Innovative silk fabric could be the solution to noise pollution

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In our noisy world, unwanted sounds—from traffic to loud neighbors—are a common frustration.

But a breakthrough from researchers at MIT and other institutions offers hope for quieter spaces using a new kind of fabric.

This team has engineered a sound-suppressing silk that’s so thin it’s just thicker than a human hair.

It’s described in a freely available study in the journal Advanced Materials. The fabric uses a special fiber that vibrates when electricity is applied, allowing it to control sound in innovative ways.

One method uses these vibrations to produce sound waves that cancel out unwanted noise, similar to the technology in noise-canceling headphones.

However, unlike headphones, this fabric could be used in larger spaces like rooms or vehicles to keep out sound.

The second method involves keeping the fabric still, which helps block sound vibrations from passing through it.

This creates a quiet zone on the other side of the fabric. Surprisingly, this method also reflects sound, much like a mirror reflects light, making the silk fabric a potential game-changer in noise reduction.

The fabric, made from common materials like silk, canvas, and muslin, is practical for real-world applications.

It could be used to make dividers in noisy offices or thin walls in homes that block sound effectively.

This technology builds on earlier research where the team created fabric microphones by embedding a piezoelectric fiber in fabric. Piezoelectric materials generate an electrical signal when they are moved or bent.

Initially, this was used to capture sound. Now, the researchers have reversed the process to develop a fabric loudspeaker that cancels out sound waves.

In their experiments, the researchers demonstrated this by playing classical music through a silk sheet to cancel out noise. They also tested the fabric’s ability to reduce loud sounds in a room, finding it could lower noise levels significantly.

The fabric’s effectiveness varies with the type of fabric and its pore size, which affects how sound is transmitted or blocked.

The team’s next steps include optimizing the fabric to block multiple sound frequencies and improve its sound-suppressing capabilities.

This innovative approach to sound control could soon make our homes, cars, and workplaces much quieter. It’s a promising development for anyone looking to escape the noise pollution of modern life.

Source: MIT.