Super-material Bends, Shapes And Focuses Sound Waves

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‘.


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,” says Dr. Gianluca Memoli, researcher at Interact Lab at University of Sussex.

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.

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,” explains Professor Sri Subramanian Interact Lab at University of Sussex. This technology is more than five years away, but smaller versions could be used to direct medical ultrasound devices far sooner.  “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,” he adds.
Researchers say spatial sound modulators will one day allow us to perform audible tasks previously unheard of.