SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A freak discovery by a Santa Barbara City College student could lead to a major medical breakthrough.
It deals with high frequencies, ultrasound and even Alexander Graham Bell, the man who invented the telephone.
Researchers at University of California Santa Barbara say 20-year-old Robert Salazar could help modernize ultrasound machines, thanks to nanotechnology and a little curiosity involving an LED flashlight.
"You put intensity modulated light onto the film, listen to the film, and can hear it vibrating," Salazar said. "Very unusual. Very cool."
Salazar is referring to nanocopper film used during a physics lab at UCSB.
A simple LED light, flashing on and off 1,000 times a second, essentially heats and cools that copper sheet, just as fast as the light flashed.
And what results is a high frequency "squeak," picked up by the human ear.
"I think the films can go even higher frequencies to give higher resolution and broad range of frequencies," Salazar said.
It's an example of the so-called photo-acoustic effect, discovered by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880.
What Bell did for Ma Bell, Salazar might do for the medical industry.
"Possibly, this could be used to make cheaper and more efficient ultrasound machines," said Dr. David Weld, Salazar's mentor.
Salazar's goal is to build an ultrasonic spectrometer this summer, and hopes his works will be published not long after.