Recently, a team of brilliant engineers from the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT), has created a paper-thin loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source. The main advantages of this new technology are low energy consumption, low-noise production, and high-quality sound. Mind-blowing! right?

Exactly. This ultra-thin film loudspeaker produces high-quality sound with a minimal distortion rate and only consumes a tiny amount of energy when compared to traditional loudspeakers. Engineers from MIT demonstrated the working of this loudspeaker. Another fact is that it weighs about as much as a dime, Although, this loudspeaker has a clear sound quality no matter what surface the film is bonded to, according to NEWS MIT.

 

To succeed in the experiment and give the loudspeaker mind-blowing properties, engineers developed a simple and easy fabrication method, which requires only three simple steps. The simple techniques are scaled up to make ultrathin loudspeakers that are large enough to cover the inside of a vehicle. Using large versions, we can even wallpaper our room.

To develop these thin loudspeakers, the engineers used a laser to put minuscule holes into a thin sheet of PET(Polyethylene Terephthalate) PET is a type of lightweight plastic. Engineers laminated the underside of the layer of PET with a very thin film of piezoelectric material, called PVDF. This thin film of piezoelectric electric material is as thin as 8 microns. After that, they applied a vacuum above the bonded sheets and a heat source at 80 degrees Celsius.

Since the layer made using piezoelectric material is ultra-thin, the pressure difference created by the vacuum and heat source caused it to bulge.

paper-thin loudspeaker
paper-thin loudspeaker

According to MIT, “The PVDF can’t force its way through the PET layer, so tiny domes protrude in areas where they aren’t blocked by PET. These protrusions self-align with the holes in the PET layer. The researchers then laminate the other side of the PVDF with another PET layer to act as a spacer between the domes and the bonding surface.”

“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,” said Jinchi Han, a ONE Lab postdoc.

 

“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,” explained Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology, leader of the Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory (ONE Lab).

Even in a raucous environment such as an airplane cockpit, this thin-film loudspeaker could provide active noise cancellation by producing a sound of the same amplitude but opposite phase; the two sounds cancel each other out.

Astonishingly, the pliable and adaptable loudspeaker could also be used for immersive entertainment and it probably can provide Three-Dimensional audio in a theater or theme park ride.


Since the loudspeaker is lightweight and consumes less power to operate, it can be used on smart devices, smartphones, and iPods where battery capacity is inadequate. The device requires only 100 milliwatts of power per square meter.

“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,” Bulović says.

“I think this is a very creative approach to making this class of ultra-thin speakers,” says Ioannis (John) Kymissis, Kenneth Brayer Professor of Electrical Engineering.

“The strategy of doming the film stack using photolithographically patterned templates is quite unique and likely to lead to a range of new applications in speakers and microphones.”

 

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