Researchers Create 'Mute Button' for Planes, Drones


Every day, we hear about the negative impacts of pollution like trash and emissions, but we don’t talk much about noise pollution — that background clamor commonly associated with things like construction activity or airplanes.

But if you ask an expert, they’d tell you that the effects of noise pollution are much more than just a nuisance. According to Britannica, repeated exposure to certain decibels can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, raise blood pressure and pulse rates, and cause anxiety.

Well, there may be a solution on the way, and it’s one that researchers at Boston University as referring to as a “mute button, incarnated.”

The new technology intends to take the old solution, of using thick sound barrier walls, and change the structure so that it’s more conducive to airflow. Using an open, ringlike acoustic metamaterial, researchers believe they can “exert an isolated influence on sounds.” So, rather than build walls near airports and highways, the mathematically precise material interferes with soundwaves, but not airflow, and could be applied to noise-emanating objects themselves.

One application the researchers see a lot of promise for is quieting the din of drones as they continue to populate the skies for recreation, land surveying, and deliveries. The upward-moving fan motion is what creates the irritating noise, and if the sound-silencing structure could be positioned below those fans, then it could cancel sound that heads toward the ground. And it’s not just a minor tweak: The team has discovered the new tech can kill 94% of the unwanted noise.

Other ideas include applying the structure to your continuously humming home or office HVAC system. Since the shape is completely flexible, it’s also possible to create tiles or bricks to use in a larger sound-barrier wall that would be sound-canceling and permeable. Even MRI machines could see this one day, making that uncomfortable experience for patients a little less so.

Image Credit: IEN

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