomic force microscope (AFM) works.


Curriculum Developed:

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New! A pdf presentation giving an overview of these lessons is now available. Click here to download.


The NanoSounds of Music:
Part I, Introduction to Sound
Part 2, Analog Recording
Part 3, Digital Recording
Part 4, Atomic Force Microscopy

Technical and educational staff services are possible through the generosity of the National Science Foundation through support via the NNIN.