If you’re into cars, you may have heard of vinyl wrapping that can change the look of a car. Engineers at MIT have taken the same thin material and created a thin film that can turn almost any surface into a speaker. According to its inventors, it can create high-quality sound with minimal power consumption.
To achieve these properties, the researchers created a manufacturing technique. They claim it can be scaled up to produce ultra-thin speakers big enough to cover the inside of a car or wallpaper a room, promising immersive sound without an obvious source. The sound nerd in me can definitely feel the cochlear bone coming on. (Yeah, it’s a fucking joke, but if your cochlear pussies tightened up, you’d go deaf, so anatomically it makes absolutely no sense. What I’m willing to do for a kid’s joke is legendary.)
A loudspeaker can be used for active noise cancellation, for example – combine loudspeaker technology with some electronics and microphones and it can cancel out the sound. The inventors also envision immersive sound and other low power use cases such as smart devices, etc.
This thin film loudspeaker reproduces sound with minimal distortion while consuming only a fraction of the power required by a traditional loudspeaker. The demonstrated team of a palm-sized loudspeaker that weighs about the same can produce high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is pasted to.
“It’s really nice to take something that looks like a thin piece of paper, attach two paper clips to it, plug it into your computer’s headphone port, and start hearing sounds coming from it. It can be used anywhere. It needs some electricity to operate,” says Vladimir Bulovich, head of the Department of New Technologies Fariborza Mazi, head of the Laboratory of Organic and Nanostructured Electronics (ONE Lab), director of MIT.nano and senior author of the article.
Bulovich co-wrote the paper with lead author Jinchi Khan, ONE Lab postdoc, and co-senior author Jeffrey Lang, Vitesse professor of electrical engineering. The study is published today in IEEE Transactions of Industrial Electronics.
Most thin film speakers are designed to be freestanding because the film must flex freely in order to reproduce sound. Mounting these speakers on a surface will inhibit vibration and limit their ability to generate sound. To solve this problem, the MIT team rethought the design of the thin-film loudspeaker. Instead of vibrating the entire material, their design is based on tiny domes on a thin layer of piezoelectric material, each of which vibrates individually. These domes, each just a few hairs wide, are surrounded by cushioning layers at the top and bottom of the film that protect them from the mounting surface, while still allowing them to vibrate freely. The same cushioning layers protect the domes from abrasion and impact from daily use, enhancing the speaker’s durability.
“We have the ability to accurately generate mechanical air movement by activating a scalable physical surface. The use cases for this technology are endless,” says Bulovich.
Whether and when this technology will see the light of day in consumer or commercial applications is yet to be seen, but I would wallpaper my living room with speakers in no time, just to get rid of wires and speakers bolted to the wall.
Credit: techcrunch.com /