Nav: Home

Good vibrations no longer needed for speakers as research encourages graphene to talk

May 04, 2017

A pioneering new technique that encourages the wonder material graphene to "talk" could revolutionise the global audio and telecommunications industries.

Researchers from the University of Exeter have devised a ground-breaking method to use graphene to generate complex and controllable sound signals. In essence, it combines speaker, amplifier and graphic equaliser into a chip the size of a thumbnail.

Traditional speakers mechanically vibrate to produce sound, with a moving coil or membrane pushing the air around it back and forth. It is a bulky technology that has hardly changed in more than a century.

This innovative new technique involves no moving parts. A layer of the atomically thin material graphene is rapidly heated and cooled by an alternating electric current, and transfer of this thermal variation to the air causes it to expand and contract, thereby generating sound waves.

Though the conversion of heat into sound is not new, the Exeter team are the first to show that this simple process allows sound frequencies to be mixed together, amplified and equalised - all within the same millimetre-sized device. With graphene being almost completely transparent, the ability to produce complex sounds without physical movement could open up a new golden generation of audio-visual technologies, including mobile phone screens that transmit both pictures and sound.

The research is published in leading journal, Scientific Reports.

Dr David Horsell, a Senior Lecturer in the Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials Group at Exeter and lead author of the paper explained: "Thermoacoustics (conversion of heat into sound) has been overlooked because it is regarded as such an inefficient process that it has no practical applications. We looked instead at the way the sound is actually produced and found that by controlling the electrical current through the graphene we could not only produce sound but could change its volume and specify how each frequency component is amplified. Such amplification and control opens up a range of real-world applications we had not envisaged."

The new applications the team have in mind include ultrasound imaging, for use in hospitals and other medical facilities in the future.

The known high strength and flexibility of graphene would allow intimate surface contact leading to much better imaging. Moreover, the fact that the acoustic devices the Exeter team have devised are simple and cheap make such concepts as intelligent bandages that monitor and treat patients directly a real possibility.

Dr Horsell added: "The frequency mixing is key to new applications. The sound generating mechanism allows us to take two or more different sound sources and multiply them together. This leads to the efficient generation of ultrasound (and infrasound). However, the most exciting thing is that is does this trick of multiplication in a remarkably simple and controllable way. This could have a real impact in the telecommunications industry, which needs to combine signals this way but currently uses rather complex and, therefore, costly methods to do so."
-end-
'Multi-frequency sound production and mixing in graphene' by David Horsell and Mark Heath is published in Scientific Reports.

University of Exeter

Related Graphene Articles:

Graphene: The more you bend it, the softer it gets
New research by engineers at the University of Illinois combines atomic-scale experimentation with computer modeling to determine how much energy it takes to bend multilayer graphene -- a question that has eluded scientists since graphene was first isolated.
How do you know it's perfect graphene?
Scientists at the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have discovered an indicator that reliably demonstrates a sample's high quality, and it was one that was hiding in plain sight for decades.
Graphene is 3D as well as 2D
Graphene is actually a 3D material as well as a 2D material, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London.
Conductivity at the edges of graphene bilayers
For nanoribbons of bilayer graphene, whose edge atoms are arranged in zigzag patterns, the bands of electron energies which are allowed and forbidden are significantly different to those found in monolayer graphene.
How to purify water with graphene
Scientists from the National University of Science and Technology 'MISIS' together with their colleagues from Derzhavin Tambov State University and Saratov Chernyshevsky State University have figured out that graphene is capable of purifying water, making it drinkable, without further chlorination.
Decoupled graphene thanks to potassium bromide
The use of potassium bromide in the production of graphene on a copper surface can lead to better results.
1 + 1 does not equal 2 for graphene-like 2D materials
Physicists from the University of Sheffield have discovered that when two atomically thin graphene-like materials are placed on top of each other their properties change, and a material with novel hybrid properties emerges, paving the way for design of new materials and nano-devices.
Graphene's magic is in the defects
A team of researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Center for Neural Science has solved a longstanding puzzle of how to build ultra-sensitive, ultra-small electrochemical sensors with homogenous and predictable properties by discovering how to engineer graphene structure on an atomic level.
Graphene on the way to superconductivity
Scientists at HZB have found evidence that double layers of graphene have a property that may let them conduct current completely without resistance.
A human enzyme can biodegrade graphene
Graphene Flagship partners discovered that a natural human enzyme can biodegrade graphene.
More Graphene News and Graphene Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#544 Prosperity Without Growth
The societies we live in are organised around growth, objects, and driving forward a constantly expanding economy as benchmarks of success and prosperity. But this growing consumption at all costs is at odds with our understanding of what our planet can support. How do we lower the environmental impact of economic activity? How do we redefine success and prosperity separate from GDP, which politicians and governments have focused on for decades? We speak with ecological economist Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Propserity, and author of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab