New paper-thin speaker could help block noise from the outside

Researchers from MIT have created an incredible paper-thin speaker that can both produce noise and cancel it out. The possibilities are endless!

Do you live in the city? Do you have annoying neighbours that are a little too loud? Researchers at MIT have created an incredibly thin speaker to turn your home into the ultimate quiet space.

The paper-thin speaker can be applied to almost any surface, like wallpaper, and creates a range of vibrations that cancel any sound that passes through it.

Image: MITs paper-thin speaker / MIT Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory

Speaker technology has remained pretty consistent over time, a thin membrane stimulated with electricity to move back and forth. The electricity cycles determine the pattern in which the membrane moves, which determines the sound that comes out the other side.

Speakers have been able to get pretty small, think AirPods, but to get the membrane to move requires a certain amount of energy and space. I know we’re just coming out of a pandemic but think back to the last concert you attended and picture the speakers around the stage.

speaker membrane
Image: speaker membrane that produces sound

MIT’s Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory has produced a brand new thin speaker as thin and flexible as paper. The most impressive feat is that the thin speaker can make clear, high-quality sound.

The membranes that allow for the thin speaker to produce sound are “one-sixth the thickness of a human hair”, and the membrane requires thousands of them for the sound to be made. Technically, having this thin speaker cover more surface area equals better sound.

This is the second version of this type of speaker from MIT. Past designs required the speaker to be free-hanging, meaning that contact with anything stopped it from producing sound properly.

Having this technology line your walls to stop the outside sounds from getting in would be incredible, but MIT says the applications for this technology are endless.

Researchers say the speaker could be used in planes to cancel environmental sounds making flights more enjoyable, and electric cars could be coated to produce a sound to warn pedestrians as they’re notoriously quiet.

Unfortunately, researchers have no idea when this will reach the market so we’re all going to have to wait patiently.