A novel paper-thin loudspeaker can play music from any surface

The device uses a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Imagine a paper-thin loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source. It would be great for parties and other public events.

Now, MIT engineers have conceived of exactly such a device, according to a statement published by the institution, and it's reported to produce sound with minimal distortion while using a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker.

Running on very little electrical power 

“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,” said Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology, leader of the Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory (ONE Lab), director of MIT.nano, and senior author of the paper.

The new loudspeaker is the size of a hand and weighs about as much as a dime, but don't let that fool you. It can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is bonded to. 

What's more, parties and events are not its only applications. The loudspeaker could also provide active noise cancellation in clamorous environments, such as an airplane cockpit.

It would achieve this by generating sounds of the same amplitude but of opposite phases resulting in the two sounds canceling each other out. It's also ideal for use on smart devices where battery life and space are limited.

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Various applications

Finally, last but not least, the device could have more creative applications that go beyond sound. It could use ultrasound to detect where a human is standing in a room and then shape its sound waves to follow the person. It could also be used to create patterns of light for future display technologies or be immersed in a liquid to provide a novel method of stirring chemicals.

Its applications are many and varied, each as original as the next one. What could you do with this loudspeaker?

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