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On the road to creating an affordable master instrument
Date:12/9/2011

Fischli, who is co-founder of the biomedical company Actelion and an enthusiastic hobby violinist, says "In my opinion it would have been unforgivable to allow such an interesting project one that so ideally links science and the art of violin making to wither for lack of funding." Fischli hopes that the Empa specialists will finally uncover the secret of why violin makers such as Stradivarius and Guarnerius managed to make instruments of such fantastic quality around 1700. Their craftsmanship is, of course, one decisive and undisputed factor but it seems that the wood they used also played a vital role. "Using modern science to explain the technical details of the material properties is something I find enormously interesting," says Fischli.

Developing a standard wood treatment process in an interdisciplinary way

The project, which commenced at the beginning of September and will run for three years, is led by Iris Brmaud, a specialist in the field of tonal woods. The French scientist is responsible for ensuring that the treatment with the white rot fungi P. vitreus and Xylaria longipes optimally "ennobles" samples of spruce and maple woods. In addition she is already in contact with Michael Baumgartner, the renowned instrument maker from Basel. Under his guidance the "fungus violins" using the treated wood will be created.

Before Empa can take delivery of the first violin, however, numerous tests on both treated and untreated wood samples must be carried out. Experts are currently systematically measuring the density of the wood, the speed of sound in it and its acoustic attenuation. Specialists in the field of ultrasonics are developing methods to determine where the fungus was active and where not. Other scientists expert in optical measurement techniques are using their specialist methods to create images showing how sound is radiated by the different woods and also complete instruments. The final steps should involve collabo
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Contact: Prof. Dr. Francis Schwarze
francis.schwarze@empa.ch
41-587-657-247
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)
Source:Eurekalert  

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