Katherine Bourzac

A View from Katherine Bourzac

Nanotube Loudspeakers

Transparent, flexible loudspeakers are tens of nanometers thick and just plain cool.

  • November 13, 2008

Not many things that come up on my work RSS feed make my jaw drop. The video below, which shows a thin-film loudspeaker playing dance music while mounted on a waving flag, is pretty amazing. The nanospeaker in the video is 8.5 by 14.5 centimeters.

Video by American Chemical Society

Made by researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the carbon nanotube speakers can play music just as loud and just as high quality as conventional loudspeakers do, even while being flexed and stretched.

Conventional loudspeakers use magnets and moving parts to produce sound-pressure waves. The nanospeakers work by the thermoacoustic effect. Alternating electrical current running through the thin films of nanotubes heats the surrounding air, causing it to expand and contract, creating sound waves.

These transparent thin-film speakers could be mounted on displays, eliminating the need for separate speakers. But one of the coolest things about the loudspeakers is that they’re flexible and stretchable, allowing the researchers to imagine singing jackets.

The research was published online in the journal Nano Letters.

Stretchy sound: This thin film of carbon nanotubes acts as a loudspeaker when carrying alternating current supplied by electrodes at either end. Credit: American Chemical Society
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