Crazy new metamaterial bricks let scientists ‘steer’ soundwaves, levitate small objects

Scientists in the United Kingdom have developed a super material that allows anyone using it to focus sound waves in a way that’s no tougher than rearranging Lego blocks.

Using a grid of 16 3D-printed metamaterial bricks, the researchers showed that sound waves can be transformed into different sound fields. The results can be used for a broad range of applications, from directing complex multisource sound fields that you would normally need multiple speakers to achieve, to focusing sound waves so tightly that it can levitate a polystyrene bead.

“It’s a bit like Scrabble pieces which you can assemble into different orders to create different words,” Professor Sriram Subramanian, head of the Interact Lab at the University of Sussex, told Digital Trends.

In another simile, Subramanian said the work was an attempt to do with sound what LCD displays do with light.

“Looking at an LCD display, you might be forgiven for thinking that there many light sources behind it,” he continued. “In fact, there’s just one light source. But we don’t do sound the same way. To create a complex sound field, you have to have thousands of sound sources. We’re trying to do is to change that — and make sound manipulation similar to light manipulation.”

The research was published this week in the journal Nature Communications, which explains how the metamaterials can be made and used.

It’s still early stages, but the work has a broad range of potentially exciting applications. These could include obviously sound-based use-cases like directing sound so that it can only be heard in one specific hotspot, or to follow a person as they move. Another use-case might be in haptic technology. It could even be used in a medical context, with high-intensity ultrasound waves used to target tumors in the body.

Some of these are “much further down the line” than others, but there’s no doubting that this is work that Subramanian and his colleagues at the University of Sussex and University of Bristol will be building on in the months and years to come.

That noise you hear is the sound of progress being made!


How 5G networks will make low-latency game streaming a reality

Faster speeds and more bandwidth are some of the many promises that 5G can deliver, but for gamers, the most important thing is low latency. To achieve low latency, carriers like AT&T and Verizon are exploring hybrid models for game…

Rooting your Android device is risky. Do it right with our handy guide

Wondering whether to root your Android smartphone or stick with stock Android? Perhaps you’ve decided to do it and you just need to know how? Here, you'll find an explanation and a quick guide on how to root Android devices.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.
Emerging Tech

Twitter is officially a teenager now. Are we raising a monster?

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet. Thirteen years later, Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Here are some of the myriad ways it's done that.