Paper thin loudspeakers to turn any surface into a music hall

Paper thin loudspeakers to turn any surface into a music hall Source: MIT

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed paper-thin loudspeakers capable of turning any surface into an active source that provides music hall quality sound.

The ground-breaking technology is a game changer with most speakers requiring space and placement for them to be effective and often that means either floor of shelf space.

MIT’s invention allows you to bond the speaker to any surface without a loss of sound quality. But perhaps most of all its only hand-sized and weighs not much more than a few coins.

The development of the speakers has great possibilities for manufacturers of all types of equipment and especially those where space is at a premium such as in the cockpit of a plane. It also means that designers can be a little more creative in speaker placement with the current format limiting where and hose speakers are situated and used.

Importantly the speakers use very little power making them ideal for use with smart battery driven devices or where power supply is limited.

Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology: “It feels remarkable to take what looks like a slender sheet of paper, attach two clips to it, plug it into the headphone port of your computer, and start hearing sounds emanating from it. It can be used anywhere. One just needs a smidgeon of electrical power to run it.”

The new technology uses a thin film of a shaped piezoelectric material that moves when voltage is applied over it, which moves the air above it and generates sound. By contrast current speakers pass electric current through a coil of wire that generates a magnetic field that in turn moves the speaker membrane.

This speakers have been designed in the past but none that have been flexible or provided the quality of sound. Ordinarily mounting a thin speaker onto a surface would impede vibration and hamper their ability to produce sound – this design changes all of that.

MIT say: “This is a very simple, straightforward process. It would allow us to produce these loudspeakers in a high-throughput fashion if we integrate it with a roll-to-roll process in the future. That means it could be fabricated in large amounts, like wallpaper to cover walls, cars, or aircraft interiors.”

They add that the use of the speakers is unlimited as the technology can be used for purposes other than creating sound to listen to, including use in medical applications that require sound to create pictures.  “We have the ability to precisely generate mechanical motion of air by activating a physical surface that is scalable. The options of how to use this technology are limitless.”

Flexible lightweight and paper thin loudspeakers that use minimal power opens up a whole new world to new possibilities.


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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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