A super material developed by UK scientists promises to allow people to create their own acoustics using a grid and set of tiny bricks, similar to Lego. The team says it has created a sonic 'alphabet', which uses 16 positions to create any sound the user desires. Jim Drury reports.
These tiny 3D-printed bricks could one day allow people to create their own acoustics. That's the plan of scientists from the universities of Bristol and Sussex. They've invented a metamaterial which bends and manipulates sound in any way the user wants. It's helped scientists create what they call a 'sonic alphabet'. SOUNDBITE (English) DR GIANLUCA MEMOLI, RESEARCHER AT INTERACT LAB AT UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX, SAYING: "We have discovered that you just need 16 bricks to make any type of sound that you can imagine. You can shape the sound just with 16 of them, just like you create any words with just 26 letters." DIY kits like this, full of batches of the 16 aural letters, could help users create a sound library, or even help people in the same car to hear separate things. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR SRI SUBRAMANIAN, INTERACT LAB AT UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX, SAYING: "With our device what you can have is you can strap a static piece on top of existing speakers and they can direct sound in two different directions without any overlap. So the passengers can hear completely different information from the driver." This technology is more than five years away, but smaller versions could be used to direct medical ultrasound devices far sooner. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR SRI SUBRAMANIAN, INTERACT LAB AT UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX, SAYING: "In a year we could have a sleeve that we can put on top of already existing projects in the market and make them just a little bit better. For example, we can have a sleeve that goes on top of ultrasound pain relieving devices that are used for therapeutic pain." Researchers say spatial sound modulators will one day allow us to perform audible tasks previously unheard of.